One of the best ways to start a 3D printing project is from a 3D scan. Even though there are a lot of different techniques used in creating these 3D designs, there are just a handful that are quite common. Before looking at how all these technologies are used, it is important to know what 3D scanning is and how it works.


What Is 3D Scanning?

3D Scanning is a process that is used on a large or small scale to analyze an object, collecting different types of data about its physical properties to recreate its appearance in shape and appearance, either in a modeling software or using a 3D printer. 3D scanning can also be used as a starting point for different types of 3D Projects including analysis, modeling, reconstruction and more.

How does 3D scanning work?

Because there are different types of 3D scanning methods and technologies, it would be a better approach to look at how three of the most popular ones work.

Laser 3D Scanning

This is the most common method of 3D scanning, with small and large companies alike using a 3D laser scanner to digitally capture the shape of an object. The scanner sends out a laser beam and then captures the distance to the surface of the object. After capturing the laser, seeing how it is reflected or refracted off the object being scanned, the 3D scanner can form a realistic representation of the physical object. The representation is usually a mesh that can then be processed using 3D CAD software.

Structured Light Scanning

Using this method, one of the camera positions used in other scanning methods is usually replaced by a projector. This projector projects different light patterns at the surface of the object. The light that is captured is distorted by the surface of the object and when these patterns are recorded, they provide vital details about the object including its size and shape. These properties are then used to construct a 3D scan of the object.


This method uses an array of photographs captured from various angles around the object being scanned. These photos are then fed into software that “stitches” them together to form a complex 3D scan of the object.

Uses of the Three Different 3d Scanning Technologies

Because of the way they are created and deployed, the three 3D scanning methods above are used differently. 3D laser scanning is used where the person doing the scan needs a highly detailed 3D model of the object in question. It can be quite expensive to set up, so you are likely to see this technology only deployed by large companies.

Photogrammetry is used to scan simple objects where the most accurate results are not a requirement. Its scans, because they originate from pictures that may be of low quality, can be used to create a starting point for other 3D scanning techniques.

Structured light scanning is used in environmental or facial recognition technologies because it causes very little harm to either the human body or the environment.

As you can see, 3D scanning has a lot of useful applications. Have you tried it? Let us know below.