Guide to 3D Scanners For 3D Printing
The most common way to create models for your 3D printer is to use a CAD program to draw them from scratch. But there’s another way that enables you to quickly model real-life objects with extreme accuracy almost instantly – 3D scanning.
3D scanners have been around for many years but, much like 3D printing, it’s only recently that they have been affordable to average consumers.
The great thing about 3D scanners is that they allow you to integrate your 3D prints with the objects around you much more quickly. You can create DIY parts that are bespoke to the geometry of your home, or cosplay armor that is a perfect fit for your body, and all without going near a tape measure!
What Can I Use A 3D Scanner For?
In general, the primary purpose of a 3D scanner is to create a 3D digital model of the real-world geometry in front of it. Combining this ability with 3D printing allows you to do three things:
- Replicate existing objects
- Replicate existing objects with changes
- Create new objects that mate perfectly to an existing object
Let me illustrate each idea with some examples to give you some inspiration:
- If you lost a black Rook from your chess set, you could scan the white Rook and then print a replacement.
- If you thought your Knight from your chess set looked a little weedy, you could scan your existing Knight and in a CAD package, like Blender (free!) pimp it up to look more kickass and then 3D print the result.
- If you had nowhere to store your chess pieces when you weren’t playing. You could scan each piece, so you know its precise size and shape and the design and 3D print a bespoke storage container with each piece having its own perfectly sized home.
So, what if I don’t play chess? I hear you. 3D scanners are a bit like 3D printers, once you know they exist your brain starts thinking about all the possible uses and you wonder how you ever did without one.
Just yesterday I saw a great example that is an almost unique situation. Someone needed to fit a new extractor fan to their old apartment building. Because the outside wall was so irregular, it was impossible to get a good fit without using a ton of mastic. So, they 3D scanned their crazy undulating wall, and then designed, and 3D printed a housing that would mate perfectly with the rough wall.
What Is A 3D Scanner and How Does It Work?
When you see the results of a 3D scan, you may be convinced its magic. 3D scanning is a combination of advanced technologies and expertise in design. It may appear easy and achievable, but you need a little practice to get the best results.
A 3D scanner is a device that identifies, collects, analyses, and displays the shape of solid objects in their digital form. It will capture the structural and surface design of a three-dimensional solid object using laser light and create point clouds from the surface of the object.
The 3D scanning process involves placing the object on the bed of a digitizer or pointing the scanner at the object to be scanned. Specialized software directs laser light on the surface as the camera’s records shape and distance of the laser line in three dimensions. The resulting data is captured and appears as points on the computer. These points are referred to as ‘Point clouds.’ This is the data that is now used in forming the digital model after scanning and capturing. The process is rather fast and very accurate.
Point cloud files are created with the data collected and saved for future references. The file is registered and merged to bring out the presentation of the object. Post-processing may also be required if the scanned geometry is not very clean.
Types of 3D Scanners
3D scanners can be either contact, those that require you to place the scanner on the object or non-contact, scanners that scan from a distance. Regardless, they are both available as handled, desktop, or full body scanners.
For a handheld scanner, you must hold the capturing unit while collecting data from the object. The Object to be scanned is placed still, and the scanner is moved around it to capture all details. It operates on structured light to calculate the geometry of the subject. Handheld scanners offer several operational modes including manual scanning, free scan, and quick hand scan. Hand scanners are more portable, lightweight, and smaller in size compared to desktop 3D scanners.
Despite being a resourceful and fast scanner, its main limitation is the need for the object to remain still. Any movement can tamper with the data, and therefore it is suitable for scanning stationary objects only. Hand scanners are also not as efficient at scanning transparent materials or reflective surfaces, so you are more likely to get a poor-quality scan.
Desktop 3D scanners are similar to handled scanners, but they are larger, weigh more, and can be placed on a surface to facilitate the scanning process. Desktop scanners are the most popular type of scanner for 3D printing because they are ideal for scanning smaller objects of the size that you might consider 3D printing.
To use a desktop 3D scanner, you just place the object on a designated plate and scan it. The data point clouds are fed into the computer via a USB cable or Wi-Fi. They give high-quality 3D models for reproduction. The main limitation of Desktop scanners is that they can only scan up to a specific size of object, usually around 9 inches square.
Fully body 3D scanning systems are designed to capture the entire body of a human. They work by combining structured light and photogrammetry 3D technologies to take the portraits. 3D full-body scanners have cameras and light mounted around the body to be scanned. A projector is actually used in this to protect the pattern. The whole body 3D scan takes two photos in succession. One is made when the projector is on, and the other when it’s off. The first set of photos calculates the geometry while the second one is used for the texture of the body. This is the information that is used in creating quality life-like geometry.
In a nutshell, full body systems are reliable, have a fast scanning time, and produce quality textures. Their main limitation, which can easily be handled, is the succession time between taking photos (150-250 millisecond). In some cases, it can lead to imperfect quality.
What to Look for when Buying a 3D Scanner
This is the maximum size of an object that can be scanned. If you have any ideas of what you want to scan, make sure it will fit within this volume. It’s a good idea to have a scanner with a similar scan volume to your 3D printer, so neither will limit the other.
This is how fast the scanner takes to complete a scan. Usually, it’s measured in minutes for the complete scanning volume to be scanned. There’s no benefit to scan speed other than how it affects your patience!
This is the smallest level of detail that the scanner can measure and replicate. The lower, the better, but generally more accuracy means a higher price. Also, most 3D printers can only achieve around 0.1mm accuracy, so there is little need to scan anything at a higher resolution than this.
On desktop scanners, this is the maximum weight of the object it can support. Many desktop scanners feature a motorized rotating turntable that ensures all 360 degrees of the object have been scanned. The object weight must not be too high for the motor to overcome.
Reviews of 3D Scanners
Now that you have some background info about 3D scanners and what they are about, I’ll give you a quick summary of some of the top scanners in the market that are ideal for using alongside your 3D printer.
The Ciclop Lasing 3D-Scanner Kit is a popular choice among creators in the market as it is a low-price option. The compromise with this 3D scanner is that you have to assemble the components before you get to scan!
- It is an open source scanner. All details of its specs and definition and how to use information are available online and for free.
- 200 mm diameter x 8 mm base and a 200 mm diameter non-slip surface
The Ciclop scanner
also has several excellent 3D Scanning Properties. They include Scanning
Precision of 0.5 mm and a maximum Supported Weight of 3 KG. The Typical
Scanning Time (Configurable) is often 2-8 minutes. The scanner also offers a Scanning
Volume Diameter of 250mm by 205mm.
The Ciclop Lasing 3D scanner kit works by using triangulation technology. It projects a laser beam on to the surface of the scanned object and measures the distance of the laser ray with a 1/8th micro-stepping capability and a scan precision of 0.5mm. This gives precise measurements of point clouds. These specifications make it most suitable for most detail applications.
It has a 200mm diameter non-slip surface, you also get a large scan area for scanning both small and medium objects. The scanner allows a maximum of 3 kg in weight too. Scanning is quite quick with a typical scanning time between 2-8 minutes. The time is, however, configurable, but it will depend on the size of the object and surface area. The Logitech C270 HD camera on the scanner captures and records every required detail and transmits this information to your computer easily via the USB cable.
- Has a large number of community users who can offer assistance and tips.
- It’s open source with information on mechanical design, software, and electronics readily available.
- It’s excellent value for money
- Can be a little complex for beginners since it requires assembling after purchase and experience in operation.
- Converting the 3D model file requires multiple scanning software to get a clear image.
The Matter & Form Mfs1V2 3D Scanner V2 is a low-cost desktop scanner that continues the trend of Matter & Form bringing 3D scanning to the masses.
- The scanner has incorporated the FM studio software which contains powerful tools for configuration which give you plenty of control over your scanning.
- Scan accuracy within ± 0.1mm
- HD CMOS imaging
- 2 Class 1 (eye-safe) lasers
- Maximum Object Size: 25 cm high x 18 cm diameter (9.8″ x 7″)
- Maximum Object Weight: 3 kg (6.6 lbs)
- USB 2.0 high-speed interface
- Windows 7, 8.1,10 and Mac OS 10.11+
- +Quickscan upgrade software
The Matter and Form Mfs1V2 3D scanner have a high accuracy of up to 0.1mm making it suitable for most 3D printing applications. The hardware side of the scanner is straightforward to use and features eye safe technology so you can use it in your home without any concerns for safety. It is a foldable design which makes it easy to fold up and store away.
The scanner’s software is compatible with most Windows OS including 7, 8.1 and 10 and also Mac OS.
The scanner operates on 100-240V and can hold about 6.6lbs on its surface scan area. All the scan data is relayed to your PC quickly on a USB 2.0 high-speed cable.
The scan point cloud exports include both XYZ and PLY while the Mesh Exports are OBJ and STL format which is compatible with most CAD software.
It features a foldable design which protects both the camera and turntable when it’s not in use. This also helps to keep your workspace clean and organized and means it does not need an additional storage case.
The scanner package includes a +Quickscan upgrade for the MF studio software that offers higher scanning speeds of up to 65 seconds and direct real-time feedback along with scan previews to speed up your workflow.
- Easy to use but powerful software makes scanning easy.
- You get faster scan speeds with the upgrade software and is available in a variety of languages.
- Ideal for all abilities, beginners, and pros
- Several scans required to scan a full 3D object.
- Exporting from point clouds to printable mesh can sometimes be noisy with clean up required.
The Da Vinci 1.0 Pro 3in1 is, as the name suggests, three tools in one as it features a 3D printer, a 3D scanner, and an engraver.
- 3-in-1 3D printer, 3D scanner, and laser engraver
- Build volume; 7.9 x 7.9 x7.9 inch
- Resolution 20-400 microns
- Guided calibration
- Max 120mm/s printing speed
- Material; PLA, ABS, Tough PLA, HIPS, Wood, antibacterial PLA, PETG, compatible with third party material
XYZ have ensured their device can take care of entire product manufacture from start to finish.
For scanning, you get 20-400 micron of resolution that gives quality output. It works by laser triangulation and is an easy setup.
The scanner rotates in all directions for 3D capture of the entire object in about minutes. Another plus for the device is its compatibility with a variety of industry tools and materials. For Print, you can use all PLA materials – regular, tough, antibacterial, ABS, wood, HIPS, and PETG.
It also operates on a WI-FI interface making it fast and reliable. The engrave feature is an optional upgrade with a laser output of 350 MW. It allows you to customize and create your design on wood, cardboard, leather, paper and on the plastic produced by the 3D printer itself.
Additionally, XYZ has an active customer and technical support program for guidance and an online gallery with more than 3000 models for download.
You can configure the 3D printer setting including speed, temperature, and retraction for a perfect outcome.
- It’s a frustration-free use, with its steps by step easy to follow instructions.
- Online gallery with more than 3000 models for download
- You will need a bit of practice before getting the best out of the 3D printer
- Only operates with Wi-Fi
This is one of the most popular hacks to get a cheap entry into the world of 3D scanning, and it works surprisingly well.
To turn the Kinect Sensor into a 3D scanner, you simply have to download the Microsoft 3D scan app.
- It is handheld
- Has a 1080HD camera
- Compatible with Windows Mac and Linux
- Video frame rate of 30fps
- Measures 1.8 x 3.1 x5.9 inch and weighs 3.2 pounds
Its high definition camera allows recording of clear captures, but it actually works best with windows 10. The video frame rate of 30 fps gives it a quality GPU. The scan also offers better calibration of the color mesh by launching the camera app which delivers the best results. It has a non-reflective background which is achieved by maximizing the distance between an object for scan and the background.
- Provides high-quality camera for precise, clear images
- An easy setup
- For 3D scanning, you will need to download the software
It’s quite heavy than it appears
This scanner can scan autonomously, and it’s probably the most sophisticated accessory for mobile devices. It’s handheld, portable and the iPad attached structure sensor can scan for 4 long hours.
- Technology; structured light
- USB cable connected
- Weight of 95g and measures 119x 28x29mm
- Has a 0.5 scan precision from 40cm to 3.5meter range
- Operating systems include iOS, Windows, Android and Linux
The scanning structure sensor can be attached on your mobile device either an iPad or smartphone. You can capture precise, full colored models of people and things in your surroundings. Facilitates indoor mapping, 3D scanning, and mixed reality gaming. It also has a 3D vision that enhances practical tasks like precise measurement of an object or a room. The scanner offers a structured SDK that brings cutting edge computer vision which makes it possible to capture high-quality photos You can capture anything and turn in to a full-color 3D model
- You get to experience advanced 3D technology right from your smartphone handset.
- The software is easy to install and use
- Cannot work on its own, must be attached to a device and it only works with smartphones
The Einscan SE scanner is designed and created from one of the industry’s leading brands in 3D technology. You simply get yourself a powerful tool that is designed for professionals at low costs. Its specifications include;
- Has a 0.1mm accuracy
- 8-second scan speed
- A 700mm Cubic max volume
- A fixed auto scan mode and a manual alignment
Einscan SE features a free and automatic scan mode running for about 8 seconds per scan and about 2 minutes for a 360-degree overview. It uses automated software that offers automatic calibration; hence no rigid setup is required.
It is also easy to start your scan with just one click and it will auto align and generate the mesh directly. You also have various options of alignment, you can mark points, use a turntable, or manually align.
Einscan SE is also a compatible scanner for 3D printing. The auto meshing provides high-quality 3D data for printing. With advanced technology, you can share data with third parties through a data sharing platform access service.
The turntable can manage up to 10 kilos so there is a lot of flexibility with regards to what you can scan at any given time. The scanner also supports Windows 7, 8 and 10 of 64 bits.
- An advanced tool with multiple functions but easy to use and apply
- Very flexible in terms of the weight it can hold.
- Operates under particular conditions in terms of software compatibility and computer requirements
Einscan pro handheld 3D scanner is one of the best 3D scanning choices for both consumer and commercial purposes. It is highly accurate and fast.
- 4 scan modes including handheld HD and rapid scan, automatic and fixed scan
- Has a scan speed of 90000 points per sec for HD scan and 550,000 points per sec for rapid scan
- An accuracy of 0.1 /0.33, 0.05mm
The handheld rapid scan mode commands high speeds, and it is therefore recommended for applications requiring high precision, accuracy and fast turn-around time. It also operates on both features and markers alignment modes.
Handheld HD scan mode uses markers for alignment and utilizes light scanning which is recommended for large sculptures, automotive parts, etc. The end result is a highly detailed and precise end product. The auto scan mode uses the turntable for small objects for better convenience and easy use.
It is also applicable to industrial use, creating models for ornaments, and small artistic pieces. The fixed scan mode enables free scanning, and it’s recommended for large, complicated parts that are detailed but lightweight, and easy to move around while scanning.
- Has various mode options making it usable for a variety of applications.
- Highly accurate and reliable
- Requires proper learning before use due to the many modes and alignments to avoid frustrations during the scan
This is arguably one of the most ideal 3D scanners for professionals, and it comes with a full kit of advanced tech with specifications.
- Alignment modes include HD – markers mode; rapid scan- makers, feature, turntable, and manual.
- The Markers, feature Markers, features, and manual modes can be used for both auto and fixed scan.
- 4 scan modes including handheld HD and handheld rapid scan, automatic and fixed scan
- Has a scan speed of 550,000 points per sec for HD scan and 450,000 points per sec for rapid scan
- A single shot accuracy of 0.1 /0.33, 0.05mm for all scan modes consecutively
Handheld rapid scan mode scans quickly with precision and supports markers and feature alignment. This allows it to recognize and align reference points on the model. The high definition mode is ideal for a richly detailed and stationary object. It is very convenient and produces highly accurate precise results.
It’s ideal for smaller objects, the auto scan mode is applicable for industrial components while the fixed scan mode is perfect for scanning large objects.
- A high-tech multipurpose scanner
- Very accurate and fast
- Not beginner friendly
Designed for the dental industry, the Shining 3D auto scanner is cost-effective and lightweight. It comes with a small footprint which makes it ideal for scanning teeth. Blue or white light can be used.
- Fully open structure
- Multiple functions
- Clinic mode
- Open data format
- Weighs 11.0 pounds
The open structure features of the shinning DX ES PRO make it compatible with articulators in the market including Kavo and Artex. It comes with an articulator, triple play, texture, and continuous scanning giving you more options for your desired application. The added clinical mode feature makes it an essential aid to dental clinics. It can help and support chair-side restoration solutions. Besides, the open data format makes it compatible with current CAD/CAM software and facilitates STL data exports
- High-quality scanner
As an advanced version of the SE, the SP is a faster, more accurate option that offers higher capture volume. It stands out as a capable scanner for a user in need of more precise and quick scans especially a professional creator. Its specifications include;
- Auto scan / fixed scan modes
- Technology structured light
- Output formats ASC, OBJ, PLY STL
- Sing shot accuracy < 50 microns
- Higher accuracy 0.05mm on a single scan
- Scan time 4 seconds
- Auto scan for 360 degrees is 1 minute
- Alignments; manual, feature, mark points, and turntable mark point
- Compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10 on a Dual core i5 or higher
The scanner has incredible speed, in fact, it achieves a 360-degree scan in 1 minute and a single scan in 4 seconds. It also offers quality scans with an accuracy of 0.05 and a high resolution of 0.17 mm point distance. This allows the scanner to capture finer details. It also provides different calibrations to alignment for an optimal quality scan. It’s quite easy and fast to set up and use too. The inclusive one-click 3D scanning option and the auto-alignment features make it ideal for beginners.
- Has a faster turnaround time due to its improved features
- You get to scan faster and produce quality 3D models
- Price friendly
- Gathers dust easily on the lens, this can cause blurred capturing of objects after a while
The Einscan dental 3D scanner DS EX, as the name indicates, was developed for the dental market to provide efficient solutions cost-effectively. Its specifications include;
- Accuracy of less than 15 mm
- Scanning time; bite is 13 sec, lower and upper jaws 30 sec, dies 30 sec
- Scanning range is 100 x 100 x 75 mm
- Scanning principle, structured light
- Dimensions 260x 270 x 420mm
- Output format include STL, OBJ
- USB interface
- Camera 1.3 megapixel
- structured light Technology
The scanner has a clinic mode that allows it to be applied directly into dental clinics and facilitate chair side restoration. It also supports most articulators available in the market like the Artex, Kavo, Bio-art, and others. The scanner also features a continuous scanning mode using a LAN network. This helps in facilitating the separation of scanning and data processing.
You will also love the compact size and a fully open structure that makes it easy to clean. Its open data format options allow exporting of STL data and are highly compatible with current market software. It comes with various scan options including Texture scan, articulator scan, and Triple tray scanning. You will also get features applicable to different levels including dental labs, colleges, clinics, and others.
- A beneficial and efficient tool for the dental industry.
- Adopts the latest technology for cost-effective and productive solutions
- Complex due to various advanced features
This scanner offers some of the most versatile scan modes. They include handheld rapid scan, handheld HD scan, fixed scan with turntable, and fixed scan without a turntable. Other tech specs include:
- Scan accuracy of 0.05mm for HD scan, Rapid scan 0.1 mm, 0.04 for fixed scan
- Scan speed of 20 fps in HD, 30fps in Rapid Scan
- 3D Print Compatible: Yes
- Output Format: OBJ, STL, ASC, PLY, 3MF, P3
- Scanner Weight: 1.13kg
- Supported OS: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, 64 bits
The scanner comes with a new operational mode that enhances the HD scan mode. The extended scan range will perfectly capture 3D models more efficiently. And that is not all. The higher scan speed means that you get a more elevated, precise, and faster scanning. This will, in the end, help you in producing quality 3D models.
Besides, a higher accuracy on a fixed scan without turntable gives a 0.04 mm accuracy, but with markers, the accuracy is at 0.05 mm. Output file format includes OBJ, PLY, STL, and P3 which are compatible with mainstream software and seamlessly connect to 3D printers for 3D printing. Enhanced handheld HD scan mode with an enlarged scan range will improve capturing efficiency
- Easy calibration and software are self-explanatory
- Too many features and specifications can make it confusing to figure out sometimes
The scanner is also very versatile to use and features the following specifications;
- Industrial CMOS sensor
- High accuracy of 0.04 mm per frame
- structured light Technology
- Free 3D software
- High integration with a built-in dongle, compact modular and a cable plus a USB
- Compatible with Windows OS
The CMOS sensor from ON-semi improves capturing of details and textured data for export is more accurate. The 1.3 MP camera captures every dot to every pixel, and the texture data can be easily exported in PLY format. Its compatibility with Windows operating systems is also something to watch. It can work with Windows 7, 8 and 10.
Let’s also not forget the High accuracy of 0.04 that makes it a perfect fit for industry objects of between 5 and 60 cm. The 3D scanning software is free and simple but can be slightly sophisticated in creating complex models in just a few minutes. The scanner also has 1280 *1080 LED surfaced structured light that uses Texas instruments raster for enhanced core functions. The turntable alignment can also be used for various objects with various shapes.
- It’s direct plug and play, does not need any calibration
- Results are high quality and highly accurate, a good fit for precise applications like prototyping
- They have efficient tech support on standby to help you in case of any queries or assistance
- A high-tech tool for industrial work, not suitable for amateurs
This scanner has several specs too that you can enjoy using. Here is a simple break down.
- Operation range is 20- 60 cm
- Field of view 45 degree
- Interface USB
- Wight 1.1 pounds
- Compatible with window 8 or later Operating system
Operates on window 8 via a USB, you will be provided with a competent handheld capturing solution. The model captured can be used for archival or asset creation for digital content. The operating range for the scanner of between 20 and 60 cm gives full- color images with a 45-degree view. The outputs are relatively in high geometry with good texture quality facilitated by the sense active 3D building. It is flexible for various applications
- Price function balance
- Takes some skill to get good results
Leica is well known not only in the world of cameras but also of industrial metrology. The 3D Disto scanner has had some upgrades in recent years that make it a smart choice no matter what your usage.
- Upgraded Leica 3D DISTO software
- BIM building information modeling exports data
- The horizontal and vertical turning axes are Motorized
- OS; Windows 10
- Interface USB Wi-Fi stick
DISTO can capture as much measurement as possible on any job and export them easily to CAD. It also offers excellent visualization. The upgraded software is now usable with smart windows devices and displays results in 3D. The software also makes it easier to check the measured points that are captured as Built measurements.
The BIM interface facilitates the direct acquiring of DXF data into windows devices and uses the DISTO software for laying out all details including the anchor points, verifying critical construction locations. The Kit comes with 3D DISTO, GZM3 target plate, target pad, windows software, remote control, cables charging accessories and an offset tool.
- Very accurate in measurement, measure once cut once
- Downloadable software
- Works with windows tablet only
The scanner has several essential specs, and here they are:
- Technology – naked three Intel Real sense depth sensors and the mirror embedded 3D depth sensors
- Takes 15 second for 360-degree capture
- OS compatibility; iOS and Android app
- Built-in feedback
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
- High processor power
The three Intel Real sense depth sensors will scan your object and capture all the details. For example, the captured information is not only physical but also other health metrics including body fat percentage, fat mass, lean mass, circumference measurements. The built-in feedback comes with a scale alignment and an interactive light ring which combine to help in achieving the perfect scan. For proper sync of your scan to your phone, the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chips automatically handle that. The scanner has high processor power that will easily convert 4GB of data into 3D. There is also a weighing scale for the scanner. It also rotates and works well on both smooth and hard surfaces
- Suitable for monitoring the body’s health
- Will need some skill to operate
3D scanning is usually the quiet part of 3D technology, for some reason, it is less talked about, and most do not know its capabilities. Yet its applications are massive.
In case you intend to take advantage of 3D scanning technology and gauge how far it can be implemented in your daily lives, then you need a good scanner. Hopefully, this article has sent you on the right path to entering the world of 3D scanning!