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Best 3D Scanners of Summer 2019 – 3D Scanner Buying Guide

by All3DP
Jun 5, 2019

What's the best 3D scanner? Check out our buyer's guide to the best 3D scanners (DIY, handheld, desktop, and tripod mountable), plus an introduction to 3D scanning technologies.

The 3D scanner market is a diverse space with a wide range of products that come in all shapes, sizes, capabilities, and prices. Such choice, while a great thing in itself, can make sorting the goods from the duds a chore.

Well, we’re here to help. After trawling through the forums, marketplaces, search data, and best-seller lists, we can say with confidence that these are the 3D scanners worthy of attention right now. Each feature for their own distinguishing features, technology, price point or a combination of factors, we’ve tried to cover the spectrum from super affordable consumer devices to those suited to small business (and even a little beyond that).

Our 3D Scanner Picks of Summer 2019

Top Pick
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Shining 3D Einscan Pro 2X

The EinScan Pro 2X, the new and improved successor of the EinScan Pro, is a lightweight and compact 3D scanner made for professional use, capable of capturing small-to-medium sized objects, and it does so at an incredibly high speed without sacrificing quality.

Best Value
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Shining 3D EinScan-SE

Ideal for the classroom, the EinScan SE offer auto- and fixed scan modes at 100 microns of single shot accuracy.

Budget Pick
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Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2 (MFS1V2)

The Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2 (MFS1V2) is the latest 3D scanner from Matter and Form. Compared to the V1 model, the new model offers quicker scanning modes via +Quickscan and an improved workflow.

The 3D scanners listed below are ordered by price and price alone. All prices given are approximate, and accurate as of the time of publishing.

Choose your budget:

Affordable: Under $1,000
Professional: $1,000 – $10,000
High-End: Over $10,000

Best 3D Scanners of Summer 2019 – 3D Scanner Buying Guide

ProductStyleTechnologyOS CompatibilityMarket PriceCheck Price
CiclopStationary/ DIY KitLaser TriangulationWindows, Mac, Linux$199
Murobo AtlasStationary/ DIY KitLaser TriangulationWindows, Mac, Linux (all via web browser)$239
Occipital Structure SensorHandheldStructured LightiOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux$399
3D Systems Sense 2Handheld/ StationaryTime of FlightWindows 8-10 (x64)$499
HP Z 3D CameraStationarySLAM FusionWindows$599
Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2StationaryLaser TriangulationWindows 7-10 (x64), Mac$749
Shining 3D EinScan SEStationaryStructured Light Windows 7-10 (x64), Mac (beta)$1,399
HP Structured Light Scanner Pro S3StationaryStructured LightWindows$3,899
Shining 3D EinScan Pro/Pro+Handheld/ StationaryWhite LightWindows 7-10 (x64)From $3,899
Open Technologies Scan in a Box-FXStationaryStructured LightWindows~$5,000
Peel 3D Peel 1HandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$5,990
Metron E 3D ScannerStationaryStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$5,990
Shining 3D EinScan Pro 2XHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$5,499
Shining 3D EinScan Pro 2X PlusHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$6,899
Artec EVA LiteHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$9,800
Artec EvaHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$19,800
Artec Space SpiderHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$24,800
Artec LeoHandheldStructured LightWindows 7 - 10 (x64)$25,800
Creaform Go!SCAN 3DHandheldStructured LightWindows 7 - 10 (x64)$35,000+ (approx.)
No matching records found.

The Best 3D Scanners Under $1,000

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Ciclop

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Launched, and until recently maintained, by BQ, the Ciclop DIY 3D scanner kit is a fully open source project licensed under the GPL license. Following the RepRap philosophy, the many components of the Ciclop are 3D printed. The electronics at the heart of this 3D scanner can be purchased as a kit; they consist mainly of a customized Arduino board and a Logitech webcam.

The processing of data captured by this laser 3D scanner is a dedicated scanning suite called Horus, also Open Source.

Be prepared: It’s not easy to assemble. BQ once admitted to the difficulty of setup and calibration as well as inconsistencies in the build quality (accuracy) of the individual components for this 3D scanner. You can still find the printable files over on GitHub, however, the official Bill of Materials and assembly instructions are no longer available on the Diwo BQ website — so building your own may take some research.

In terms of being open source and usability, the Ciclop 3D scanner is one of the best, but making it work can be a real challenge – but that’s probably half the fun of such a project. A good learning experience.

Since the Ciclop is open source, several other companies sell kits meaning the Ciclop lives on, albeit under a number of different names. The quality of these kits may vary, so it’s worth researching a given kit and company before buying.

BQ Ciclop

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Murobo Atlas

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The Atlas DIY 3D scanner is kit scanner you construct from scratch, including the 3D printing of the frame (should you choose – an acrylic add-on purchase is also available).

Setting you back $209 if you already own a Raspberry Pi you can install inside the 3D scanner, or $244 for a kit including a Raspberry Pi 2 or $229 for the Raspberry Pi B+. The Raspberry Pi camera feeds into the Atlas 3D scanner producing crisp textured 3D scans. Like other DIY 3D scanners, the Atlas comes with its own tailored program, FreeLSS. Atlas’s usability is particularly convenient for a DIY 3D scanner: you access the device in your browser via the built-in WiFi adapter.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Occipital Structure Sensor

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Occipital Structure Sensor (Image: Occipital)

The Occipital Structure Sensor is multi-purpose handheld 3D scanner with a wide range of applications. The software provided by the manufacturer is called Structure SDK, it offers high-level developers tools and full low-level access for a game and mixed reality development and 3D mapping. Apart from that, the device can be used to create high-quality 3D models of objects for a variety of purposes, including 3D printing.

Though this 3D scanner add-on was originally designed for use with iPad and iPhone, the company offers ‘hacking’ guides to get around any obstacles keeping you from using other platforms like Windows or Linux. Unfortunately, not all technical specifications are available.

Occipital continues to update the Structure Sensor 3D scanner to be mountable/compatible with new iPads, with recent revisions released for the 6th Gen iPad and iPad Pro.

Occipital Structure Sensor

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide 3D Systems Sense 2

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3D Systems Sense 3D scanner (Image: 3D Systems)

Currently on Version 2 (with no sign of any continued support), the Sense 3D scanner is the successor to the 3D System’s now defunct tablet/smartphone-mounted iSense. Connected to a Windows device (Windows 8 or later) via USB 3.0, the Sense provides a competent handheld scanning solution for capturing models for archival and asset creation for digital content.

Accomplished object tracking makes the Sense’s active building of a 3D model a cinch, giving a handheld scanning solution that outputs relatively high-geometry and good texture quality, quickly.

The Sense 3D scanner has an operating range of 20cm to 160cm, capturing full-color images and seeing all within a 45 degree field of view. That offers pretty good flexibility for a handheld 3D scanner of its size.

Many users caution that achieving good results can be a chore, so temper your expectations going into the Sense. At this price range, there aren’t really any perfect handheld scanners.

3D Systems Sense 2

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide HP Z 3D Camera

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First debuted at CES 2018, the tech giant HP Inc. made some serious waves with the launch of the innovative HP Z 3D Camera attachment. Focused on offering a much more affordable alternative to the Sprout Pro 3D camera, which costs upwards of around $3,000, the Z is a portable option that can be attached to most monitors.

Best of all, the price of this 3D camera device is just $599. It shares many of the same features as the Sprout Pro, capable of capturing and digitizing 3D objects, 2D documents, and live video. However, it does lack other useful attributes such as projection capabilities and multitouch.

The HP Z Camera uses a technology called SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) to track, scan, and construct a 3D model in real time, resulting in high-resolution “computer-graphics-friendly” images and textures can then be used for various 3D and VR applications. Utilizing a 3D depth-sensing camera and a 14.6MP 2D camera, users can scan an object by simply rotating it in your hands and positioning it underneath the camera.

Captured 3D objects can be exported directly to PowerPoint 3D, Paint 3D, and Mixed Reality Viewer. According to the manufacturer, this affordable 3D scanning attachment was made with CG artists, designers, game developers, and artists in mind.

HP Z 3D Camera

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Budget Pick 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2

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The successor to the Matter and Form V1, the Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2 retains the hardware of its V1 and introduces usability improvements. Think of it as an optimization of the V1 — a scanner that (in operation with up to date software) did an admirable job for its price.

Bundled with the new MFStudio software, the Matter and Form V2 is capable of capturing geometry faster than before when used alongside the optional +QuickScan software upgrade.

As before with the V1, USB connection to your computer makes the Matter and Form V2 a desktop scanner through and through. And a foldable form factor lets you collapse it down for easy portability.

Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2 (MFS1V2)

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The Best 3D Scanners Between $1,000 and $10,000

Best Value 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Shining 3D EinScan SE

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Part of a recent two-product launch of desktop 3D scanners (as successors to Shining 3D’s Einscan S 3D scanner, Shining 3D’s EinScan-SE system offers a well-rounded package for beginners and educators looking to get acquainted and output quality scans with little fuss.

The result of feedback from thousands of users of the EinScan-Pro — the company’s handheld scanner — these newer scanners present a move to capture the whole market (something furthered by Shining 3D’s recent move into 3D printing, too).

The EinScan-SE is mainly pitched at education and comes with software that aims for ease of use, automating enough of the process for any user to quickly 3D scan and generate a CAD model. Part of this software solution auto-meshes the scans too, making them fit for 3D printing.

Offering an auto-scan and fixed scan mode, the SE 3D scanner boasts a maximum single shot accuracy of below 100 microns.

Those in need of a bump in accuracy and speed can consider the Shining 3D EinScan SP — the bigger (and more expensive) sibling to the SE.

Shining 3D EinScan-SE

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide HP Structured Light Scanner Pro S3

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HP Structured Light Scanner Pro S3 3D scanner (Image: HP)

The HP Structured Light Scanner Pro S3, previously known as the David SLS-3, uses structured light to capture objects, pairing with an industrial grade HD camera as standard for high-quality output.

Although stationary, which some find to be restrictive and unwieldy, the S3 boasts the trick of modular expandability, allowing for the use of a second camera for increased precision.

Available as a full package packing two of its industrial grade cameras, the S3 is a modular 3D scanner powerhouse that, while tipping toward the more expensive end of the spectrum, is a winner with its modular setup and high-quality output.

HP Structured Light Scanner Pro S3

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Shining 3D EinScan Pro/Pro+

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The EinScan-Pro and EinScan-Pro+ are both exceptionally multi-functional 3D scanners that can capture objects both big and small. You can use it as a fixed or handheld 3D scanner, and it offers both rapid and HD scanning modes. Overall, well-suited for a variety of 3D scanning situations.

The EinScan-Pro series uses white light 3D scanning technology, enabling high accuracy and speed. This professional-grade system can utilize good color texture capture for features ranging in size from 0.03mm up to 4 meters.

Recently succeeded by the newer Shining 3D Pro 2X line, the original Pro models still offer value for money; they’re just not as fast or capable as the newer models.

Shining3D EinScan-Pro

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Open Technologies Scan in a Box-FX

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Manufactured in Italy, the Scan In a Box-FX (SIAB-FX) by Open Technologies offers a portable and highly modular professional-grade 3D scanner. Equipped with first-rate structured light 3D scanning technology, this system has been upgraded from the standard iteration with an HD 450 Lumens Projector (DELL) the provides better brightness and color definition to captured objects.

The SIAB-FX is capable of capturing a diverse set of objects that have dimensions ranging from 10 mm to 3000 mm. It also has new and improved curved cameras and video projector support for increased toughness and overall reliability. One main feature that should be highlighted here is the processing software that is coupled with the system, which comes with new features like direct object allignment, resilient scan mode, mesh defeature, and more.

Priced at just over $5,000, this industrial-grade scanner is best-suited for applications like cultural conservation, design studies, or reverse engineering.

Open Technologies Scan in a Box-FX

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Peel 3D Peel 1

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Striking a balance between professional capabilities and affordability is the distinctly designed Peel 1 3D scanner. Despite boasting a low price tag of $5,900, this Peel 3D scanner still offers some fascinating features that are absent from other devices in the same price range, such as the ability to accurately scan flat or shiny surfaces.

This banana-like system utilizes stick-on targets to adequately capture flat and smooth surfaces. For typical 3D scanning applications, the process is as easy as pointing the scanner at an object and shooting – little to no preparation required.

Using an LED system to generate the structured light, the peel 3D scanner is also safer to use than other laser-based systems. When employing the stick-on guides, the peel 3d is able to reach a scanning accuracy of 0.25 mm and volumetric accuracy of 0.5 mm. Although the base resolution is a mere 0.5 mm, which is lackluster compared to other models, it’s a sacrifice that must be made for the sake of cost-effectiveness.

Peel 3D Peel 1

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Metron E 3D Scanner

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Looking for a standalone 3D scanner that offers professional-grade quality while also being incredibly easy to use? It may be worth taking a look at the new Metron E, a ready-to-run and highly accurate 3D scanner line available in both standard and HD versions.

The Metron 3D scanner generates high resolution and accurate scans — some 4.9-million data points at up to 25-micron accuracy using the HD model — in a little over one second per scan.

Proprietary FlexScan3D scanning software is tailored to simplifying the scanning process, with the automation of basic tasks fading the chores to the background, and the fun and interesting stuff such as live-viewing into the foreground.

One particularly cool trick of the Metron E is the ability to daisy chain scanners to create a much larger field of view — the processing and coordination of which is handled naturally by FlexScan3D.

The basic model of the Metron E starts at $5,990, which isn’t too shabby for a professional scanner of this caliber.

Metron E 3D Scanner

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Top Pick 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Shining 3D EinScan Pro 2X

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The Shining 3D Pro 2X is the latest handheld 3D scanning system from Shining 3D. Like the EinScan Pro before it, this new and improved model is a lightweight and compact 3D scanner made for professional use, capable of capturing small-to-medium sized objects, and it does so at incredibly high speed without sacrificing quality.

The EinScan Pro 2X offers four different 3D scanning modes: Handheld Rapid Scan Mode, Handheld HD Scan, and Fixed Scan Mode (both with or without a turntable).

With Handheld Rapid Scan Mode, the EinScan Pro 2X is capable of processing up to 1,500,000 points per second (30 fps). While Handheld HD Scan Mode is a bit slower, it does offer an impeccable scanning accuracy of up to 0.05 mm. For both of these handheld modes, the volumetric accuracy can be improved by utilizing markers on the objects you plan to scan. When using Handheld Rapid Scan and Handheld HD Scan modes, the minimum point distance is up to 0.2mm, leading to the generation of high-resolution 3D data.

A higher spec Pro 2X is available in the Einscan Pro 2X Plus, which boasts a faster scan speed, higher single scan range, point distance, and working distance. The accuracy is said to be the same, but there’s a degree more versatility on offer (at a premium — it costs some $2,000 more than the 2X).

Alternatively,  it’s still possible to pick up the original EinScan Pro. Our previous Top Pick before the Pro 2X version usurped it, the original Pro captures fewer data points, slower, but costs considerably less than the new models.

Shining 3D Einscan Pro 2X

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Shining 3D EinScan Pro 2X Plus

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Released alongside the Shining 3D Pro 2X, the Shining 3D Pro 2X Plus is an enhanced version that provides better specs in certain areas, including quicker scanning speeds and improved accuracy.

The 2X Plus provides a faster scanning speed for both Handheld HD Mode (1,100,000 points/s) and Fixed Scan (Single Scan < 0.5s). The EinScan Pro 2X Plus also has a higher single scan range, point distance, and working distance, making it slightly more versatile than the basic 2X model. According to the spec sheet, the scanning accuracy remains the same between the two 3D scanners, as does the volumetric accuracy.

Unlike the basic model, the 2X Plus offers an increased depth of field, which improves the scanning speed and overall usability of the device. Priced at close to $7,000, this high-end 3D scanner is made for professional use, particularly for applications such as research, design art and heritage, engineering, and healthcare.

Shining 3D Einscan Pro 2X Plus

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Artec EVA Lite

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Artec Eva Lite 3D scanner (Image: Artec)

Taking the ease of use and portable form factor of the EVA, the EVA Lite brings the price down by omitting the ability to capture textures. That may sound like a deal-breaker for some, but in reality, it’s a shrewd refinement of the proposition of the EVA, making its high-quality geometry capturing abilities accessible for those that require that alone.

The result is a handheld 3D scanner suited for capturing geometrically rich objects (such as the human body, for medical professionals), without demanding too much computing power to run (since there’s no texture data to process).

Artec EVA Lite

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The Best 3D Scanners Over $10,000

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Artec Eva

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The Artec Eva is considered by many to be the best in class handheld 3D scanner. It is used in just about any field of work imaginable from the aerospace industry to orthopedics and vfx.

The Artec Eva is particularly suited to medium-sized objects (including busts), capturing accurate full-color scans quickly and reliably.

It’s possible to set up more than one Artec EVA 3D scanner to speed up the scanning process — an expensive proposition, but a welcome one to note the versatility of the device.

Utilizing structured light for its scanning method, this makes it particularly safe for scanning people and animals. The EVA requires no calibration or warm-up time and is compatible with tablets, so the whole system is truly portable without the need for an external power plug. The in-house editing software is not free, however, and does not ship with the handheld 3D scanner. Since the data from the 3D scanner can be exported, any third party 3D editing software should be able to get the job done.

Artec Eva

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Artec Space Spider

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On the higher end of the 3D scanning spectrum is the Artec Space Spider,  a high-resolution 3D scanner that uses blue light technology to capture anything from small, intricate objects to large parts in high resolution. Priced just below $25,000, this industrial system generates 3D models with premier accuracy and vibrant color.

As an advanced version of the original Artec Spider, this is an industrial-grade scanner designed for experienced CAD users who require high precision for applications like reverse engineering, additive manufacturing, quality control, and mass production. It’s able to conquer those pesky features that other scanners can’t handle, such as sharp edges and thin ribs.

What makes it special is the fact that it offers the quality of high-end, mounted scanners, but also prides itself on being a handheld device.

Artec Space Spider

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Artec Leo

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Artec Leo 3D scanner (Image: Artec)

So named because it is the king of the jungle in 3D scanning right now (we presume — could just be a fun coincidence), the Artec Leo is a step change in the 3D scanning market, offering scan resolution of a magnitude greater than the company’s already market-leading EVA scanners, while adding complete wireless functionality and onboard processing.

The Artec Leo effectively removes the laptop or computer from the equation, allowing complete scanning freedom with no wires tethering the user to a workstation. Further to this revelation, the Leo improves upon its predecessors in every way with such features as 2.3mp HDR color textures, constructing models at 80 frames per second with a data acquisition speed of 4-million points per second and a 173,000 cm-cubed capture zone.

It’s a hefty investment at around $25,800, but that’s the price you pay for something insanely different from what has gone before.

Artec Leo

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Creaform Go!SCAN 3D

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Creaform Go!SCAN 3D. (Source: Creaform)

Packing a lot of power into a portable package, the Creaform Go!Scan 3D is a white-light 3D scanner outputting professional-grade geometries and textures. Refreshed for 2019, this scanner takes 1.5 million measurements per second and allows for free movement of both the object and the scanner.

Accurate up to 0.05mm with a resolution of 0.1mm, the system uses hybrid positioning to allow for simple and convenient handheld scanning of larger objects, with a workflow that could be considered point-and-shoot.

The accompanying VXelements software boasts a number of optimization features to clean up scans, including automatic hole filling,  improved facet capture and the clean rendering of ribs (useful for mechanical/structural parts). The included VXmodel allows for direct CAD integration of your scans.

3D Scanner Technologies

Before you decide to purchase a 3D scanner for yourself, it’s important that you know what this technology actually is and how it works. First, a 3D scanner captures an object or person. This image data is then transferred into a 3D modeling program, and from there can be altered or modified in the software, printed, inserted into a video game, and so on.

After an object is scanned, the model can be edited or resized via 3D design software. After the model is prepared, it can export into an STL file and be 3D printed. Essentially, this means that anything you see in your daily life can be made 3D printable, whether it be a small object like jewelry or a large object like an automobile.

There are many different technologies and aspects to consider when shopping for a 3D scanner. Keep reading below if you’re looking for more information on 3D scanning technology!

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Photogrammetry

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This 3D scanner technology predates the age of computers: After the invention of photography, scientists quickly realized they could apply the principle of natural stereo vision to their fields. Using images taken from two slightly different positions, they were able to measure and determine the location of points objects in 3D space, experts call this process ‘triangulation’.

To this day, Photogrammetry is used by land surveyors to compile maps with high precision; this has proven to be especially useful in mountainous regions that are difficult to access for surveyors or to 3D scan by other technologies.

Modern computer programs triangulate entire buildings or objects as small as shoes. Nowadays even phones can be turned into portable 3D scanners, simply by installing an app. The precision is largely due to the quality of the images. The more pixels you feed to your program, the more data it has to chew on. To generate a complete model many pictures have to be taken while moving around the objects in increments of 15 to 30 degrees; repeat this in different heights, especially when 3D scanning complex objects, i.e. that have many occlusions. Keep in mind that in order to triangulate a point, it needs to be photographed at least twice – otherwise your mesh will have holes. So don’t be shy when you snap your pictures.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Structured Light

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These devices project geometric patterns onto the surface of a given object, while a camera registers the distortion of the image. Based on the displacement of the pattern, it is possible to calculate the location of every point. Since the patterns can only be projected from one vantage point at a time, multiple 3D scans have to be combined to form a complete 360° mesh. Some manufacturers circumvent this constraint by mounting the object on a motorized turntable and stitching the 3D scans together automatically. These 3D scanners are very accurate, the resolution ranges in the tens of micrometers. Unlike 3D laser scanners, this technology is completely safe to apply to humans and animals. The 3D scanning range is limited to a few meters. Structured light technology is found both in stationary and in portable 3D scanners.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide TOF (Time of Flight)

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Time of Flight (TOF) 3D scanners are even more sciencey. They determine the distance to an object by measuring the time a sent out a laser or infrared beam takes to be reflected to the 3D scanner. The essential ingredient in this device is the speed of light. The round-trip-time establishes the distance traveled by the light beam. If you consider that it takes sunlight a mere 8 minutes and 17 seconds to reach the Earth, you get an idea of how precise the sensors in these scanners are in order to work. But even the mighty TOF scanners have shortcomings, differences in temperature, humidity, and other factors affect the speed of light and impede the 3D scanner’s ability to accurately measure the round-trip time, so their accuracy is comparatively low, in the range of centimeters. They are mostly used scanning large structures like buildings. Like with other technologies, it is not possible to create solid meshes in one scan. TOF-3D-scanners using laser beams should not be used when 3D scanning people or animals. Many devices using this approach are designed as portable 3D scanners.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Triangulation (Laser 3D Scanner)

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Triangulation 3D scanners, aka laser 3D scanners, are similar to photogrammetry and structured-light 3D scanners in that they use the same basic geometric principle to determine the location of a point in space. The laser 3D scanner projects a laser beam on the object and a camera registers the place where the laser hits the object. Since the angles and measurements of laser and camera are known, the laser dot (or line) can be accurately located. These 3D scanners are famously accurate, the resolution ranges in the tens of micrometers. On the flipside, their range is limited to only a few meters. Triangulation 3D scanners emitting a laser line are capable of scanning moving objects. This technology is usually not found in portable 3D scanners.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Contact

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Contact 3D scanners physically touch the object which is resting on a surface or fixed to some form of rig that holds it in place. Usually, this is a slow process, as even minor vibrations can distort the scan. Though these 3D scanners produce precise scans that used quality control in engineering industry, the probes may modify or even potentially harm the scanned objects; for this reason, contact 3D scanners are not used for heritage preservation.

Which Type of 3D Scanner is the Best for Me?

Selecting the right 3D scanner is no simple matter. There are many criteria to keep in mind before purchasing a device. For instance, a certain 3D scanner may be the best for architectural purposes, but may still prove unsuitable for prototyping. You may benefit from an affordable stationery scanner, or need the versatility of a handheld device.

Before we dig into the different 3D scanners available on the market, let’s take a look at the different aspects that you should consider. We have compiled a list of the most important characteristics to consider when shopping for a 3D scanner.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Field of Application

The first question you should ask yourself is: what do you want to use the scanner for?

The requirements vary depending on the field. For example, a game developer simply creating game assets will be interested in not just a high-resolution mesh but also the texture of the object. If so, photogrammetry will be the logical solution in this case. However, a maker who wants to 3D print something he saw in reality will be more interested in the exact measurements of the object. Therefore, they will probably choose a 3D scanner based on structured light. Your should also decide very early, where you want to 3D scan your objects. If they are relatively small and you can bring them to your office or home, buy a stationary 3D scanner. If not, you need a portable 3D scanner.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Type of Object

You should determine what it is exactly that you want to 3D scan. There is no device that covers all areas of application.

For 3D scanning people and animals, you can’t use a 3D laser scanner since it might cause damage to the eyes. Photogrammetry might be a good choice, but this technology requires the subject to stay perfectly still. So while you might get great 3D scans from your friends and family, you may find your dog a difficult subject.

Laser 3D scanners are a great choice if want to scan large, inanimate objects such as buildings or vehicles.

In case you are interested in reverse engineering, that is to say, you need extremely accurate measurements, structured light or contact 3D scanners will do the trick.

However, Contact 3D scanners are not an option in projects concerned with heritage conservation, since the process may alter or even destroy delicate items. In this case, the best 3D scanner is a structured light scanner.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Dimensions/Distance of the Object

Most consumer 3D scanners (structured light) are designed for 3D scanning objects the size of your average tea kettle from a close range. But it’s true, that you can often ‘stitch’ multiple 3D scans together into one piece. Generally speaking, the bigger your objects are, or the farther away, the more expensive a 3D laser scanner will be. Exceptions are photogrammetry programs, that are normally reasonably priced and produce excellent results.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Surface of the Object

Another factor to keep in mind while buying the best 3D scanner is the surface of your object. Both photogrammetry and structured-light 3D scanners have serious problems with reflective and transparent surfaces which cannot be processed and will result in distorted and fragmented meshes. Even the best 3D scanner will not produce satisfying results when faced with ill-suited surfaces. If your heart is set on these technologies, this constraint is often overcome by applying a thin layer of opaque lacquer.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide Resolution

Finally, the single most important feature in many fields of application is the accuracy of the 3D scans. Contact 3D scanners are capable of extreme accuracy, but their prices range from $30.000 to $200.000. Again, you should ask yourself: what do you want to use the scans for? How much resolution is enough to get the job done?

License: The text of "Best 3D Scanners of Summer 2019 – 3D Scanner Buying Guide" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.