Buy 3D Scanner: Which one is right for my application?

Are you looking for a 3D scanner for your company? Then you have come to the right place. When doing research for a 3D scanner, there are a lot of facts to handle. So many that they can easily become overwhelming.

At the end of this blog post you are going to have a strategy at hand on how to pick the right 3D scanner. You are going to know which factors are really important for you and which can safely be ignored. By this way, you can always keep the overview and make the right decision.

Every company has different requirements and therefore individual factors to consider. After all, the 3D scanner should meet all company needs and at the same time give you and your colleagues a competitive advantage. Hence if you wish to improve your 3D models, ensure the investment fits your applications.

Take for example a sports team that orders the wrong logo for its promotional items. Think of the high costs for having all T-shirts, mugs, etc. re-manufactured. Not to mention the reaction of the fans.

In the following, you are going to receive important tips on what to consider before buying a 3D scanner. Therefore you will easily find the right 3D scanner for you and generate more value for your company.

3D view with 3D scanner

Know your needs

A common mistake when buying a 3D scanner is not knowing what your needs are. Will your data be captured in your business with a few specifically trained employees?

Do multiple members of your team use the scanner, consequently necessitating an intuitive operating system? Or does your team rely on a portable 3D scanner that can be used in different places?

Thoroughly explore your requirements to narrow down your choice of 3D scanners.

Do not focus on the latest, most advanced 3D scanner since it probably does a lot of things relatively well, but nothing perfect. It also provides you with features that you do not necessarily need, but you pay for it anyway. Instead, think about which one is best for reaching your company's goals.

Do you generate models based on scans of a living object (e.g. a person)? In this case you require a high scanning speed to correct mistakes of movements.

Do you generate models based on scans of a living object (e.g. a person)? In this case you require a high scanning speed to correct mistakes of movements.

There is a lot to keep in mind. From the type of object you want to scan in 3D to the use of your scanned data. Do you use reverse engineering and work on highly complex CAD models? Or do you need 3D models to ensure the quality control of your manufacturing?

If you are working on small or complex 3D models, a suitable solution would be a precise scanner that captures data in a stable environment.

All scanners have their advantages and disadvantages. The crux of the matter is to identify the scanner with the advantages that correspond with your goals.

If you are selective, you will narrow down your selection to a 3D scanner that matches your criteria. You increase your chances for more orders and you can even expand into new business areas.

3D scanner picking up a parking lot

The most important scanning techniques

Once you have determined your requirements for a 3D model, your next step is to find the right scanning technique. There is a fair amount of different scanning technologies out there, all of which have different strengths and weaknesses.

We have collected the most frequently used and promising scanning technologies for you:

  • Laser Triangulation
  • Structured Light
  • Photogrammetry
  • Time-of-flight
  • Polarization
  • Combined solutions

Laser Triangulation

In laser triangulation, an object is scanned with a laser. The technology is - if stationary - inexpensive and easy to use. It is therefore one of the most widespread scanning techniques available.
Note: handheld 3D scanners with laser triangulation is most likely located in a higher price segment.

Utilizing laser triangulation for moving objects is tied to certain conditions. Your scan object must move in relation to the laser, similar to a conveyor belt at an airport. A uniform movement of the scan objects is paramount to scan the object completely, and consequently avoiding erroneous or unusable data.

The technology offers extremely high accuracy and no limitation in object size. However, the laser is dangerous for the eyes, so it is recommended to wear safety glasses.

An impairment worth mentioning here is that it is unfeasible to acquire scan date of shiny materials without extensive prior treatment and post processing. Therefore, be sure to check the materials you want to scan before making a decision.

So that your shiny object is also recognized by laser triangulation, there is a very easy way out. Treat your scan object with a chalk spray before scanning (e.g. this one Dupli-Color Chalk Spray). Thus the object no longer shines and can be scanned.

Practical examples:

  • Engine parts
  • Quality control

3D Scanner Examples:

  • Faro Focus S350
  • Leica Geosystems BLK360
  • MakerBot® Digitizer™Desktop 3D Scanner

Structured Light

Instead of sending a laser beam, this technology employs a light pattern. The pattern is deformed by the object, so-called code words which are then translated into a 3D model of the scanned object.

The translation of the code words takes a few seconds during which, if you move your scanner too fast, you will end up with a faulty or incomplete scan.

Structured Light often follows a stationary approach that creates highly detailed and complex 3D models. It is a high-priced technology that requires a specialist to operate. It provides a high accuracy of up to 0.05 mm. But only for objects that do not shine or reflect (chalk spray also helps here, see paragraph on laser triangulation).

Practical examples:

  • 3D documentation
  • automotive
  • reverse engineering

3D Scanner Examples:

  • artec eva lite
  • david hp 3d structured light scanner pro s3
  • shining 3d scan pro

Photogrammetry

Simple to operate and often a more affordable solution compared to laser scans and structured light: photogrammetry. As its name suggests, this technology combines a number of photos into 3D data, either from high-resolution and complex digital photos or from pictures of a mobile phone camera.

While accuracy is not a strength of this method, you get a 3D model including color information. It is even possible to digitize large and inaccessible areas such as forests.

At the same time, it is difficult to take all the photos manually since you have to ensure sufficient exposure and that the object is clearly visible in the image. This needs to be practiced.

Practical examples:

  • Development of video games
  • Mapping of archaeological sites
  • Movies (for example Fight Club, Matrix)

More examples of 3D scan software:

  • Colmap
  • Meshroom/AliceVision
  • Bentley ContextCapture

Time-of-flight

Time-of-Flight (ToF) offers a cheap, but not arbitrarily accurate method to generate 3D data. This technology uses the runtime method to measure distances. It works like this: the camera field of view is illuminated with a light pulse (mostly infrared illumination).

The distance between the object and the light pulse is determined by the time it takes for the light pulse to reach the object and back. ToF cameras are usually quite user-friendly and quickly deliver a 3D image.

Pictures can be taken at a distance between a few and 40 meters. The optimum resolution is between 1 and 10 mm, but is often much worse due to reflections.

Practical examples:

  • Live image of environment for autonomous logistics vehicles
  • Robotics: Pick and place applications with large objects
  • Measurement of volume to determine freight costs in logistics, which are automatically palletised by robots.

3D scanner example:

  • Occipital Structure Sensor

Polarization

Up to now, polarization is the only method to reliably detect reflective surfaces without pretreatment.

This solution emits light that is reflected by the scanning object. Depending on the surface inclination of the object, the light returns differently polarized. The 3D model is created from the data obtained by polarization.

In order for polarization to function optimally, it must be combined with at least one other 3D scan technology. However, used in a combination, it improves the accuracy of the 3D model by a factor of 10 to 1000. In other words, take a 3D model that would be accurate to 1 mm without polarization. With polarization, it is accurate to at least 0.1 mm.

Combined solutions

If you concentrate on only one scanning technology, you will rarely get the desired result. Usually you have to compromise on the size, shape or texture of the object.

Fast but inaccurate scans lead to 3D models that need to be reworked. Pretreatment or reworking in CAD is not uncommon.

Postprocessing is time consuming, annoying and limits the possibilities of your project. It also concentrates your resources on areas that would be better spent elsewhere. Fortunately, not everything is black or white, but all varying shades of grey. There are solutions that combine the advantages of different technologies.

3D scanner example:

  • Scoobe3D scanner combines:
    • Photogrammetry: for color and texture
    • Time-of-Flight: for fast preview images
    • Polarization: for shiny materials
  • You can read more about why these three technologies work so well together here. The combined accuracy is 0.1 mm for all common materials.

More info about 31 different 3D scanners

3D models on the computer

New technologies = new possibilities

Other than being simply a cool gadget to show off with, a 3D scanner is an investment in several areas of your business.

This might seem like a huge effort to you, but bear with me here. This is an effort which coincidentally will increase your return on investment by a factor of 5, 10, 100; And this does not only concern your profit.

You also optimize your 3D projects with regard to time saving, training of your employees and postprocessing. The time gained is free for projects that have fallen by the wayside so far. Which will make you and your company more versatile and interesting for customers.

With the right investment you improve many areas in your company: the final quality, the workflow, and the efficiency.

With a better scan quality you can work on very particular 3D models. For example, offering your customers tailor-made products is then easy for you.

In addition, 3D scanning is becoming more and more important in order to completely digitize processes.

Take, for example, the very first telephones which needed to be transported in a backpack. Not to mention the limited possibilities all while being pricy and hard to handle.
Today, on the other hand, there are intelligent smartphones on the market.

Similar to telephony, 3D scanning has evolved. Solutions are becoming more convenient, faster and more powerful, making the selection of 3D scanners grow steadily.

Your step into the future

Investing in a 3D scanner will help your business grow and prosper.

This is your opportunity to start your fully digitalized process and to be one step ahead of your competitors.

Are you looking for a 3D scanner for your company? Then you have come to the right place. When doing research for a 3D scanner, there are a lot of facts to handle. So many that they can easily become overwhelming.

At the end of this blog post you are going to have a strategy at hand on how to pick the right 3D scanner. You are going to know which factors are really important for you and which can safely be ignored. By this way, you can always keep the overview and make the right decision.

Every company has different requirements and therefore individual factors to consider. After all, the 3D scanner should meet all company needs and at the same time give you and your colleagues a competitive advantage. Hence if you wish to improve your 3D models, ensure the investment fits your applications.

Take for example a sports team that orders the wrong logo for its promotional items. Think of the high costs for having all T-shirts, mugs, etc. re-manufactured. Not to mention the reaction of the fans.

In the following, you are going to receive important tips on what to consider before buying a 3D scanner. Therefore you will easily find the right 3D scanner for you and generate more value for your company.

3D view with 3D scanner

Know your needs

A common mistake when buying a 3D scanner is not knowing what your needs are. Will your data be captured in your business with a few specifically trained employees?

Do multiple members of your team use the scanner, consequently necessitating an intuitive operating system? Or does your team rely on a portable 3D scanner that can be used in different places?

Thoroughly explore your requirements to narrow down your choice of 3D scanners.

Do not focus on the latest, most advanced 3D scanner since it probably does a lot of things relatively well, but nothing perfect. It also provides you with features that you do not necessarily need, but you pay for it anyway. Instead, think about which one is best for reaching your company's goals.

Do you generate models based on scans of a living object (e.g. a person)? In this case you require a high scanning speed to correct mistakes of movements.

Do you generate models based on scans of a living object (e.g. a person)? In this case you require a high scanning speed to correct mistakes of movements.

There is a lot to keep in mind. From the type of object you want to scan in 3D to the use of your scanned data. Do you use reverse engineering and work on highly complex CAD models? Or do you need 3D models to ensure the quality control of your manufacturing?

If you are working on small or complex 3D models, a suitable solution would be a precise scanner that captures data in a stable environment.

All scanners have their advantages and disadvantages. The crux of the matter is to identify the scanner with the advantages that correspond with your goals.

If you are selective, you will narrow down your selection to a 3D scanner that matches your criteria. You increase your chances for more orders and you can even expand into new business areas.

3D scanner picking up a parking lot

The most important scanning techniques

Once you have determined your requirements for a 3D model, your next step is to find the right scanning technique. There is a fair amount of different scanning technologies out there, all of which have different strengths and weaknesses.

We have collected the most frequently used and promising scanning technologies for you:

  • Laser Triangulation
  • Structured Light
  • Photogrammetry
  • Time-of-flight
  • Polarization
  • Combined solutions

Laser Triangulation

In laser triangulation, an object is scanned with a laser. The technology is - if stationary - inexpensive and easy to use. It is therefore one of the most widespread scanning techniques available.
Note: handheld 3D scanners with laser triangulation is most likely located in a higher price segment.

Utilizing laser triangulation for moving objects is tied to certain conditions. Your scan object must move in relation to the laser, similar to a conveyor belt at an airport. A uniform movement of the scan objects is paramount to scan the object completely, and consequently avoiding erroneous or unusable data.

The technology offers extremely high accuracy and no limitation in object size. However, the laser is dangerous for the eyes, so it is recommended to wear safety glasses.

An impairment worth mentioning here is that it is unfeasible to acquire scan date of shiny materials without extensive prior treatment and post processing. Therefore, be sure to check the materials you want to scan before making a decision.

Practical examples:

  • Engine parts
  • Quality control

3D Scanner Examples:

  • Faro Focus S350
  • Leica Geosystems BLK360
  • MakerBot® Digitizer™Desktop 3D Scanner

Structured Light

Instead of sending a laser beam, this technology employs a light pattern. The pattern is deformed by the object, so-called code words which are then translated into a 3D model of the scanned object.

The translation of the code words takes a few seconds during which, if you move your scanner too fast, you will end up with a faulty or incomplete scan.

Structured Light often follows a stationary approach that creates highly detailed and complex 3D models. Being a high-priced technology, this technology requires a specialist to operate it. In return, it delivers a high accuracy of up to 0.05 mm, but only for objects that do not shine or reflect.

Practical examples:

  • 3D documentation
  • automotive
  • reverse engineering

3D Scanner Examples:

  • artec eva lite
  • david hp 3d structured light scanner pro s3
  • shining 3d scan pro

Photogrammetry

Simple to operate and often a more affordable solution compared to laser scans and structured light: photogrammetry. As its name suggests, this technology combines a number of photos into 3D data, either from high-resolution and complex digital photos or from pictures of a mobile phone camera.

While accuracy is not a strength of this method, you get a 3D model including color information. It is even possible to digitize large and inaccessible areas such as forests.

At the same time, it is difficult to take all the photos manually since you have to ensure sufficient exposure and that the object is clearly visible in the image. This needs to be practiced.

Practical examples:

  • Development of video games
  • Mapping of archaeological sites
  • Movies (for example Fight Club, Matrix)

Examples for 3D Scan Software:

  • Colmap
  • Meshroom/AliceVision
  • Bentley ContextCapture

Time-of-flight

Time-of-Flight (ToF) offers a cheap, but not arbitrarily accurate method to generate 3D data. This technology uses the runtime method to measure distances. It works like this: the camera field of view is illuminated with a light pulse (mostly infrared illumination).

The distance between the object and the light pulse is determined by the time it takes for the light pulse to reach the object and back. ToF cameras are usually quite user-friendly and quickly deliver a 3D image.

Pictures can be taken at a distance between a few and 40 meters. The optimum resolution is between 1 and 10 mm, but is often much worse due to reflections.

Practical examples:

  • Live image of environment for autonomous logistics vehicles
  • Robotics: Pick and place applications with large objects
  • Measurement of volume to determine freight costs in logistics, which are automatically palletised by robots.

3D scanner example:

  • Occipital Structure Sensor

Polarization

Up to now, polarization is the only method to reliably detect reflective surfaces without pretreatment.

This solution emits light that is reflected by the scanning object. Depending on the surface inclination of the object, the light returns differently polarized. The 3D model is created from the data obtained by polarization.

In order for polarization to function optimally, it must be combined with at least one other 3D scan technology. However, used in a combination, it improves the accuracy of the 3D model by a factor of 10 to 1000. In other words, take a 3D model that would be accurate to 1 mm without polarization. With polarization, it is accurate to at least 0.1 mm.

Combined solutions

If you concentrate on only one scanning technology, you will rarely get the desired result. Usually you have to compromise on the size, shape or texture of the object.

Fast but inaccurate scans lead to 3D models that need to be reworked. Pretreatment or reworking in CAD is not uncommon.

Postprocessing is time consuming, annoying and limits the possibilities of your project. It also concentrates your resources on areas that would be better spent elsewhere. Fortunately, not everything is black or white, but all varying shades of grey. There are solutions that combine the advantages of different technologies.

3D scanner example:

  • Scoobe3D scanner combines:
    • Photogrammetry: for color and texture
    • Time-of-Flight: for fast preview images
    • Polarization: for shiny materials
  • You can read more about why these three technologies work so well together here. The combined accuracy is 0.1 mm for all common materials.

More info about 31 different 3D scanners

3D models on the computer

New technologies = new possibilities

Other than being simply a cool gadget to show off with, a 3D scanner is an investment in several areas of your business.

This might seem like a huge effort to you, but bear with me here. This is an effort which coincidentally will increase your return on investment by a factor of 5, 10, 100; And this does not only concern your profit.

You also optimize your 3D projects with regard to time saving, training of your employees and postprocessing. The time gained is free for projects that have fallen by the wayside so far. Which will make you and your company more versatile and interesting for customers.

With the right investment you improve many areas in your company: the final quality, the workflow, and the efficiency.

With a better scan quality you can work on very particular 3D models. For example, offering your customers tailor-made products is then easy for you.

In addition, 3D scanning is becoming more and more important in order to completely digitize processes.

Take, for example, the very first telephones which needed to be transported in a backpack. Not to mention the limited possibilities all while being pricy and hard to handle.
Today, on the other hand, there are intelligent smartphones on the market.

Similar to telephony, 3D scanning has evolved. Solutions are becoming more convenient, faster and more powerful, making the selection of 3D scanners grow steadily.

Your step into the future

Investing in a 3D scanner will help your business grow and prosper.

This is your opportunity to start your fully digitalized process and to be one step ahead of your competitors.

Which scanner is best for your applications?

Our team has worked hard on a guide to help you determine the 3D scanner most suitable for your individual needs. This guide will help you find the most fitting scanner for your purpose - and more:

  • Stand out in your industry
  • Offer new business areas
  • Generate more orders and revenues
  • Save time and money on your 3D models

Be one step ahead of your competition and invest in your 3D future.
Download your free 3D Scanner Guide :

Which scanner is best for your applications?

Our team has worked hard on a guide to help you determine the 3D scanner most suitable for your individual needs. This guide will help you find the most fitting scanner for your purpose - and more:

  • Stand out in your industry
  • Offer new business areas
  • Generate more orders and revenues
  • Save time and money on your 3D models

Be one step ahead of your competition and invest in your 3D future.
Download your free 3D Scanner Guide :