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Many industries have benefitted from the technology associated with 3D scanners. Whether you’re designing a children’s toy or making the car of the future, a 3-D scanner can revolutionize the way you do it. They are quick and accurate and, as such, can save you time and money…if you know what you need to know before you run out and buy one.

What is 3D scanning?

3D scanning allows you to take a tangible object from the “real” world and turn it into a 3D model. A 3D scanner can collect all the data it needs to digitally recreate that object’s shape and appearance.

There are a few different methods used in 3D scanning technology, with each being employed in different applications according to the needs of the user.

The most popular type currently in use is the 3D laser scanner. Everyone from car and plane manufacturers to medical equipment companies to those who make tiny pieces for computers are using this type of scanner for a variety of applications.

Specifically, these scanners are used when a company or individual must:

  • Have accurate 3D measurements in order to make an important decision
  • Capture surface measurements efficiently and quickly
  • Reconstruct a physical object in 3D in order to view it on a screen

Once an object is scanned, the file can be saved, edited, or even printed with a 3D printer.

Purchasing a 3D scanner

Maybe you’ve been giving some thought to buying a 3D scanner for your business. You’ve identified lots of applications for which it can be used and you’re excited to find out how you can save time and money by investing in one of these unique tools. So, what should you buy and how can you determine what’s right for you?

  • Accuracy – Portable 3D scanners vary in accuracy… and accuracy is important, especially if you’re basing major decisions on the data you receive from the 3D scan. To be accurate, the scanner needs to be calibrated. Though all scanners are calibrated by the manufacturer, look for one that includes “on-site” calibration, which means it can be manually adjusted by the customer any time after purchase to ensure that it’s still accurate.
  • Resolution – Accuracy measures the scanner’s degree of absolute correctness, but resolution is the least possible distance between any two given points within a 3D model and is usually expressed by millimeters. Resolution gives you a clearer picture, just like with your high-resolution television. If you will require very detailed 3D models to be made from your scanner, resolution is quite important. High-resolution scanners are often used by museums, forensic labs, and jewelry makers.
  • Easy to use – Cheaper versions of 3D scanners tend to be more difficult to use than a mid- to high-range scanner. Most experts on 3D scanning note that the learning curve is much steeper on inexpensive models, which tend not to be as intuitive to use, thus consuming your time and energy (or that of your employees) and causing plenty of frustration as well as buyer’s remorse. Sometimes, a little more spent on a quality model that’s easy to use can represent a huge savings in the long-run.
  • Speed – In the same category of “time is money”, the speed of your scanner can be very important and can be a huge time-saver as well. Speed is measured by the number of frames and points captured per second and some handheld scanners can capture as much as 80 frames per second and 4 million points per flash. Faster scanners mean better productivity and are certainly ideal for projects that are on a tight schedule.
  • Portability – What are you planning to scan? Do you need to take your scanner out in the field? Answers to these and other questions will help you decide whether a handheld 3D scanner is right for you or if you’re going to need a stationary scanning solution.
  • Price – Finally, price can be a huge factor in determining whether or not you want to make an investment in a 3D scanner. While handheld models generally start at about $4000 CAD, some very advanced stationary models can cost more than $100,000. What you need to decide is if it’s better to make the investment in a quality device that will last longer or if you prefer to spend less on your scanner for now, even if you might have to replace it in a few years. It will all depend on your budget and your scanning needs.

At 3DRE, we can assist you in finding the 3D scanner that’s right for your needs. Our team of experts is highly-knowledgeable regarding 3D scanning services, 3D printing, 3D modelling (reverse modelling), and more. We’ll be happy to chat with you about available products that suit your business and about our in-house scanning services as well. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 604-910-0165.