3D Scanning

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With the advent of 5 axis cnc routers and 3d printers, one area that is showing some promise is 3d scanning. There is a myriad of different applications, from scanning objects to animate to whole interiors of buildings for historical mapping.

For medical, doing 3d scanning in a way that will help people’s lives. Then you have the 3d body scanners at airports that created some controversy when they first came out.

How 3d scanners work

A 3d scanner typically has a camera or multiple cameras that takes distance based data. A lot of these combined into points extrapolates the actual shape that is being scanned. Oftentimes multiple angles will need to be taken to get a detailed 3d scan of an object/ objects. From the data collection of points in a field of space to the actual whole model is called the 3D scanning pipeline.

3d scanning technology – Contact vs Non-contact

As the name suggest, contact machines actually touch the object to get a scan. A contact system looks a lot like a 3 axis or 5 axis cnc machine, you have an arm attached to a carriage that moves.

With non-contact, nothing physically touches the object. Light ot radiation is used. Examples include X-rays or ultrasounds. Sometimes these techniques use time-of-flight and triangulation to further get an idea of the 3d shape.

Another method that is a spin-off from non-contact is non-contact passive. This method does not use any kind of radiation, but actually detects a 3d object’s shape based on ambient radiation, such as a visible light source. Other methods used here are ones that are non-contact passive (without radiation) is infrared.

There are come cool contact-less method, which includes stereoscopic, which is kind of like your eyes, where 2 angles are put together (slightly apart) and that way it judges distance (hence the reason why its so hard to drive with only one eye – extremely difficult to tell distance).

CAD programs used after getting a 3d scan

Once a group of points is a gathered, this data can then be entered into a 3d cad program to connect the dots, or form surfaces. Common programs include Rhino3D, Inventor, Solidworks, Maya, MeshLab, 3D Studio Max. These programs are typically in the thousands of dollars due to the crazy things you can do with them. More on CAD programs here.

 3D scanners that you can buy for home use

Crazy as it sounds, you can actually buy non-contact 3d scanners for some diy 3d scanning at home. We’ve taken a look at what there is out there:

Matter and Form 3d scanner

Matter and Form 3d scanner

At $480, under $500 the Matter and Form Scanner is a truly welcome piece of gadgetry. The ability to 3d scan little objects with a really high resolution, this machine has a lot of great reviews on Amazon, and many people welcome this machine as an upgrade from previous ones.

One of the downside it seems is that you have to have really good lighting e.g. a spotlight or lamp, and apparently struggles if you have a shiny object and colors that do not stand out from the background.

XYZ Printing Da Vinci AIO (All in one 3d printer, scanner, editor)

da vinci 3d scanner and printer

At $550 the Da Vinci XYZ is an interesting choice. This machine does it all. scans, edits and prints for an extremely great price. Whats great here is theat the Da Vinci has a very large printing area:  7.8 x 7.8 x 7.5 inches, which is a lot of space especially hovering around the $500 mark. Down side here is the lowest micron level is only 100. while other dedicated 3d printers in this price range go down to 25 to 50 microns.

There are a ton of different models in the da Vinci line-up including a ‘Nobel’ that goes as low as 25 microns for printing. What we think is a neat feature is the scanner’s ability to scan more than once per item. You just scan, then re-orientate the object any way and scan again. This produces a much better 3d model.

 Up and coming 3D scanners

Much like 3d printers, there have been a range of 3d scanners that have been crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Here are a few of our picks. Remember many of these are relatively new, with not too many reviews. But if you want to dive into some of the latest tech at a very reasonable price, then you might want to check some of these models out:

The Rubicon 3D scanner – only $199 and uses a webcam to cut down on costs:

rubicon 3d scanner

Th Eora 3D – Incorporates the use of your phone to scan ($255 pre-order for just the 3d scanner)

Eora 3d scanner


Structure Sensor – 3d scanner, but more for larger rooms etc. for augmented reality (not precision scanning at super high quality resolution).

structure 3d scanner

Which 3d scanner do you think you’ll make a purchase on?