3D printers can create the item you’ve designed. However, it is easier to scan an existing item and then replicate it with a 3D printer. Furthermore, you can use 3D scanners to scan items like existing parts, hand sculpted models and the human body so that you can design accurate products to complement them.
3D scanners can also verify the accuracy of 3D printed parts. This gives 3D scanners a clear business case, but it isn’t as obvious which one is right for your application. Here are 3 things to consider when buying a 3D scanner for your business.
Price versus Accuracy
In general, the cheaper the price, the lower the accuracy. Most types of 3D scanners use an offset camera to triangulate points on an object, but they differ in what generates the points the scanner is reading. Structured light scanners are generally more accurate than laser scanning. This is because they don’t generate the noise caused by the laser speckle pattern. Details smaller than the scanner’s resolution will not be captured.
In some cases, detail and speed matters more than accuracy. In reverse engineering applications, high resolution is essential. Low resolution is fine if you’re scanning and then printing low-cost items on a cheap consumer grade printer.
When picking a 3D scanner, expect to pay more along with the size. Don’t suffer low resolution or wasted time trying to capture 3D information with a scanner too small for the job. Companies like Artec, for instance, will have 3D scanners capable of high-resolution imaging no matter what size you buy.
Their Micro Artec 3D scanner is a desktop scanner suitable for scanning small machine parts and dentistry applications, and the Ray is the default choice for large objects like skeletons or a theater stage.
Don’t forget to take the volume into account. Desktop scanners may be able to scan an object on the turntable, but they can only scan as high as the scanner can be elevated. That prevents tall, narrow objects from being accurately scanned. Handheld scanners can be manually moved around the item, so they have fewer size constraints. For example, if you want to scan an entire room, a handheld scanner is probably the best choice.
The Intended Application
Do you need to scan items nearly instantaneously? Handheld scanners are typically the best choice for this. For example, handheld scanners are perfect for scanning someone’s spinal curvature, since they can’t sit perfectly still. Handheld scanners are ideal for medical applications and ergonomic ones, since you can scan patients and their environment quickly and easily.
If you’re scanning vases and other basic shapes, a single axis turntable is sufficient. If there are recessed and angled features on the objects you’re scanning, a multi-axis turntable that tilts the object is better. This ensures that you capture angles and curves that are hidden when the item is scanned on a single axis. Fail to do this when necessary, and you’ll miss critical features in the scan.
In short, if you’re scanning items with deep relief, you need to a multi-axis turntable or handheld scanner. Is the goal to scan locations like sets and ground cover? Handheld scanners are the best choice.
3D scanning allows you to quickly capture data necessary to create three dimensional models. However, the best 3D scanner depends on the application and the situation.