3D Scanners – What they are & How they’re used


3D scanners are the next step in the 3D printing at home or in the office.  3D scanning is a next generation supplement to 3D printing, creating the means for users to take any physical object, digitize it, and duplicate it with repeatable accuracy. While there will always be a place for 3D modeling an object from scratch, 3D scanning provides a new level of efficiency for consumers and businesses. The market continues to grow for 3D scanners as costs lower, the units become easier to use, and as they exhibit a level of dependability equivalent to operating a digital camera.

How 3D Scanners Work

3D scanner - isense in use3D scanning technology utilizes laser or light aimed at different angles to triangulate an object’s surface coordinates. As the object rotates around a build plate, sensors or cameras will measure 360° to record the laser’s angle, time of return, and distance. This creates the necessary data required to build a digitized 3D model. Alternatively, portable 3D scanners require the user to move around the object, taking scans from multiple angles until the entire surface is scanned. This information is collected by 3D scanning software to form a “point cloud” or a set of data points that represent the geometric shape of that object in space. Using point cloud data, the software processes a topological map of the object to form its surface. Once a model is scanned and created, it can be stored as a digital file or prepared for 3D printing.

While a complete point cloud may sound easy, post-cleaning and processing of the final digital model is nearly always required. 3D scanning software applications include the ability to reconstruct or fuse together point geometry, angles, and topological features captured during the initial scan. This also eliminates the need for traditional 3D modeling – instantaneously digitizing an object without having to build it from scratch. As a result, 3D scanning software is capable of creating high resolution and textured models suitable for 3D printing. From dinosaur bones to aircraft engine components, 3D scanners recreate objects digitally, allowing users to work with large, immobile, or uniquely shaped objects.

There are a number of 3D scanning software packages available in either paid or open source versions. Most equipment manufacturers bundle their own software while open source versions continue to proliferate and allow for interoperability. Prominent 3D scanning applications include 3D Systems’ Geomagic, Artec Studio, Skanect 3D, KScan3D, and ReconstructMe.

Types of 3D Scanners:

3D Scanner Cartoon GraphicThere are different types of 3D scanning processes that ultimately depend on the image technology, shape, and distance required from the object. In laser triangulation 3D scanning, a laser scans the entire geometry of a model. As it sweeps across the object’s surface, the returning “bounce” of the laser is captured by sensors which help calculate the distance between the surface point and the scanner itself. Structured light scanners take a different approach; projecting light patterns on to an object while similarly calculating the distance from the object’s surface. Both laser triangulation and structured light 3D scanning are best suited for short range distances. For longer ranges, laser pulse scanners are used. The scanner’s sensors measure the distance from the object by factoring the speed of light (or pulses of its laser) into the software’s calculations.

3D Scanners in the Industry:

There are a multitude of 3D scanners for sale which serve different needs. Professional laser scanners are feature rich, use faster scanner speeds, and provide incredibly accurate surface detail. Desktop 3D scanners are compact, slightly slower, and feature good accuracy. Handheld 3D scanning requires the user to carefully and steadily rotate around an object while capturing different angles.

3D scanning paves the way for numerous paths in prototyping, research, science, manufacturing, and private enterprise. While home users can scan and duplicate small objects, an engineer may use 3D scanning to reverse engineer a competitor’s part. In archeology, 3D scanning is capable of recreating bone structures, helping to identify and fix areas that may be missing or may require additional detail. In the automotive realm, mechanics or hobbyists 3D scan hard-to-find parts in order to mass produce them for classic or rare cars. In the architectural sector, 3D scanning is employed to recreate the geospatial shape of entire buildings, statues, landscapes, or structures. There’s also growing movement of users that employ 3D scanning to recreate objects of antiquity in museums (suitable for 3D printing at home).

3D Scanner Printed ModelsEntrepreneurs and start-ups are leveraging 3D scanning as a central component to their business plan. At the Great Fredini’s Coney Island Scan-A-Rama, users receive a personalized statue 3D printed in their image. Customers remain as still as possible while they’re scanned from head to toe. The Great Fredini handles the rest, creating a digital mesh of their entire body which is then 3D printed as a souvenir. My Mini Factory, an online 3D model download platform, is spearheading an initiative to create a 3D printable library of every statue and landmark on the planet. At 3D Figureworks, customers dress in their favorite cosplay costume while staff scans their entire body, 3D printing their identity into a 10” action figure.

3D Scanners for Sale at 3D Supply Guys:

We offer several 3D scanners for sale suitable for different applications. As a reseller for 3D System’s Sense handheld scanner, we help users capture their entire world in 3D thanks to its low cost of entry and easy portability. The Sense can scan small objects throughout the home or office, providing hobbyists or small prototyping shops with the ability to create 3D printable meshes according to their needs. Sense offers full color scanning, seamless operation in Windows or Mac, and integrates directly with 3D Systems’ Cubify 3D printer line.

From Fuel 3D, our Scanify system is a two-handed portable unit geared to prosumers and hobbyists. Scanify is great for non-reflective or highly textured objects such as plants, skin, wood, and stone. It’s also ideal for smooth flowing curves and contours, especially those possessed by humans. For those interested in a high quality desktop scanner for small or medium sized models, we offer Matter and Form. This foldable, fast, and full color scanner features advanced software meshing algorithms for the quick creation of “watertight” digital meshes suitable for 3D printing. Built with an HD camera for high resolution and accuracy, Matter and Form provides real time data capture (as an object is scanned, data points are created instantly on the screen).

At 3D Supply Guys, we’re a premier reseller for the latest desktop and portable 3D scanners at home, school, or in the office. We carefully test and select the best 3D scanners available for our customers. Our team will listen to your requirements and recommend a 3D scanner that will not only fit your practical needs, but also provide the ergonomics and function that your business or hobby requires. To learn more about our line of 3D scanners, please contact us at Sales@3DSupplyGuys.com.

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