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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

2019 Best 3D Scanners (Winter Update)

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by All3DP
Dec 5, 2019
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What's the best 3D scanner? Check out our buyer's guide to the best 3D scanners (DIY, handheld, desktop, and tripod mountable), plus an introduction to 3D scanning technologies.

The 3D scanner market is a diverse space with a wide range of products that come in all shapes, sizes, capabilities, and prices. Such choice, while a great thing in itself, can make sorting the goods from the duds a chore.

Well, we’re here to help. After trawling through the forums, marketplaces, search data, and best-seller lists, we can say with confidence that these are the 3D scanners worthy of attention right now. Each feature for their own distinguishing features, technology, price point or a combination of factors, we’ve tried to cover the spectrum from super affordable consumer devices to those suited to small business (and even a little beyond that).

Our 3D Scanner Picks of Winter 2019/2020

Shining 3D Einscan Pro 2X Plus

The Shining 3D Einscan Pro 2X Plus is a versatile, professional-grade 3D scanner that can handle most things put in its path. Learn more

Top Pick
Commissions Earned Check price at
Shining 3D EinScan-SE

Ideal for the classroom, the EinScan SE offer auto- and fixed scan modes at 100 microns of single shot accuracy. Learn more

Best Value
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Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2 (MFS1V2)

The latest 3D scanner from Matter and Form offers quicker scanning modes via +Quickscan, texture scanning, and an improved workflow. Learn more

Budget Pick
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The 3D scanners listed below are ordered by price and price alone. All prices given are approximate, and accurate as of the time of publishing.

Choose your budget:

Affordable: Under $1,000
Professional: $1,000 – $10,000
High-End: Over $10,000

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Overview
ProductStyleTechnologyOS CompatibilityMarket PriceCheck Price
Commission Earned
CiclopStationary/ DIY KitLaser TriangulationWindows, Mac, Linux$199
Murobo AtlasStationary/ DIY KitLaser TriangulationWindows, Mac, Linux (all via web browser)$239
Occipital Structure Sensor (Mark II)HandheldStructured LightiOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux$399
3D Systems Sense 2Handheld/ StationaryTime of FlightWindows 8-10 (x64)$499
Scan Dimension SolStationaryLaser TriangulationWindows 10 / Mac OS X 10.14$599
HP Z 3D CameraStationarySLAM FusionWindows$599
Matter and Form 3D Scanner V2StationaryLaser TriangulationWindows 7-10 (x64), Mac$749
Shining 3D EinScan SEStationaryStructured Light Windows 7-10 (x64), Mac (beta)$1,399
HP Structured Light Scanner Pro S3StationaryStructured LightWindows$3,899
Shining 3D EinScan Pro/Pro+Handheld/ StationaryWhite LightWindows 7-10 (x64)From $3,899
Open Technologies Scan in a Box-FXStationaryStructured LightWindows~$5,000
Peel 3D Peel 1HandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$5,990
Metron E 3D ScannerStationaryStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$5,990
Shining 3D EinScan Pro 2XHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$5,499
Shining 3D EinScan Pro 2X PlusHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$6,899
Peel 3D Peel 2HandheldStructured LightWindows 7 - 10 (x64)$7,490
Artec EVA LiteHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$9,800
Artec EvaHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$19,800
Artec Space SpiderHandheldStructured LightWindows 7-10 (x64)$24,800
Artec LeoHandheldStructured LightWindows 7 - 10 (x64)$25,800
Creaform Go!SCAN 3DHandheldStructured LightWindows 7 - 10 (x64)$35,000+ (approx.)
No matching records found.
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The Best 3D Scanners Under $1,000

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Scan Dimension Sol

Image of 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide: Scan Dimension Sol
This scanner is precise and well-priced. (Source: Scan Dimension)

The Scan Dimension Sol was created to be precise, portable, easy to use, and affordable. It’s geared towards hobbyists, everyday makers, and entrepreneurs.

It can handle a variety of applications, from replacing or matching broken parts to replicating unique items. It scans both the geometries of objects and their texture.

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The Best 3D Scanners Between $1,000 and $10,000

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The Best 3D Scanners Over $10,000

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3D Scanner Technologies

Before you decide to purchase a 3D scanner for yourself, it’s important that you know what this technology actually is and how it works. First, a 3D scanner captures an object or person. This image data is then transferred into a 3D modeling program, and from there can be altered or modified in the software, printed, inserted into a video game, and so on.

After an object is scanned, the model can be edited or resized via 3D design software. After the model is prepared, it can export into an STL file and be 3D printed. Essentially, this means that anything you see in your daily life can be made 3D printable, whether it be a small object like jewelry or a large object like an automobile.

There are many different technologies and aspects to consider when shopping for a 3D scanner. Keep reading below if you’re looking for more information on 3D scanning technology!

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Photogrammetry

Image of 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide: Photogrammetry

This 3D scanner technology predates the age of computers: After the invention of photography, scientists quickly realized they could apply the principle of natural stereo vision to their fields. Using images taken from two slightly different positions, they were able to measure and determine the location of points objects in 3D space, experts call this process ‘triangulation’.

To this day, Photogrammetry is used by land surveyors to compile maps with high precision; this has proven to be especially useful in mountainous regions that are difficult to access for surveyors or to 3D scan by other technologies.

Modern computer programs triangulate entire buildings or objects as small as shoes. Nowadays even phones can be turned into portable 3D scanners, simply by installing an app. The precision is largely due to the quality of the images. The more pixels you feed to your program, the more data it has to chew on. To generate a complete model many pictures have to be taken while moving around the objects in increments of 15 to 30 degrees; repeat this in different heights, especially when 3D scanning complex objects, i.e. that have many occlusions. Keep in mind that in order to triangulate a point, it needs to be photographed at least twice – otherwise your mesh will have holes. So don’t be shy when you snap your pictures.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Structured Light

Image of 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide: Structured Light

These devices project geometric patterns onto the surface of a given object, while a camera registers the distortion of the image. Based on the displacement of the pattern, it is possible to calculate the location of every point. Since the patterns can only be projected from one vantage point at a time, multiple 3D scans have to be combined to form a complete 360° mesh. Some manufacturers circumvent this constraint by mounting the object on a motorized turntable and stitching the 3D scans together automatically. These 3D scanners are very accurate, the resolution ranges in the tens of micrometers. Unlike 3D laser scanners, this technology is completely safe to apply to humans and animals. The 3D scanning range is limited to a few meters. Structured light technology is found both in stationary and in portable 3D scanners.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

TOF (Time of Flight)

Image of 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide: TOF (Time of Flight)

Time of Flight (TOF) 3D scanners are even more sciencey. They determine the distance to an object by measuring the time a sent out a laser or infrared beam takes to be reflected to the 3D scanner. The essential ingredient in this device is the speed of light. The round-trip-time establishes the distance traveled by the light beam. If you consider that it takes sunlight a mere 8 minutes and 17 seconds to reach the Earth, you get an idea of how precise the sensors in these scanners are in order to work. But even the mighty TOF scanners have shortcomings, differences in temperature, humidity, and other factors affect the speed of light and impede the 3D scanner’s ability to accurately measure the round-trip time, so their accuracy is comparatively low, in the range of centimeters. They are mostly used scanning large structures like buildings. Like with other technologies, it is not possible to create solid meshes in one scan. TOF-3D-scanners using laser beams should not be used when 3D scanning people or animals. Many devices using this approach are designed as portable 3D scanners.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Triangulation (Laser 3D Scanner)

Image of 3D Scanner Buyer's Guide: Triangulation (Laser 3D Scanner)

Triangulation 3D scanners, aka laser 3D scanners, are similar to photogrammetry and structured-light 3D scanners in that they use the same basic geometric principle to determine the location of a point in space. The laser 3D scanner projects a laser beam on the object and a camera registers the place where the laser hits the object. Since the angles and measurements of laser and camera are known, the laser dot (or line) can be accurately located. These 3D scanners are famously accurate, the resolution ranges in the tens of micrometers. On the flipside, their range is limited to only a few meters. Triangulation 3D scanners emitting a laser line are capable of scanning moving objects. This technology is usually not found in portable 3D scanners.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Contact

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Contact 3D scanners physically touch the object which is resting on a surface or fixed to some form of rig that holds it in place. Usually, this is a slow process, as even minor vibrations can distort the scan. Though these 3D scanners produce precise scans that used quality control in engineering industry, the probes may modify or even potentially harm the scanned objects; for this reason, contact 3D scanners are not used for heritage preservation.

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Which Type of 3D Scanner is the Best for Me?

Selecting the right 3D scanner is no simple matter. There are many criteria to keep in mind before purchasing a device. For instance, a certain 3D scanner may be the best for architectural purposes, but may still prove unsuitable for prototyping. You may benefit from an affordable stationery scanner, or need the versatility of a handheld device.

Before we dig into the different 3D scanners available on the market, let’s take a look at the different aspects that you should consider. We have compiled a list of the most important characteristics to consider when shopping for a 3D scanner.

3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Field of Application

The first question you should ask yourself is: what do you want to use the scanner for?

The requirements vary depending on the field. For example, a game developer simply creating game assets will be interested in not just a high-resolution mesh but also the texture of the object. If so, photogrammetry will be the logical solution in this case. However, a maker who wants to 3D print something he saw in reality will be more interested in the exact measurements of the object. Therefore, they will probably choose a 3D scanner based on structured light. Your should also decide very early, where you want to 3D scan your objects. If they are relatively small and you can bring them to your office or home, buy a stationary 3D scanner. If not, you need a portable 3D scanner.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Type of Object

You should determine what it is exactly that you want to 3D scan. There is no device that covers all areas of application.

For 3D scanning people and animals, you can’t use a 3D laser scanner since it might cause damage to the eyes. Photogrammetry might be a good choice, but this technology requires the subject to stay perfectly still. So while you might get great 3D scans from your friends and family, you may find your dog a difficult subject.

Laser 3D scanners are a great choice if want to scan large, inanimate objects such as buildings or vehicles.

In case you are interested in reverse engineering, that is to say, you need extremely accurate measurements, structured light or contact 3D scanners will do the trick.

However, Contact 3D scanners are not an option in projects concerned with heritage conservation, since the process may alter or even destroy delicate items. In this case, the best 3D scanner is a structured light scanner.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Dimensions/Distance of the Object

Most consumer 3D scanners (structured light) are designed for 3D scanning objects the size of your average tea kettle from a close range. But it’s true, that you can often ‘stitch’ multiple 3D scans together into one piece. Generally speaking, the bigger your objects are, or the farther away, the more expensive a 3D laser scanner will be. Exceptions are photogrammetry programs, that are normally reasonably priced and produce excellent results.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Surface of the Object

Another factor to keep in mind while buying the best 3D scanner is the surface of your object. Both photogrammetry and structured-light 3D scanners have serious problems with reflective and transparent surfaces which cannot be processed and will result in distorted and fragmented meshes. Even the best 3D scanner will not produce satisfying results when faced with ill-suited surfaces. If your heart is set on these technologies, this constraint is often overcome by applying a thin layer of opaque lacquer.

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3D Scanner Buyer's Guide

Resolution

Finally, the single most important feature in many fields of application is the accuracy of the 3D scans. Contact 3D scanners are capable of extreme accuracy, but their prices range from $30.000 to $200.000. Again, you should ask yourself: what do you want to use the scans for? How much resolution is enough to get the job done?

License: The text of "2019 Best 3D Scanners (Winter Update)" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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