How much does 3D scanning cost?

Apr 30, 2021
13 min read
485
summary 

There are lots of factors that influence how much it might cost to 3D scan something. In this guide, we cover the main factors that contribute to the cost of 3D scanning, and look at whether it makes sense to get your own scanner, or if you should consider turning to a professional scanning service.

WAYS TO CAPTURE IN 3D
Buy a scanner, rent, or turn to a 3D scanning service
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Size, quantity, complexity, application, and others
PRICE RANGE
From $250 (smaller parts) to $2,000+ (larger parts)

Introduction

How much 3D scanning costs is a frequent question many professionals think about when a scanning project is on the horizon. And it’s a complex one too: just like with any other technological equipment, there are many factors that need to be considered.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common of them.

Key factors that go into 3D scanning costs

1. Size of an object or a part

One of the very first and fundamental factors you should consider when planning your scanning budget is the overall size of the object/s or a part that you need to scan. A larger object will typically require more time and scans to get a complete model than a smaller object. Therefore, a scan of a larger object will cost more than a scan of a smaller object.

 Scanning intricate details of a large industrial object with a handheld 3D scanner

In some cases, however, this may not be true. A scan of a smaller but more complex object can cost more than a scan of a larger but relatively simple item. We’ll talk more about that in the next section about geometry.

If you are planning on purchasing a scanner, make sure that the one that you choose is capable of capturing the object sizes that you need. Sometimes, really large and complex objects may require multiple scanners to get the job done. One scanner can be used to capture the entire object, and the other — to capture smaller and harder to reach areas for a complete scan.

2. Geometry of an object or part

The second key factor to consider is how complex or simple the geometry of an object is. It’s much easier and faster to scan a simple object without elaborate details than a surface with complex features like holes, fine lines, sharp edges, overhangs, threads, etc. Such objects will require more time for scanning every intricate detail in order to produce a complete and accurate model than a simple “featureless” surface would.

Key point

It’s much easier and faster to scan a simple object without elaborate details than a surface with complex features such as holes, fine lines, sharp edges, overhangs, or threads.

To illustrate the two points above, take a look at these two models below. The first model of a spanner is an example of a relatively small (2.5 cm × 16.3 cm) and geometrically simple object. It took our scanning specialist just three minutes to scan it, and another 10 minutes to process the data in Artec Studio software.

A 3D model of a small object with simple geometry 

A 3D model of a medium-sized object with complex geometry

The second model of a dual-clutch gearbox is another example of a medium-sized object (40 cm × 44 cm × 52 cm) full of small and fine details. It took us 22 minutes to scan, and about twice as much time to process.

3. Quantity of parts or objects in a project

This consideration logically follows the first two — the more objects or parts you need to capture, the more resources it will take to scan and process them, whether you plan to do it in-house or to outsource. Each part of an object, or multiple solid objects, still need to be scanned on their own, and may require both a different scanning and data processing workflow.

Key point

The more objects or parts you need to capture, the more resources it will take to scan and process them.

For example, for a complete scan ready for reverse engineering, the item frequently needs to be disassembled so that each component can be scanned separately. This, therefore, requires an allocated time both for scanning and processing. In certain cases, however, for example when the shapes of the components are rather primitive, disassembling is not necessary.

The same goes for quality assurance — in most cases, the component that needs to be checked is exactly the component that needs to be compared against a respective CAD/mesh model, and no additional dismantling is required.

4. Accuracy and resolution of a final model

One more key factor to consider when evaluating the scanning costs is the accuracy and resolution you expect in the final 3D model. Different scanners have different technical specifications, and their resolution and accuracy parameters are defined by the technology that goes with them. The more advanced the hardware and software on board is, the higher the quality, speed and precision, and predictability of the results you get. Therefore, the more accurate and high quality you need your model to be, the more expensive it will be to capture it in 3D — whether you’re planning to do it in-house or not.

Key point

The more accurate and high quality you need your model to be, the more expensive it will be to capture it in 3D — whether you plan to do it in-house or to oursource.

There are lots of 3D scanners and scanning gear on the market these days — white and blue structured light 3D scanners, laser scanners, photogrammetry solutions, and others. If you’re planning to go to a professional scanning service, it will be up to them to decide which scanner fits your requirements best. However, if you’re planning on purchasing a 3D scanner yourself, make sure to check the scanner specifications first, and schedule a live or online demo to see the results on at least one of the objects you intend to scan.

5. Color

Another factor that goes into the scanning cost is color. Some applications require color scans and a true likeness of an object. And in some cases, if for example you just need to acquire measurements of an object, that’s not necessary.

 A 3D model of a power drill scanned with Artec Space Spider, as shown with and without texture

If the project requires top notch texture, which entails using professional lighting equipment as well as specific software, for example photogrammetry, to project external texture shots onto the mesh, it might make a huge difference when it comes to investments of time and money.

For example, if the model needs to be showcased online, will be used in a video game, AR, or VR application, it may require some additional time for texture post-processing and touch-ups by a 3D artist. In some cases though, scanning and processing of color and textureless objects can be almost the same. It all depends on the application — more on that in the next point.

6. Application

3D scanning is usually just a part of a bigger workflow. And just like when someone scans an article from a print magazine for research with a document scanner, or records an interview of someone for a documentary on video, the 3D scanner is used to get a 3D “copy” of something that will then be used further for a specific project.

 Creating a 3D model of a compressor with Artec Space Spider, to be further used for reverse engineering

Be it a scan of a broken car part that needs to be repaired, a scan of a chair for an online store, or a scan a foot for custom orthotics, every application has its own requirements. The data captured with a scanner need to be further processed and prepared to be suitable for the task.

If you are seeking raw 3D scan data, it usually comes at no additional cost whether you plan to use your own scanner or will use professional services. Most 3D scanning solutions support all popular 3D formats, such as STL, OBJ, PLY and WRL.

A 3D mesh model of a clamp created with Artec Micro: the mesh is made up of thousands of polygons

A feature-based CAD model of the clamp created from the 3D mesh model

If, for example, you need to get a parametric CAD model as an output instead of a mesh, this step will cost extra money in a scanning service company (or some extra hours for you or your in-house CAD specialist). Make sure to allocate some of your budget to modeling and CAD if this is the case for you. One hour of reverse engineering can start from $100-$200 per hour, and the more complex the object, the more time it will take to reverse engineer it.

7. Complex materials and scanning conditions

Some surfaces that are reflective or shiny can be challenging to capture as is, and may require additional time spent on preparation and spraying them with a washable or vanishing scanning spray, as well as the clean-up afterwards.

Key point

Some surfaces that are reflective or shiny can be challenging to capture as is, and may require additional time for preparation or special scanning conditions.

Also, some scanners require a special setup and the use of extra accessories, such as targets, to capture an object successfully. Such targets come at an additional cost, are cumbersome, and take quite a lot of time to be stuck on an object. You also need to make sure that there is enough of them in each frame, and after the session is over, you need to spend some extra time to remove the targets and clean up the object.

In some cases, when the object is large, in a remote location, or is hard for one person to reach on their own, you may need some additional equipment (a ladder, a crane, etc.) or some extra hands to do the scanning.

Examples of 3D scanning prices

Now, let's look at some real examples of different objects and how much it would cost to scan them.

Take note: the current prices are based on the estimates of Artec 3D US scanning service team, and may slightly differ from the prices of other scan service providers if, for example, they use a different scanning technology and software or work in a different country.

In some cases, when the object is large, in a remote location, or is hard for one person to reach on their own, you may need some additional equipment (a ladder, a crane, etc.) or some extra hands to do the scanning.

Example #1: Car rim

The first object that we’ve estimated is the car rim: a popular scanning item as many automobile manufacturers, aftermarket repair and car-tuning shops use 3D scanners to reverse engineer and take measurements of various car parts, including the rims.

 A car rim has minimal geometry but some fine elements to capture

This rim doesn’t have super complex geometry compared to other objects we will be reviewing further, but it still contains some intricate and thin elements such as the center disc, the bore, spokes, and the cap that are tricky to capture. Without any texture, some marks needed to be randomly placed around the rim for more stable scanner tracking.

For this object, our scanning specialist chose Artec’s structured-light Eva scanner with HD Mode to capture all the tiny elements of the inner side of the rim, and to get cleaner and sharper 3D data. It took around 5 minutes to scan it, and another minute to reposition it. HD reconstruction took around 7.5 minutes and processing totaled 25 minutes. This took around 40 minutes in all.

The basic pricing for medium objects like this with minimal processing starts from $800 and can go up to $1200 if for example, a customer needs more detail on smaller points that require the use of a more accurate and high-res 3D scanner such as Space Spider in addition to Eva scanner.

Example #2: Dual-clutch transmission

 This dual-clutch transmission is an ideal example of complex geometry

For the second example, we decided to go with a bigger and more complex object, and the choice fell on this dual-clutch transmission. As you see, it is full of small and fine details. And as mentioned in the first part of this article, this makes it a perfect example of an object with complex geometry.

It took our scanning specialist about 20 minutes to scan this object with Eva in HD, and then about 50 minutes to reconstruct it. Processing time in Artec Studio software took 110 minutes in total. The whole process took 2.5 hours, and $1200 for all the work.

Example #3: Radiator grille

And the final piece that we will calculate the scanning cost for is another auto part that not only has complex geometry, but is also black and shiny (fearsome characteristics for many 3D scanners!) — the radiator grille.

 Even black and shiny surfaces can be captured with the right hardware and software

To speed and ease up the process, our specialist first had to do some scan preparation and cover the shiny part of the grille with a special scanning spray — only then began scanning with Leo scanner in HD. And again, add time spent to clean up the radiator from the spray after the scan.

The scanning took just 7 minutes and another 13 minutes for HD reconstruction. Then, the model was processed into the final mesh in Artec Studio software in around 35 minutes.

Scanning of an object such as this, with spray prep, costs around $800. One can of scanning spray ranges from $10 to $50, and it also requires time and patience to apply and mask off sections properly like in the case of this radiator grille.

Buying a scanner vs. going to a professional scan service

So, when is it more cost-effective to buy your own 3D scanner, rent one, or outsource this service to a third-party provider?

If you need to scan objects like the ones we’ve mentioned above on the regular, say, a few times a week or month, it’d be more cost-effective to get your own 3D scanner or even a couple of scanners. For an average $1000 per scan, you would only have to scan two or three parts a month to pay off the cost of an Artec scanner in one year.

 A training session on scanning with Artec Leo

If you need to scan things occasionally and you’re not sure if you need to buy a scanner for this purpose, it’s a good idea to rent a scanner for a week or a month and see how it works and whether this option meets your requirements. Many companies that sell 3D scanners also offer equipment rental services and can advise on the best technology for you. It’s also a great option to try before buying a new or pre-owned 3D scanner. Rental prices differ from company to company. But just to give you an idea, renting an Eva or Space Spider for a day can be around $250-$375 per day, and renting a Leo is around $475 per day.

Key point

For an average $1,000 per scan, you would only need to scan two or three parts a month to pay off the cost of an Artec scanner in one year.

If you only need to scan an object once, it’s much cheaper to go and get it scanned with a professional scan service. This way you won’t have to invest in professional equipment, and can let the 3D experts do this job for you. It’ll be much faster and more cost-effective than getting a scanner.

Conclusion

Whatever the project you have, we hope you now have a better understanding of what goes into the cost of 3D scanning. If after reading this article you think you are ready to buy a 3D scanner for your project and want to learn more about Artec 3D scanners, contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Table of contents
Written by: 

Svetlana Golubeva

Tech reporter

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