How 3D Scanning Works and Turns Real Objects into Digital Renders

3D Scanning Explained
The Artec3D Spider 3D scanner, by Creative Tools, , Source is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via flickr 

3D scanning or 3D digitization is a procedure that turns a three-dimensional objects or their physical model into their on-screen or virtual representation. In the field of digital modeling, 3D scanning is sometimes a prerequisite for 3D printing. It is the job of a 3D scanner to understand, monitor, plot, and replicate an object’s dimensions without physical contact and convert it into a virtual mock-up. This virtual replica of the object can then be used by a 3D printing enthusiast to produce brand new designs.The scanned renders can be also shared with project members. The average layman assumes that this process is path-breaking and modern, yet, this is not the case. Humans have been using this phenomenon for a long time now. 

Usage and application of 3d scanning

Today, 3D scanning is being used in multiple sectors, be it education, engineering, or health. Here are some very prevalent applications or areas of usage where 3D scanning has proved to be a pioneering technology.

Medical and Healthcare Services

In healthcare industries, one of the major contributions of 3D technology is prosthetics. 3D scanning assists in the designing and production of prosthetic limbs with remarkable accuracy. Moreover, medical staff also uses 3D scanning for in-depth study of body parts. 

Architectural Sector 

It is possible to conduct in depth surveys, and accurately measure and visualize the geometrics of buildings, thanks to 3D scanning hardware. 

Art/Design and Historical Purposes 

Artists, historians, and designers are increasingly using the technology of 3D scanning. Now, it is possible to create exact replicas of ancient statues and sculptures without hampering the origin.  Real-life objects and images can be added by designers to their work along with manipulations in the structure.

Also Read: 20 Applications of 3D Printing | Complete Guide

Working of  3D Scanners

3D Scanning working
3D printed gnome and MakerBot Digitizer desktop 3D scanner, by Creative Tools, , Source is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via flickr

The process of 3D scanning consists of 2 basic processing terms. First is Laser 3D scanning and second is Photogrammetry. 

Laser 3D Scanning 

This is one of the most commonly used 3D scanning processes. In this form of 3D scanning laser lights are employed to procure digital representation of physical products. 

How it Works

Laser 3D scanning works with the emission of strong laser beams. The scanner attached to the system rotates according to the object placed in front of it. There’s a constant hovering of the laser beam over the area of the object, this beam detects the physical features or the geometries of the object and sends a message to the scanner to do the calculations and complete the process. 


Saves time and is safe – This is one of the fastest technologies in capturing the figure of an object. It requires less time devotion and causes minimal disruption to the environment.

Fast and accurate results-  3D laser scanning technology is meant to record data in bulk as compared to other technologies which are only capable of measuring one data point at a time. This makes 3D laser scanning complete the scanning process within a few hours. The accuracy of the technology lies in the fact that it collects the measurements in the most precise manner, therefore there’s less space for errors.


Pre set-up costs – The mechanical costs of the lasers and scanners are quite expensive. Additionally, training the workers or employees to handle and work around a laser 3D scanner is a very tedious task.

Limitations of working conditions –  While 3D laser scanning is one of the widely used forms of scanning, it still has a major drawback of functional interruption during harsh weather conditions. Certain systems fail to operate during sun or rain.


It is a 3-D scanning tech that uses photos to turn them into 3D models. Photogrammetry focuses on utilizing the coordinates and geometries of a 2D image and converts it into 3D virtual models.

How it Works 

Photogrammetry uses the process of triangulation to obtain 3D coordinates of an object. The process begins by taking photographs of the targeted object from different angles. This enables us to obtain a full view of the object and ensure that there’s extensive precision. For example, if you take pictures of a cylinder from the top then it appears to be a flat circle, however the entire shape would only be prevalent if pictures are taken from back, bottom, and sides along with the top. 


Speed and ease – The data collection via Photogrammetry is done very easily, the pace is also pretty fast. This method can be used to capture images and get measurements in order to convert them into a 3D model incurring least cost possible.

Permanency of data collected – The collection of data with the help of photogrammetry is permanent and accurate as it records the exact condition which was prevalent during the time the photographs were taken. 


Absence of light – The major con of Photogrammetry is that, this type of scanning is not possible in places where there’s no light. There’s no inbuilt light source, making it difficult to take photographs when there’s low or no light.

Accuracy- When pictures are taken for things/places with limited visibility, there’s no accuracy in the data collected. 

D scanning hardware 

3D Scanned Image
Pull handle for cabinet doors and drawers, by Creative Tools, , Source is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via flickr

Rexcan CS+ – The object is placed on a turntable, which is basically a small plate that rotates along the central axis. Rexcan CS + captures the dimensions of an object with the help of a robotic head that consists of two cameras on the left and the right sides and an LED light source in the center. However there’s a major size limitation in using this technology. 

Artec Eva – While Rexcan CS+ is majorly used to convert the dimensions of small objects into virtual 3D models. Artec Eva uses cameras and lights to scan larger objects, which are too heavy and large to be placed on the turntable.  This device is used manually by moving it around and scanning the object’s shape and texture. 

iMakr 3D scanning booth – Large objects are also scanned in small scanning rooms, otherwise known as scanning booths. The room consists of a huge number of digital cameras which captures the geometrics of the objects placed in it and converts them into 3D virtual models. 

MakerBot Digitiser –  MakerBot Digitiser is similar to Rexcan CS+ as the object is placed on the turntable. However, unlike in Rexcan CS+, two lasers are flashed upon the object, as the axis rotates. The object is placed right in front of a sensor. 

Scanify – Scanify fuel 3D is a handheld device. This is a point and record tool which uses its inbuilt cameras to capture the physical coordinates. Scanify can accurately capture complete scans of really complex geometries, as repositioning is very convenient.  

Sense 3D Scanner – One of the most affordable portable and consumer friendly designs in the field of 3D scanning. It is easily hand held and is used to scan by hovering it around the object. 

3D scanning

Autodesk 123D catch – Owing to the advancement in technology, now anyone can create 3D models from photos. One does not need to buy the expensive hardwares, and can use the 123D catch app from Autodesk. This technology enables one to transform photographs into 3D models. Available in both android and IOS systems, this technology has changed the face of 3D printing.

GOM Inspect – One can easily create 3D meshes by using GOM Inspect’s quality control functions. The subject scanned by the device is compared with a reference product or a blueprint design, for checking any forms errors which might’ve occurred during manufacturing.

Meshroom – The hardware along with paid software are sometimes pretty expensive for those wanting to learn the process of 3D scanning/printing. ith the growing demand for free apps for scanning, Meshroom was created. It is one of the easiest forms of software that can be used for the purpose of photogrammetry techniques. The best part of this software apart from being free of cost is live-preview feature and texture handling ability.

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