Everything 3D Scanning

Any 3D render you may have come across definitely was created via 3D scanning. If you paid attention in math class, you may remember learning about the volume of an object with respect to length, width and height. Diving right in, there are a couple of definitions of 3D scanning out there. 

A good definition would be that it is a process of analyzing an object from the real world with the objective of collecting all its data so you can recreate its shape and appearance later in what is called a 3D scan or model.

Some might define 3D scanning as the process of analyzing a real-world object or environment to collect data on its shape and possibly its appearance which can be later used to construct 3D models.

How 3D Scanning Works

There are different approaches and techniques to 3D scanning and I will discuss a couple of them. 

Laser 3D Scanning

Laser scanning is for sure the most common and most used 3D scanning technique. It involves capturing the shape of the object using laser light to get a digital representation of the object. The laser scanners are able to get the finest of details and capture free-form shapes to generate really accurate point clouds. 

A 3D scanner using laser light is a bit like a camera in that it can only capture what is in its field of view. The process involves a laser dot being pointed not at your cat but onto an object from the device and a sensor measuring the distance to the surface of the object. The data is processed and passed through a 3D scan editing software for editing before it is converted into a mesh and then into a model.

Structured Light Scanning/White Light 3d Scanning

In this technique, one of the cameras is substituted for a projector that projects different light patterns on the surface of an object. How this object distorts these patterns is recorded and the results allow you to create the 3D scan.

Structured light scanning is mainly used in facial or environment recognition techniques.


This particular jargon is a science – the science of making measurements from photographs. This technique uses the parallax obtained from a couple of pictures taken from different points of view. It can be used to record complex 2D and 3D motion fields. It imitates the stereoscopy of human vision and is used to get all the data of existing objects. Data collected includes shape, volume and depth of the subject.

This particular technique is used to turn several pictures into an accurate 3D design. The downside is you probably won’t get very accurate results unless you use decent software.

3D Scanners

A 3D scanner is a wide, wide umbrella covering any device that can measure the physical world using light or lasers. Not only that, a 3D scan should also be able to use those measurements to create dense polygon meshes. 

Regardless of what 3D scanner you are using, the common denominator is they all are able to take potentially millions of measurements to accurately measure the geometry of an object. Their power and capabilities vary with scale, with professional equipment being far more powerful than mobile phones – yes you can use your phone as a 3D scanner. All you need is a 3D camera app that is usually available in app stores. Handheld scanners are perhaps the most common and most used 3D scanners.

When choosing a 3D scanner, think about what you want to do with your 3D scanning system so you can best decide which features best fit the bill. It is worth noting that every 3D scanner out there, from entry level simple stuff like the 3D camera app to professional level scanners all have their uses and values.

Applications of 3D Scanning

3D scanning has different uses in different fields of application;


Engineering is without a doubt the industry that makes best use of 3D scanning. 3D scanning affords engineers the luxury of reverse engineering and allows for faster prototyping.

History – Yes History Isn’t That Boring

In history, 3D scanning is used to scan artifacts. Artifacts are scanned, 3D models created and edited using 3D scan editing software. The resulting models are used to replicate the artifacts for archiving and curation.

Automotive Industry

3D scanning has lots of uses in the automotive industry beginning with development of new products. 3D scanning is employed a lot in terms of rendering artists’ sketches into 3D models to get an idea of what the final product will look like.