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3D Printer Scanner – What Is It Exactly?

Picture of Moritz Wobith
by Moritz Wobith
Jan 21, 2019

3D Printer Scanner – What Is It Exactly?

When it comes to modeling a real life object, designing it from scratch isn't always the best path. Let's take a look at 3D scanners!

3D Printer Scanner – What Is It? Your Questions Answered

Using a handheld 3D scanner.
Using a handheld 3D scanner. Source: Wikipedia

Perhaps you’ve seen the term “3D printer scanner” and wondered what it was? If so, it’s important to know that the proper term is simply “3D scanner”. If “printer” appears, it’s likely only because scanners are often used alongside 3D printers. But what exactly is a 3D scanner, and how can it be used?

3D scanning is the process of analyzing and capturing a real object or environment and creating a virtual 3D model with the help of the collected data. A 3D scanner, then, is the tool responsible for executing this capturing.

3D Printer Scanner – What Is It? The Basics of 3D Scanning

The EinScan SE Desktop 3D scanner.
The EinScan SE Desktop 3D scanner. Source: Amazon


Before choosing a 3D scanner, you’ll need to decide what sort of quality you want. Options range from a “professional” scanner, which is more expensive in most cases, to your smartphone, useful for getting used to scanning 3D objects.

Even for dedicated devices, there are some features to consider. For example, the way in which you scan differs. The main possibilities are hand-guided scanners, stationary scanners, and scanner kits.

The most flexible are hand-guided scanners, as they are bound neither to a certain size of object nor to a place. In contrast, stationary scanners are designed such that capturing movements are controlled and object placement is designated.

Scanner kits have the advantage that, with a few exceptions, they can be purchased at a low price. The flip-side is that they are sold according to DIY principles, requiring the customer to build it himself. In many cases, this does not always turn out to be so easy. A certain amount of knowledge and instinct are recommended.

Another important distinction between 3D scanners is the difference between 3D photo scanners and 3D laser scanners. With a 3D photo scanner, the object to be captured is photographed by a camera from different angles. In the case of the 3D laser scanner, a laser scans the surface of the object to be captured. This is usually more accurate than a 3D photo scan.


In order to even use a 3D scan, some sort of software will be required. Towards that end, a whole range of software is available. Depending on your scanner, software may be provided. Otherwise, be mindful of the type of reconstruction required by whatever technique you’re using.

It’s generally advisable to have both a good graphics card and a good processor on your computer. The graphics card should have Opencl and Opengl.

A 3D scan on the mobile phone is a bit easier. All that’s needed is a 3D scanning app. Perform a search in your app store and find out which one best suits your needs.

3D Printer Scanner – What Is It? A Few Options

The $30 3D Scanner V7.
The $30 3D Scanner V7. Source: daveyclk / Thingiverse

Below are a few 3D scanner options:

  • The $30 3D Scanner V7: This is a 3D scanning apparatus you can print at home. It’s a DIY scanner that requires a mobile phone.
  • Project 3: The FabScan Project: This is a project from the German University RWTH Aachen. It was developed during a bachelor’s thesis and runs with the help of a laser, an Arduino, and custom software.
  • Shining 3D Einscan Pro 2X: This is a high-resolution, professional 3D scanner.
  • Xbox One Kinect Sensor: This is the sensor that serves as an accessory to the Xbox One. It can also be used for 3D scans. Moreover, it is quite inexpensive in comparison to other scanners.

License: The text of "3D Printer Scanner – What Is It Exactly?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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