Many scanning devices can turn a physical object into a digital 3D model. High-end industry scanners can capture the form of an object by placing it on a rotating turntable. The scanner will usually feature a minimum of two high quality cameras and a high power LED light source.

On the other hand, to scan larger objects that are too heavy or too big to be placed on a turntable, a handheld 3D scanner will need to be used. These type of scanners must be manually moved and can be used to scan objects such as human bodies, exhaust systems and allow wheels.

What is 3D scanning used for?

3D scanners are increasingly being used in the manufacturing industry for reverse engineering, quality control, 3D modelling, visualisation and rapid prototyping. They are largely used in the automotive, archaeological, medical and aerospace industries, but increasingly consumers are using scanners to create their own 3D models at home using hobbyist scanners and printers such as the Sense 3D Scanner and Makerbot 3D printers.

Consumers can also create 3D scans of objects by using a camera and uploading the images to the free Autodesk 123D app. Users must take at least 20 photographs of the object in a well-lit area at different angles, trying to rotate around the object at least twice to capture the best quality images.

However, using a professional 3D scanner is a much more efficient and better way to collect high-quality 3D data from an object, especially if you wish to create an accurate 3D model.

There are a number of different 3D scanning methods to choose from. These include: laser scanning, photogrammetry and structured light scanning.

What is laser scanning?

Laser scanning is widely used to capture information of buildings to create point cloud data, which can then be used to create 3D models and visuals. Similar to structured light scanning, laser scanners can use triangulation to measure distances, contoured surfaces and angles to create a highly accurate 3D representation of the object being scanned by using a laser probe and sensor cameras.

What is photogrammetry?

As already mentioned, photogrammetry is the easiest and cheapest way to get into the world of 3D scanning. It simply includes taking a large number of pictures of an object and stitching them together using specialised software to create a 3D image. Many hobbyists are using just their smart phone to take these pictures.

What is structured light scanning?

Structured light scanners are most commonly controlled by 3D scanning software loaded onto a computer. The scanner will capture a colour map of the object using its dual camera and LED light systems. By merging the scanned colour map together, a colour 3D digital model can be created with the software.

Keep an eye on our 3D Info blog to find out more information about the world of 3D scanning and 3D printing!