Buy 3D scanner: how to choose the best

3d scanner

In addition to being able to design yourself the geometry of the piece that you want to print on your printer 3D using software, there is also another simpler possibility that can copy existing objects very accurately. Its about 3d scanner, which will take care of scanning the surface of the object you want and converting it to digital format so that you can retouch it or print it as it is to make replicas.

In this guide you will find out what they are. the best 3D scanners and how you can choose the most suitable one according to your needs.

Best 3D scanners

There are many prominent brands, such as the prestigious German Zeiss, Shining 3D, Artec, Polyga, Peel 3D, Phiz 3D Scanner, etc., making it even more difficult to choose. If you have doubts about which 3D scanner to buy, here are some of them. the best models What we recommend to make the right purchase:


This 3D scanner with white light technology is among the best if you are looking for something professional. Its resolution is up to 0.05 mm, capturing even the smallest detail. It can scan figures from 30x30x30mm up to 200x200x200mm (with turntable) and also some larger ones of 1200x1200x1200mm (if used manually or with a tripod). In addition, it has a good scanning speed, ability to export to OBJ, STL, ASC and PLY, automatic calibration system, and USB connector. Compatible with Windows.

Shining 3D One Can

This other model of this prestigious brand is somewhat cheaper than the previous one, but it can also be a good option if you are looking for something for professional use. also use white color technology, with resolutions of 0.1 mm and capacity to scan figures from 30x30x30 mm to 200x200x200 mm (on the turntable), although you can also use it manually or on its tripod for figures of a maximum of 700x700x700 mm. It has a good scanning speed, it connects via USB, and it can work with OBJ, STL, ASC and PLY file formats like the previous one. Compatible with Windows.

Creality 3D CR-Scan

This other great brand has created a scanner for 3D modeling very easy to use, with automatic adjustment, without the need for calibration or using marks. It connects via USB and is compatible with Windows, Android and macOS. In addition, it has a high precision with up to 0.1 mm and a resolution of 0.5 mm, and can also be perfect for professional use due to its features and quality. As for the scanning dimensions, they are quite large, to scan large parts.

BQ Cyclop

This 3D scanner from the Spanish brand BQ is another good option if you are looking for something affordable to DIY. A fast 0.5mm precision scanner with quality Logitech C270 HD camera, two Class 1 linear lasers, USB connector, Nema stepper motors, ZUM driver, capable of exporting to G-Code and PLY, and compatible with Linux and Windows operating systems.

Inncen POP 3D Revopoint

Another alternative to the previous ones. A 3D scanner with a 0.3mm accuracy, Dual Infrared Sensors (Eye Safe), with Depth Cameras, Fast Scanning, RGB Camera for Texture Capture, OBJ, STL, and PLY Export Support, Wired or Wireless Ability, 5 Modes different scanning methods, and compatible with Android, iOS, macOS and Windows operating systems.

What is a 3D scanner

3d scanner scanned figures

Un 3D scanner is a device capable of analyzing an object or scene to obtain data on shape, texture, and sometimes color as well. That information is processed and converted into three-dimensional digital models that can be used to modify them from software or to print them on your 3D printer and make exact copies of the object or scene.

The way these scanners work is usually optical, generating a cloud of reference points around the surface of the object in order to extrapolate the exact geometry. Therefore, 3D scanners are different from conventional camerasAlthough they have a cone-shaped field of view, cameras capture color information from surfaces within the field of vision, while a 3D scanner captures position information and three-dimensional space.

Some scanners do not give a complete model with a single scan, but instead need multiple shots to get different sections of the part and then stitch it together using the software. Despite that, it is still a much more precise, comfortable and fast option to get the geometry of a part and be able to start printing it.

3D scanner how it works

The 3D scanner generally works by means of some radiation emitted as a light, IR, or a laser beam which will calculate the distance between the emitting object and the object, marking a local reference point and a series of points on the surface of the part to be copied, with coordinates for each one. Using a system of mirrors, it will sweep the surface and obtain the different coordinates or points to achieve the three-dimensional replica.

Depending on the distance to the object, the accuracy desired, and the size or complexity of the object, you may need one take or more than one.


There are 2 types of 3D scanner fundamental, depending on the way they scan:

  • Contact: These types of 3D scanners need to support a part called a tracer (usually a hardened steel or sapphire tip) on the surface of the object. In this way, some internal sensors will determine the spatial position of the probe to recreate the figure. They are widely used in the industry for the control of manufacturing processes and with precision of 0.01 mm. However, it is not a good option for delicate, valuable (eg historical sculptures), or soft objects, as the tip or stylus could modify or damage the surface. That is, it would be a destructive scan.
  • no contact: they are the most widespread and easy to find. They are so called because they do not require contact and therefore will not damage the part or alter it in any way. Instead of a probe, they will use the emission of some signal or radiation such as ultrasound, IR waves, light, X-rays, etc. They are the most widespread and easiest to find. Within these, in turn, there are two large families:
    • On going : These devices analyze the shape of the object and, in some cases, the color. It is done by direct measurement of the surface, measuring polar coordinates, angles and distances to gather three-dimensional geometric information. All thanks to the fact that it generates a cloud of unconnected points which it will measure by emitting some type of electromagnetic beam (ultrasound, X-ray, laser,...), and which it will transform into polygons for reconstruction and export in a 3D CAD model. . Within these you will find some subtypes such as:
      • Time of flight: a type of 3D scanner that uses lasers and is widely used to scan large surfaces, such as geological formations, buildings, etc. It's based on ToF. They are less accurate and cheaper.
      • Triangulation: It also uses a laser for triangulation, with the beam striking the object and with a camera that locates the laser point and the distance. These scanners have high accuracy.
      • phase difference: measures the phase difference between the light emitted and the one received, uses this measurement to estimate the distance to the object. The precision in this sense is intermediate between the previous two, a little higher than ToF and a little lower than triangulation.
      • conoscopic holography: is an interferometric technique by which a beam reflected from a surface passes through a birefringent crystal, that is, a crystal that has two refractive indices, one ordinary and fixed and the other extraordinary, which is a function of the angle of incidence of the ray on the surface of the crystal. As a result, two parallel rays are obtained that are made to interfere using a cylindrical lens, this interference is captured by the sensor of a conventional camera obtaining a pattern of fringes. The frequency of this interference determines the distance of the object.
      • structured light: Project a light pattern on the object and analyze the pattern deformation caused by the geometry of the scene.
      • modulated light: they emit a light (it usually has cycles of amplitude in a synodal form) continuously changing in the object. The camera will capture this to determine the distance.
    • Liabilities: This type of scanner will also provide distance information using some radiation to capture it. They usually use a pair of separate cameras directed towards the scene to obtain three-dimensional information by analyzing the different captured images. This will analyze the distance to each point and provide some coordinates to form the 3D. In this case, better results can be obtained when it is important to capture the surface texture of the scanned object, as well as being cheaper. The difference with the active ones is that no type of electromagnetic radiation is emitted, but they simply limit themselves to capturing the emissions already present in the environment, such as the visible light reflected on the object. There are also some variants such as:
      • stereoscopic: They use the same principle as photogrammetry, determining the distance of each pixel in the image. To do this, he generally uses two separate video cameras pointing at the same scene. Analyzing the images captured by each camera, it is possible to determine these distances.
      • Silhouette: They use sketches created from a succession of photographs around the three-dimensional object to cross them to form a visual approximation of the object. This method has a problem for hollow objects, since it will not capture the interiors.
      • Image-based modeling: There are other user-assisted methods based on photogrammetry.

Mobile 3D scanner

Many users often ask if you can use a smartphone as if it were a 3D scanner. The truth is that new mobiles can use their main camera sensors to be able to capture 3D figures thanks to some apps. Obviously they will not have the same precision and professional results as a dedicated 3D scanner, but they can be useful for DIY.

some good apps for mobile devices iOS/iPadOS and Android that you can download and try are:

  1. Sketchfab
  2. qlone
  3. trio
  4. ScandyPro
  5. ItSeez3D

home 3d scanner

They also often ask if you can make a homemade 3d scanner. And the truth is that there are projects for makers that can help you a lot in this regard, such as OpenScan. You will also find some projects based on Arduino and that can be printed to assemble them yourself like this, and you can even find how to turn an xbox kinect into a 3d scanner. Obviously, they are fine as DIY projects and for learning, but you will not be able to achieve the same results as the professionals.

3D scanner applications

As for the 3D scanner applications, it can be used for many more uses than you can imagine:

  • industrial applications: It can be used for quality or dimension control, to see if the manufactured parts meet the necessary tolerances.
  • Reverse engineering: they are very useful to obtain a precise digital model of an object in order to study it and reproduce it.
  • As-built documentation: Accurate models of the situation of a facility or construction can be obtained to carry out projects, maintenance, etc. For example, movements, deformations, etc., could be detected by analyzing the models.
  • Digital entertainment: They can be used to scan objects or people for use in movies and video games. For example, you can scan a real soccer player and create a 3D model to animate it so that it is more realistic in the video game.
  • Analysis and conservation of cultural and historical heritage: It can be used to analyze, document, create digital records, and help in the conservation and maintenance of cultural and historical heritage. For example, to analyze sculptures, archaeology, mummies, works of art, etc. Exact replicas can also be created to expose them and that the originals are not damaged.
  • Generate digital models of scenarios: scenarios or environments can be analyzed to determine terrain elevations, convert tracks or landscapes to a digital 3D format, create 3D maps, etc. Images can be captured by 3D laser scanners, by RADAR, by satellite images, etc.

How to choose a 3D scanner

3d scanner

When choose an appropriate 3D scanner, if you are hesitating between several models, you should analyze a series of characteristics to find the one that best suits your needs and the budget you have available to invest. The points to keep in mind are:

  • Budget: It is important to determine how much you can invest in your 3D scanner. There are from €200 or €300 to those worth thousands of euros. This will also depend on whether it is going to be for home use, where it is not worth investing too much, or for industrial or professional use, where the investment will pay off.
  • Precision: is one of the most important features. The better the accuracy, the better results you can get. For home applications low accuracy might be enough, but for professional applications it is important to be very accurate to get the smallest detail of the 3D model. Many commercial scanners tend to be between 0.1 mm to 0.01 mm, from lower precision to higher precision respectively.
  • Decision: it should not be confused with precision, although the quality of the 3D model obtained will also depend on it. While precision refers to the degree of absolute correctness of the device, resolution is the minimum distance that can exist between two points within the 3D model. It is usually measured in millimeters or microns, and the smaller the better the results.
  • Scanning speed: is the time it takes to perform the scan. Depending on the technology used, the 3D scanner can be measured in one way or another. For example, structured light based scanners are measured in FPS or frames per second. Others can be measured in points per second, etc.
  • Ease of use: It is another important point to consider when choosing a 3D scanner. While many are already easy enough to use and advanced enough to get the job done without much user input, you'll also find some more complex than others.
  • part size: Just as 3D printers have dimensional limits, 3D scanners do too. The needs of a user who needs to digitize small objects are not the same as one who wants to use it for large objects. In many cases they are used to scan objects of different sizes, so they should fit in terms of the minimum and maximum range that you play with.
  • Portability: Important to determine where the shots are planned to be taken, and whether it needs to be light to carry around and capture scenes in different places, etc. There are also battery-powered ones to be able to capture uninterruptedly.
  • Compatibility: It is important to choose the 3D scanners compatible with your platform. Some are cross-platform, being compatible with different operating systems, but not all.
  • Software: It is what really drives the 3D scanner, the manufacturers of these devices usually implement their own solutions. Some usually have extra functions for analysis, modeling, etc., others are simpler. But be careful, because some of these programs are really powerful, and they need some minimum requirements from your computer (GPU, CPU, RAM). Also, it is good that the developer offers good support and frequent updates.
  • Maintenance: It is also positive that the capture device is maintained as quickly and easily as possible. Some 3D scanners need more checks (cleaning of the optics,…), or they need manual calibration, others do it automatically, etc.
  • Medium: It is important to determine what the conditions will be during the capture of the 3D model. Some of them may affect some devices and technologies. For example, the amount of light, humidity, temperature, etc. Manufacturers usually indicate the ranges under which their models work well, and you need to choose one that fits the conditions you are looking for.

More information

Be the first to comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *



  1. Responsible for the data: Miguel Ángel Gatón
  2. Purpose of the data: Control SPAM, comment management.
  3. Legitimation: Your consent
  4. Communication of the data: The data will not be communicated to third parties except by legal obligation.
  5. Data storage: Database hosted by Occentus Networks (EU)
  6. Rights: At any time you can limit, recover and delete your information.