Which 3D scanner is right for my needs?

3D scanning is a vital part of the 3D fabrication process, therefore it is important to consider which 3D scanner is right for your needs.

With plenty of products to choose from, making the right choice can feel a bit daunting.

Here, we explain how 3D scanners work, and look at practical examples of how different sectors use them, to help you decide which will be the best one for you.

How does a 3D scanner work?

3D scanning digitally captures the shape of a physical object using a laser and sensor. It records the precise details of the object it is scanning to create readable, digital data.

That data is then translated into a three-dimensional computer representation.

A 3D scanner works by collecting two sets of data:

  • One from the laser shining on the object
  • The other data comes from a sensor

This sensor is a single moving camera or two fixed cameras.

The 3D geometrical shape from the scan is formed where the laser line lands in the images the camera captures.

Usually, the laser line is the brightest pixel of the captured images, though there may be other light sources present.

During the scanning process, within its field of view, the 3D scanner captures thousands of individual points. These are known as point clouds.

These multiple, captured points record lots of information, including texture, surface detail and colour, to create a representation of the scanned object.

The different point clouds only become part of a defined digital object when they mesh. This process works out how the points relate to each other and joins them together to form surfaces.

What can you use a 3D scanner for?

3D scanning is a practical technology, so it is important to think about what you want to achieve when you use it.

In fabrication and industrial design, 3D scanning provides support and solutions in various ways.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Measuring – when you want to fit a new part to an existing one, you can scan the area where it will be fitted, creating the equivalent of a 3D mould of the space. You can then base the new part’s dimensions on it.
  • Duplicating – you can scan, and then 3D print, various objects to create accurate, three-dimensional working copies.
  • Reverse engineering – sometimes fabrication requires detective work to discover how a part operates. You can 3D scan an object to split it into its components to see how it functions.
  • Product improvement and troubleshooting – as above, an accurate 3D representation can help pinpoint areas for improvement, or where there are faults.
  • Site-mapping – on a larger scale, 3D scanners can capture accurate data of objects such as vehicles, trains and buildings.

Advances in drone technology have increased the capability of scanners to capture large-scale information.

The medical industry is also benefitting from the use of 3D scanners, using them to scan patients for both pre- and post-op data comparisons, and for manufacturing prostheses and braces.

Another field that increasingly uses 3D scanning technology is forensics, where portable scanners can gather vital data for evidence at crime or accident scenes in minutes.

Archaeologists are employing 3D technology to create accurate digital replications of artefacts and objects, whether these are tiny but significant fragments or online recreations of entire pieces.

Again, portability is a concern here, because much of this scanning takes place on-site.

What are the different types of 3D scanner?

3D scanners can be stationary or portable.

They can offer extremely high-precision and rapid performance. Some excel at long-range scanning of large objects while others provide affordable, portable handheld solutions.

Ultimately, a scanner is an advanced, technological tool, and making the most effective use of it will depend on understanding how to get the best out of it for its intended purpose.

Stationary and desktop 3D scanners

The Artec Ray is a fast and highly accurate long-range 3D scanner. You can use it to capture larger objects such as ships, wind turbines, aeroplane wings and buildings.

This is a stationary scanner that is suitable for both outdoor and indoor use. Its advanced laser technology allows it to scan facets of less than a millimetre, ensuring extremely high fidelity. It can scan objects up to 110 metres away.

Other stationary scanners we recommend are the ZEISS Comet and Comet 6.

The ZEISS comet is well-suited to manufacturing and industrial design environments.

It comes in two editions; 5M and 8M. It offers flexible measuring volumes and can scan many types of surface at different resolution settings.

Consequently, it has a wide range of applications, from product design, quality control to scanning historical and cultural assets.

The Comet 6 model comes in both eight and 16 megapixel models, combining high accuracy with rapid performance, and includes fringe projection technology for an expanded measurement range.

The Artec Micro is a desktop model that is ideal for highly accurate 3D scanning of smaller objects such as archaeological artefacts, or for high-precision fabrication and manufacturing.

It is used in the dental industry, in making jewellery and in other specialised manufacturing sectors.

It has an accuracy of up to 0.01mm and a high resolution of 0.029mm to match. Additionally, it provides flexible manoeuvrability and is fully automated.

Portable 3D scanners

The ZEISS T-Scan range offers a portable system with high measurement speeds and dynamic referencing for scanning moving objects.

These scanners have a multi-camera operation to enable the measurement of larger objects or components too.

This range is perfect for quality control, product design, reverse engineering and automotive scanning.

The Artec Eva is a popular, portable 3D scanning device that combines convenience with a high level of accuracy. It provides texture tracking for full colour scanning and better image alignment.

For a more affordable option, there is the Eva Lite which is an entry-level portable scanner.

You also have the benefit of being able to upgrade this model to the Eva should you wish.

Both devices are ideal for human body and face scanning, for aiding the manufacture of prosthetics, for castings and for automotive interior components.

How to choose your 3D scanner

For more information about our range of 3D scanners, contact us, and we can discuss your requirements in detail.

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