3D Scanning Is Easier Than Ever, Here’s What You Need To Get Started

3D Printing & Imaging
Easy 3D scanning with a phone

Just like 3D printing, 3D scanning has exploded in popularity over the past decade and it’s now easier than ever to get started with this exciting technology. 3D scanned models can be printed on 3D printers, uploaded to repository sites like Sketchfab to view and share online, or used as assets in video games and VFX.

If you have a smartphone, you already have all the tools you need to make your first 3D scans. Interested in creating higher quality models? Desktop 3D scanners allow you to scan extremely detailed models while also retaining the original color texture for use in VR/AR.

3D SCANNING MOBILE APPS

 POLYCAM

poly.cam free to scan, $7/month
or $55/year to export

One of the easiest-to-use and most powerful smartphone apps available, Polycam can create models using photogrammetry (stitching photos together to calculate a 3D model) as well as lidar (distance-based laser scanning ideal for large objects like rooms, cars, and furniture). Polycam lets you export common file types such as .obj, .stl, and .fbx, as well as direct export to Sketchfab for sharing your model virtually. It’s compatible with iOS and Android, and also offers a web-based interface for drag-and-drop uploads.

 TRNIO

trnio.com $5

While not as robust as Polycam, Trnio is an easy-to-use iOS app offered at only $4.99 for unlimited scans. Trnio only utilizes photogrammetry (lidar is currently not supported), but it can quickly capture 3D scans when you’re on the go. If you’re looking for an inexpensive introduction into 3D scanning on an iOS device, Trnio is an excellent place to start.

DESKTOP 3D SCANNERS

 REVOPOINT POP 2

revopoint3d.com $699

The Revopoint POP 2 is a powerful structured-light scanner that can capture high-quality mesh geometry as well as full-color textures. Revopoint advertises the POP 2 as being accurate down to 0.01mm, or 10 microns, at 10 frames per second. Its minimum scan volume is 20mm³, which makes this desktop scanner ideal for scanning action figures, statuettes, and other small models with lots of detail.

 SHINING3D EINSCAN-SE

einscan.com $999

Shining3D’s EinScan-SE is a white-light scanner that’s designed for beginners and first-time users. Its integrated turntable moves the model automatically between frames, preventing motion blur or jitters from appearing in the texture. It’s made to scan objects between 30mm³ and 700mm³ and offers a streamlined software experience to quickly go from 3D scan to 3D model.

PHOTOGRAMMETRY APPS

 METASHAPE

agisoft.com $179 standard, $3,499 pro

Metashape is a photogrammetry app ideal for converting photos taken with a DSLR into a high-quality 3D model. The workflow is a little more complicated than smartphone apps, but Metashape is capable of making highly detailed 3D models from high-resolution photos that are ideal for 3D printing. The $3,499 professional version enables georeferencing and other features designed for drone photography, while the $179 standard version is more than powerful enough for most hobby users. Metashape is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

 REALITYCAPTURE

capturingreality.com variable pricing

Recently acquired by Epic Games, RealityCapture is a robust photogrammetry application designed for creating high-quality 3D assets. If you’re interested in scanning the side of a mountain and want an ultra-realistic model to use for VFX, RealityCapture would be a good place to start. Unlike MetaShape, RealityCapture uses a credits-based, variable pricing scheme, so your cost will depend on the amount of scan points in your project. RealityCapture is only available for Windows. 

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Andrew Sink

first used a 3D printer in 2012 and has printed everything from a scan of his own brain to a PB&J sandwich (seriously). He works as a senior applications engineer at Carbon, a leading additive manufacturing technology company.

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