A Newbie’s Guide to 3D Scanning

If you’re looking for a 3D scanning company, I’ll pretend to be a clairvoyant and tell you that you probably want to create a 3D model of something. It might be your truck, a legacy equipment part, or even a building. Yes, buildings can be 3D scanned. Aeroplanes as well. Pretty much everything.

But if you’re new to the world of 3D models, you’ll probably have so many questions. Maybe you are wondering whether you can 3D scan with your smartphone and how reliable such a model would be? Maybe you are wondering why in the world you would need to 3D scan anything and you need to figure out why people use 3D scanning. Or maybe you want to 3D print something and you came across the confusing term – 3D scanning. Let me try to help you out.

3D Technology is Gaining Steam

First of all, did you know that they can 3D print houses? They are already doing it in some parts of the world to come up with low-cost housing. If you think that is cool, then your mind will be blown by the idea of 3D printing food.

No, these are not ideas for a sci-fi movie. They are things that are happening in the world around us. Maybe they haven’t become common but they are definitely here with us. And you can generate your own 3D scans, thanks to advances in technology. All you would need is a 3D hand scanner. They’ve become affordable and are readily available.

The world of 3D scans is amazing. The same tech that is used to 3D scan an aeroplane enables holograms to be created. At the very least, the underlying principles are the same.

You know holograms, right? Those videos in sci-fi movies that show people floating in space while talking as if they are there yet they are not?

And that begs the question, what is a 3D scan? What are we talking about? Let’s start there.

What is a 3D Scan? 

Think of a 3D scan as an image, just like a selfie. The only difference is that you view a selfie on a flat screen but you can view a 3D scan in the space around you.

Help me illustrate my point by thinking about a ball. A normal 2D photo of a ball is perfect on a flat surface, like your phone screen, your television screen, or a painting on a wall. However, a 3D scan of a ball is exactly like the ball. It shouldn’t fit on your normal smartphone screen; it should stick out. Picture a round ball sticking out of your phone both from the front and from the back.

3D scans are three dimensional. They have not only height and width but also depth. They are a more accurate depiction of the real world.

I’ve just told you that the 3D scan of a ball should stick out of your phone screen. But I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen that. And neither have I, which means that there must be a better way for viewing 3D scans.

How to View 3D Scans

A while back, 3D movies were all the rage. Wearing 3D glasses and getting to experience your favorite movie in a whole new way was both new and exciting. Now, we’ve moved on to more exciting activities like virtual reality gaming. It’s immersive and it feels like you’ve been transported to a new world.

And that answers our question. To fully experience a 3D scan, you need the help of equipment like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets.

However, 3D scans can also be accessed and manipulated on typical 2D screens. For example, when preparing a model for a 3D printer, the necessary edits are done on a computer.

At this point, you probably agree with me that the world of 3D media is awesome. You are also probably wondering how this exciting technology is used in the real world. Well, let’s move you from wondering to knowing.

Who Uses 3D Scanning? 

3D scanning has numerous applications in the real world. I’ll only cover some examples to give you an idea of its utility. Maybe these examples will inspire you to use 3D scanning to do whatever you do better.


3D scanning has in many ways revolutionized manufacturing. It has improved activities across the manufacturing workflow, from product design all the way to quality assurance and inspection.

Product design in companies that have been around for a long time rarely begins from scratch. It often involves modifying and enhancing existing products or merging products into a new one. Thanks to 3D scanning, you can quickly generate the model of an existing product and begin modifying it in your computer.

3D scanning also comes in handy in reverse engineering.

Further down the manufacturing workflow, 3D scanning has sped up product inspection. For example, if a quality assurance analyst wants to know whether a product has matched the design specifications, all they have to do is 3D scan samples of the product. They can use software to match the scans to the original design. It’s a much more straightforward process compared to manually measuring the product, for example using vernier callipers.

Folks in the Automotive Industry

In the automotive industry, 3D scanning is becoming crucial. You might be thinking, “Why in the world would I need to 3D scan my car?” One answer is when you need a custom chassis made for you. Off-road race truck drivers often need this service. The chassis has to be just the right size. It also has to be placed in just the right spot to ensure that when the car rolls over, there’s enough distance between the chassis and the driver.

Using 3D scanning for custom chassis design helps come up with precise designs and in a relatively short time.

In the past, to get a 3D scan of your car, you’d have had to consult a 3D scanning company, in a process that was expensive. Now, however, it’s more affordable, especially due to the proliferation of the automotive 3D scanner. It has become cheap and it’s really easy to use. You can even perform the scan yourself if you want to.

How to Make a 3D Scan

Now that you know quite a bit about 3D scanning, you are probably wondering how you can join in the fun. Below are some of the simplest options available to you.

With Your Smarthphone

There are several techniques to 3D scanning. One of them is called photogramettry. It involves taking multiple pictures of an object and stitching them together to generate an image with depth. This is the techique that you would be using if you used your phone to generate a 3D scan.

You would need a dedicated 3D scanning app. Fortunately, there are many options, both free and paid. An app would guide you through the process and help you achieve the best scan possible with a phone.

With a 3D Hand Scanner

If you’re looking to get a model that is more high quality, a hand-held 3D scanner is what you’re looking for. These are versatile and can be used for numerous scanning applications. As such, you can use your hand scanner as an automotive 3D scanner and it will do just fine.

Have Fun 3D Scanning 

3D scanning is useful and is making a lot of things easier. And now that we seem to be moving towards the metaverse in full speed, the need to make digital twins of the things around us will only intensify. Soon, we might be living in a world of holograms.

Well, now that you’ve been introduced to 3D scanning, you are better able to position yourself advantageously in the nascent metaverse. Don’t hesitate. Go do just that and have fun while you’re at it.