3D scanner overview

A complete overview of all the different categories of 3D scanners

With this post we want to give an overview of the different types of 3D scanners. It is meant to be like a map where you can find all the types of scanners together. The details of a specific category together with some examples will be covered in separate posts.

The first category that we have is the one of the structured light scanners. They are becoming more and more popular as they are very versatile and are able to capture difficult geometry rapidly and accurately. If you combine the technology with target based photogrammetry then you can enlarge the measurement volume without sacrificing too much on accuracy.

Another important category of scanners are the laser line scanners. They are very different from structured light scanners but also very powerful for certain scanning jobs.

A laser line scanner on its own doesn’t make too much sense as a 3D scanning system since you are only able to scan one 3D line / curve. If you want to scan a complete surface, you will need to scan multiple 3D lines / curves and track the movement when going from one line to the next one.

Every laser line scanner comes with an additional measurement system: the locating system. Usually this system can be used for tactile measurements also.

An Industrial CT scanner is an expensive 3D scanner and it requires a skilled operator to handle all the different parameters. But this technology is able to scan the inner geometry of certain objects, which you can’t reach with any of the other system categories. These scanners are also able to generate very accurate scans with a very high resolution, making it ideal for scanning batches of very small objects.

All the previous categories were small to medium range scanners, capable of scanning object to a few meters in size. The long range scanners are able to scan up to 100m and are therefore mostly used in surveying projects to scan landscapes, buildings, big machinery…

Photogrammetry is our last category and is by far the cheapest one. Anyone with a regular camera or even a smartphone camera can make a 3D scan of certain objects. You just need to use a free photogrammetry software and take lots of pictures of your object.

For decent results you will need some practice, a good camera, a good lighting setup and ideally one of the professional softwares.