Selecting the right 3D scanners for successful 3D printing

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If you told someone back in the early ’80s that in just three decades they’d be able to 3D print pretty much anything, they probably wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are now in 2019, and 3D printing is more popular than ever, with both individuals and big businesses alike implementing it across a wide variety of their workflows. Innovative 3D printing technologies are used throughout manufacturing, medicine, architecture, and many other industries, giving users unique opportunities to create high-quality products such as industrial elements, footwear, body parts, cars, and even houses! These and other objects are made using a combination of digital 3D models and high-grade materials such as ABS plastic, PLA, polyamide (nylon), glass filled polyamide, stereolithography materials (epoxy resins), silver, titanium, steel, wax, photopolymers, and polycarbonate. And the higher the quality of your 3D model, the more you can do with it. So how do you actually get a great 3D model? Well, this is exactly where 3D scanning comes into play.

Why use 3D scanning for additive manufacturing?

3D scanning allows users to create high-quality digital replicas of objects instead of drawing them from scratch using various design programs. This saves buckets of time, money, and effort, making the whole process of creating a 3D model for 3D printing fast, easy, and fun. So whether you’re planning to 3D print objects for reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, or any other application, using 3D scanners to capture data is without a doubt the best way to go.  

Advantages of 3D scanning:

  • Fast data capture. Some objects can be scanned in under a minute.
  • Cost-efficient. Avoid costly mistakes and reduce those expensive man hours.
  • Easy to use. Even a complete novice can use most 3D scanners.
  • Realistic textures and vivid colors of your watertight 3D model.
  • Portability. Create quality 3D scans on the go wherever your application takes you.

What types of 3D scanners work best for 3D printing?

Choosing the right 3D solution can make or break your 3D project, and we’re here to help you choose the solution that’s most appropriate for your needs. The last thing you want is to waste valuable resources and end up with inaccurate 3D data that can’t be used to 3D print what you’ve had in mind.

3D scanners come in different shapes, forms, and sizes, with the most basic models starting at around $200, while the more advanced scanners can carry a price tag of well over $100,000. Though budget models are easy to get your hands on, they lack in both reliability and quality of the scans. On the other hand, high-end scanners can be rather costly, challenging to use, and need additional space to set up.

Of course, price isn’t the only aspect that you need to consider when selecting the right 3D device. Your choice will also depend on what you need to 3D scan. For example, when every micron counts and you need to capture small items, such as jewelry, dental implants, or other tiny objects, your best bet is a high-precision 3D solution, like the desktop Artec Micro 3D scanner or the portable Artec Space Spider. Opt for devices that are specifically designed to 3D scan minute items and intricate geometries in great detail, giving you highly accurate, print-ready 3D models.

If you find yourself needing to 3D scan medium-sized objects such as furniture, cars, or machinery parts, for applications such as quality assurance, or reverse engineering, for example, consider taking a closer look at a handheld 3D scanner, such as the innovative, tetherless Artec Leo, with its inbuilt touchscreen and battery. Using portable 3D scanners to capture data is handy because they can easily be transported wherever your project takes you, ensuring hours of continuous scanning, without having a power source nearby.

However, scanning large objects such as buildings, airplanes, trucks, or wind turbines with some handheld 3D devices can be quite time-consuming and even tiring. Capturing them with professional LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) solutions will make your workflow that much more efficient. These long-range, 3D scanners with high accuracy, such as the Artec Ray, are specifically designed to capture large amounts of data for inspection, construction, and surveying, as they deliver extremely detailed scans of large objects.

Another important thing to keep in mind when making your choice is how well the scanner can capture color. If you need to 3D print in color, the quality of the 3D scanner’s 3D color capture can be almost as important as its ability to reproduce the precise shape and details of the object you are scanning. High quality color can save you tons of editing time and eliminate the need to purchase additional 3D modelling software to make the necessary color adjustments. Artec’s line of 3D scanners accurately capture both the texture and the geometry of an object, producing a 3D model which can be sent straight to a color printer.

But don’t forget that the software can be just as important as the hardware. Powerful 3D data processing software have many tools and algorithms to make it easier and faster to create 3D models. For example,  Artec Studio 14 features PBR based glare removal, which will automatically get rid of the glare from your 3D model so you can send it straight to print instead of spending hours on color correction in additional 3D modeling software. A truly handy feature for 3D modeling and color 3D printing!  

3D scanning for additive manufacturing in action

This video of creating an accurate 3D printed replica of a glass flask for the V&A museum with an Artec Space Spider is a clear example of how 3D scanning is used for 3D printing.

If you have any questions about capturing objects for 3D printing and/or choosing the right 3D scanner for your application, send our support team a message at

We also offer professional 3D scanning and 3D printing services to make sure you get all of your 3D needs fulfilled without having to purchase any additional equipment.