A 3D scanner scans real-world objects and transfers the image data into a 3D modelling program. From there, the object can be manipulated inside the software and – if desired – exported and created with a 3D printer. 

3D scanners can be used for an extremely wide range of applications, from reverse engineering to 3D body scanning or even online retail. They are becoming much easier to use and are available at much lower prices than ever before.

How does it work?


Photogrammetry consists of taking measurements from photographs to recover the exact positions of surface points.

The principle of photogrammetry is to analyze several photographs of a static subject, taken from different viewpoints, and to automatically detect pixels corresponding to a same physical point.

Structured light

3D scanners using structured light projects a series of linear light patterns onto an object.

The system is then able to examine the deformations of each line and to calculate the distance between the 3D scanner and the object’s surface. With this data, the software is able to build an accurate 3D model of the object.

Structured Light infographique. One of the most used 3D scanning technologies.
Structured light 3D scanning technology.
Source: Depth Biomecanics


A 3D scanner using triangulation technology will project a laser beam on the object’s surface and measure the deformation of the laser ray (similar to structured light, but with one or more lasers).


Contact 3D scanners probe the subject via physical touch. While the object is firmly held in place, a touch probe moves along its surface to record 3D information.

3D scanning laser triangulation technology.
Source: NeoMetrix