3D Scanning: Everything You Need To Know
What is 3D Scanning? The 3D Scanning Process:
3D scanning is a method of creating a visual reconstruction of a real-life object. This involves scanning the object or person, and collecting data on its size, any other notable features, and sometimes color. For example, if you wanted to scan your favorite coffee mug, you would scan it from all angles — some types of 3D scanner do this automatically, some require movement; more on this later on — to create a point cloud.
A point cloud is a map of individual coordinates of the edges of an object, for example the edges of a coffee mug handle. Each individual geometric point can then be used to assemble into a mesh cloud, usually an STL file. This process recreates the precise shape of the object being scanned.
These points are assembled during a process of reconstruction, forming the full object scanned. For some 3D scans this will include only the geometric or size data to work out the object’s dimensions, though some will also include the color or texture of the object. Often however many different scans of the object from different points are required, and need to be assembled to create one cohesive model via a process of registration.
How accurate are 3D scanners?
The potential accuracy of 3D scanners is incredible, and often are precise down to less than a tenth of a millimeter. Eyes can barely register such small distances, meaning that unless you zoom in 500%, you can create astoundingly accurate scans of objects, which can then be 3D printed.
Accuracy depends on a number of factors however. These range from the actual specs in the scanner, to the type of the scanner — each type has advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll explain below.
3D Scanning Applications
3D scanning is used extensively in fast-growing technology sectors such as augmented reality and virtual reality — AR and VR — as well as in the video games industry. For big-budget video games, the technology has ascended to a stage where virtual characters are often created by 3D scanning real actors to create human-like movements within the game, as well as better graphics. 3D scanning is also heavily used in motion capture, prosthetics (to create perfectly sized prosthetic limbs for patients, we have a guide to 3D printed prosthetics here), saving cultural artefacts from destruction / digitizing, and prototyping.
Types of 3D Scanner
Laser Triangulation Scanners
Structured Light Scanners
Contact 3D scanners