Best 3D scanners in 2021 review by Artec 3D
After reviewing the top 3D scanner lists available on the Internet, we noticed that most don’t include information about the key parameters of the objects you need to scan. Important categories such as object size and the application(s) you’ll be using the scanner for are not covered. This review aims to fill this gap and help you find the best 3D solution for your project.
If you’re looking for a 3D scanner to best fit your project requirements, finding the right one can be an overwhelming task. The Internet today is overloaded with dozens if not hundreds of “top 5-10-20 best 3D scanners” reviews and listings. Just having enough time to go through them can be difficult, not to mention dealing with all that tsunami of information.
After reviewing these listings, we noticed one common thread: the majority feature a limited list of very different scanners, selected by rather non-specific criteria. Most importantly, they don’t take into consideration what exactly you need to scan and for what purpose. So how do you know which one to choose if there are no clear parameters to compare them by? Let’s say, for example, that you need to scan a car, or an airplane wing or a human foot – which one will do the job best?
To answer this question, we decided to categorize our own 3D scanners based on object size, highlighting which device is the best tool for each range of object size. We hope that our review will help you choose the right solution for your project.
Best 3D scanners by object size
Ideal for extra small objects
90 × 60 × 60 mm
engine valves, connectors, small parts, watch gears & parts, electronic components, human teeth, jewelry, etc.
If you need to scan very small, teeny-tiny objects such as fine mechanical parts or dental implant components or pieces of jewelry, take a look at Artec Micro.
Artec Micro is a fully-automated desktop 3D scanner. Unlike many other such solutions available on the market today, it doesn’t require you to hold it in your hand and walk around the object while capturing it. Instead, you simply mount the object onto Micro’s scanning platform and get ready to start. Micro features a dual-axis rotation system for capturing objects at every possible angle automatically and entirely hands-free. Micro itself will choose the best and most efficient path to capture every surface and angle of the object, with no human brain required.
Micro can see 3D data within a 324 cm³ capture zone and scan it with an ultra-high precision of up to 10 microns and a resolution of up to 0.029 mm.
With its twin color cameras and blue LED lights, Micro can see 3D data within a 324 cm³ capture zone and scan it with an ultra-high precision of up to 10 microns and a resolution of up to 0.029 mm. This makes it a perfect choice for extra small objects under 90 × 60 × 60 mm.
What also makes Micro stand out from other desktop 3D solutions is its robust software that supports real-time digital capture and seamless post-processing. And the best part is that this scanner is super easy to use. After only a tiny bit of training, you’ll be confidently transforming your objects into remarkable 3D models.
Artec Space Spider
Ideal for small objects
Starting from 2 cm
compressors, small tools, PCBs, fasteners, keys & coins, small archaeological objects, jaw structures, anatomical parts such as ears, etc.
If you need to scan something bigger such as small machinery parts, circuit boards, fasteners, screws, bolts, bones or even a human ear, check out Artec Space Spider. This blue structured-light 3D scanner is optimized for scanning smaller objects with complex geometries starting from 5 mm in size. As you can guess from its name, Space Spider was originally designed for use on the International Space Station. It’s equipped with top-of-the-line electronics and performs reliably across a broad variety of environments and situations.
What makes it a perfect fit for smaller objects? Space Spider captures objects with a metrological accuracy of up to 0.05 mm and 0.1 mm resolution, which makes it one of the most accurate units on the market. With its 2,000 cm³ volume capture zone and just 0.2 – 0.3 m working distance, it can capture intricate details and challenging geometries.
Space Spider captures objects with a metrological accuracy of up to 0.05 mm and 0.1 mm resolution, which makes it one of the most accurate units on the market.
Unlike Micro, Space Spider is a handheld scanner. So you simply pick it up and direct it at the object you’re scanning, similar to how you would film with a video camera. For small objects, you can place them on a turntable while scanning with Space Spider, rotating the turntable to easily and smoothly capture the object from multiple angles. Or, for bigger objects, you can just maneuver your Space Spider as needed to capture all your object’s surfaces from every angle. The scanner itself is lightweight, just 0.85 kg, and very intuitive to use. And, unlike Micro, it can also be paired with other 3D scanners for capturing smaller parts of large objects in ultra high detail.
If you want to dig deeper into the whats and hows of this instrument, be sure to check out one of the most thorough reviews of Space Spider made by Nick Lievendag, 3D Scan Expert.
Ideal for medium objects
Starting from 30 cm
gearboxes, construction equipment, castings, alloy wheels, the human body, furniture, statues
Need to scan something bigger, such as an alloy wheel, a motorcycle exhaust system, or a human body? For medium-sized objects like those, particularly ones that are 10 cm in size or larger, look no further than the Artec Eva. Inspired by Pixar’s animated sci-fi film and its main characters, the robot WALL-E and his female robot-friend Eve, Artec Eva is superb when it comes to digitally acquiring medium-sized objects. Why?
This allows Eva to capture much bigger objects while still maintaining an accuracy of up to 0.1 mm with Eva you’re looking at up to 16 fps and a very high resolution of 1.3 Mpx.
Like Space Spider and Micro, Artec Eva uses structured-light technology to capture 3D data. But unlike these other scanners, Eva’s volume capture zone is 61,000 cm³, which is 30X greater than Space Spider’s, and almost 200X greater than Micro’s. This allows Eva to capture much bigger objects while still maintaining accuracy of up to 0.1 mm. With the AI-driven HD Mode, Eva has become even more powerful. It can now capture sharper, cleaner, and much more detailed 3D data at 0.2 mm resolution, 2X higher than before.
Thanks to its comfortable size and weight, Eva is ready to scan at any moment, even in other-than-ideal environmental conditions. It can also capture black and shiny objects, which are usually the most hard-to-scan surfaces. Unlike Micro, Eva is handheld, so you simply take it around your object as you scan.
Eva is a perfect choice for both entry-level and experienced professionals, and can be paired with other Artec solutions, such as Space Spider or Ray.
Artec Eva Lite
If you’re looking for an affordable 3D scanning choice for medium-sized objects, one such option is Artec Eva Lite, the budget version of Artec Eva.
This device features the same accuracy specs as Artec Eva, but with reduced functionality: it offers geometry-only tracking and capture. Because of this, it’s a winning choice for high quality textureless 3D scans when you have geometrically-rich medium objects, such as the human body.
Unlike other Artec solutions, Eva Lite collects significantly less data, which means less power consumption, and it can be used with a more affordable computer. All that makes it an inexpensive solution in its category especially for educational institutions, schools, maker labs, and non-commercial organizations. And if at some point you need to capture 3D objects in full color, you can always upgrade Eva Lite to Eva at any time.
Ideal for medium and large objects
Starting from 10 cm
auto bodies, industrial equipment, vehicle interiors, ship propellers, small boats, human body scans, furniture and room interiors, etc.
If you're looking for the Tesla of 3D capture solutions, please read on. Do you need to scan something as big and complex as a race car, a truck or a room, and you need to capture it fast and in gorgeous, highly-accurate color 3D? Then welcome to the Artec Leo, the world’s first fully mobile handheld 3D scanner with onboard automatic processing and a built-in touchscreen.
What makes Artec Leo so ideal for projects with big objects? First, it’s super easy and intuitive to use. You can start simply by pressing the scan button and walking around the object as if you were taking a video on your smartphone. It’s that easy. And Leo is completely mobile, so you don’t need to carry a laptop or tablet around with you and worry about stepping on a cable.
You can start simply by pressing the scan button and walking around the object as if you were taking a video on your smartphone. It’s that easy.
Now for the tech part: Leo’s volume capture zone reaches 160,000 cm³, which is almost 3X times bigger than Eva’s. With a larger field of view, you can scan much bigger objects, with an accuracy of up to 0.1 mm. And thanks to the new AI-powered HD Mode, Leo is now able to capture much sharper and cleaner 3D data that was hard or impossible to scan before with up to 0.2 mm resolution — two times higher than before.
Unlike most 3D solutions available today, Leo gives you a fully-integrated, on-the-go 3D scanning experience. It comes equipped with a touchscreen display, powerful battery, and wireless connectivity, all of which allow you to walk around an object and smoothly scan it in its entirety. What’s even better – you can preview all your scans in real-time, and make any additions when you want, right there at your fingertips. The onboard Wi-Fi makes it easy to share and export the 3D data to either your laptop or directly to your Artec Studio account for further editing and post-processing.
What can you scan with Artec Leo? Since you can capture both large areas and fine details, Artec Leo can be used for a range of objects, from mechanical parts to the human body, cars, boats, or even entire crime scenes. The device uses disruptive VCSEL light technology, which allows it to digitize hard to scan textures, including black and shiny surfaces, and can scan well even in bright sunlight.
Artec Leo produces scans of unbeatable precision. With a 3D reconstruction rate of 80 fps (compared to Eva’s 16 fps and Space Spider’s 8 fps), Artec Leo has proudly been called the fastest professional handheld 3D scanner on the market.
Ideal for large and very large objects
Starting from 1 meter
airplanes, small and large vehicles, ships, wind turbines, warehouses, factory floors, archaeological sites, aircraft hangars, etc.
Finally, if you need to scan something really big, step on over to Artec Ray - one of the fastest and most accurate long-range laser 3D solutions out there. A recent addition to the lineup of Artec 3D offerings, Artec Ray was designed to capture large-scale objects such as buildings, aircraft, and large vehicles from a distance of up to 110 meters away.
What makes this scanner stand apart from other laser scanners? Ray boasts exceptional submillimeter distance precision and a best in class angular accuracy of 25 arcseconds. You can expect Ray to capture every little detail of even very large objects, and then you can use the scanned results for 3D measurements and assessments. The second strong point of this solution is the cleanliness of the data captured, thanks to Ray’s ultra-high resolution.
What makes this scanner stand apart from other laser scanners? Ray boasts exceptional submillimeter distance precision and a best in class angular accuracy of 25 arcseconds.
Ray features a 360 degree horizontal and 280 degree vertical field of view, and supports capturing even massive objects at ultra-high resolution and speed. It gathers up to 208,000 points per second, and functions in two modes: high quality data acquisition mode within 1-50 meters’ range, and high sensitivity mode for outlying objects within 1-110 meters.
Powerful yet lightweight, you can use Artec Ray both indoors and outdoors. It comes standard with a tripod that allows you to scan from the most optimal positions possible. And the best part is that you can control the unit remotely with the Artec Remote mobile app, which means you don’t need to stand close to the device if you’re working in difficult and/or dangerous project conditions, such as on a top of a plane or a building.
3D Scanner Type Comparison Table
|Suitable object size||Very small||Small to medium||Large|
|Best for tricky angles|
|Best for soft objects|
|Best for speed|
|Best for shiny surfaces|
|Can be used outdoors||Yes||Yes|
Other aspects to consider before buying a 3D scanner
Okay, now that you know what type of solution might best fit your object size, what other things do you need to think about when selecting a 3D capture device? Here are a few other questions to review:
- What kind of projects will you be using this for? Will you need to capture only industrial objects? Or also vehicles? What about people?
- Do you need a color 3D device? Or a textureless one?
- How accurate do you need the final scans to be?
To give you an idea of what your decision-making process might look like, let’s consider a few project types and a few key characteristics, to see which Artec 3D scanner would fit the job.
Precision 3D scanning
Scanner accuracy varies a lot between solutions, so it’s important to know the tolerance rate you’re comfortable with for your particular project tasks.
Okay, now that you know what type of solution might best fit your object size, what other things do you need to think about when selecting a 3D capture device? Here are a few other questions to review:
If you are thinking about buying a 3D scanner for precise measurements, i.e. for quality control, product design, or reverse engineering, make sure that you first check the device's accuracy specifications. This parameter can vary greatly from scanner to scanner, that is why it’s worth knowing the acceptable tolerance levels for your project or range of projects.
Taking measurements of a mechanical part
Normally the accuracy of industrial 3D scanners ranges between 0.01 mm and 0.1 mm, and every 3D device manufacturer usually states the accuracy levels of their devices in their technical specifications. If you’re looking for a precise 3D scanner, take a look at Artec’s accuracy range and see which of these works best for you:
up to 0.01 mm
up to 0.05 mm
Eva & Eva Lite:
up to 0.1 mm
up to 0.1 mm
Artec 3D scanners accuracy range
3D scanning people and their faces
Whether you’re planning to start a 3D figurine printing business or create custom prosthetics, make sure the scanner you select is safe, accurate and fast enough for capturing people in 3D.
When it comes to digitally capturing people, there are few important things to keep in mind before selecting the right 3D scanner. First you need to check if the solution you’re looking at is safe for use with people; second, whether or not the resolution is high enough to get the job done; third - what is the quality of that device’s color capture; and last but not least, especially if you’re working in the medical arena, whether or not the unit meets your accuracy requirements.
3D body scanning for orthopedics
If you’re planning to start a 3D figurine printing business, you might want a solution that does the job fast, because people tend to move around and blink (they are humans after all!). You also want a scanner that will capture all those distinct details of the human body that can be hard to capture for some scanners, such as hair, nostrils, ears, and fingers. You also want the device to be stable and not lose tracking when moving around the person. With all that, it’s also very important for a solution to have some sort of preview mode so that you can check if the person didn’t blink during the process and whether or not you need to do a rescan.
If you’re in prosthetics or orthopedics, you probably want a solution that will allow you to create 100% anatomically-identical replicas of human body parts, be it a foot, arm, elbow, or spine. For that, the scanner needs to be both precise and fast, so you can get accurate and clean data as quickly as possible, and not have to spend much time on initial setup and post-processing, letting you focus more on the creative process itself.
If you’re looking for a 3D scanner to scan people, here are a few that will do the job well:
- You can go with the Artec Space Spider if you need a precise 3D model of a face or a particular facial part such as a human ear, nose, or lips.
- If you need to scan a larger area of the body, for example, a human bust, arm, leg, or a full body, you can go with either Artec Eva or Artec Leo. Both units are proven favorites in this field, and it mostly depends on your technical preferences, whether you want a complete on-the-go kit to get the scans done as fast as possible (choose Leo then) or you don’t mind being tethered to a laptop to preview the session results (then Eva is your choice).
- If you only need a textureless 3D model of a person’s head, body part, or full body, you can also consider Eva Lite as an affordable alternative.
Full color 3D digital capture
The quality of the texture can vary greatly. We recommend testing the scanners on one particular object to see the difference in the quality of the color they capture.
Although this point might sound obvious, we still want to draw your attention to this particular parameter when selecting a 3D scanner.
Many 3D solutions available on the market today can capture objects in full color. That means that when you get a final 3D model in .OBJ, .PLY or other 3D format, there will be a separate file that consists of a colored texture map that the scanner collects and builds throughout the project session.
3D scan of a power drill without texture (left) and with texture (right)
The quality of the color texture can vary greatly, depending on the technology. We suggest that you test the scanners on one particular object that you’re planning to digitize, so you can see the difference in the quality of the color they reconstruct. Then simply select the device that does it best. The color quality often strongly depends on the power of the camera that the scanner has. Make sure to check this parameter carefully.
It’s also worth noting the color processing features in the software that comes with the scanner. Even the best 3D scanners can produce overexposed or dark results if the scanning and lighting conditions weren’t ideal. This is where the software becomes all the more important. For example, in Artec Studio software you can remove splashes of glare on 3D models without wasting hours doing this manually. You can also fine-tune the brightness levels
3D scanning jewelry
Small, shiny and high-detailed, jewelry items can be tricky to capture. To achieve the best results, make sure to get an appropriate 3D scanner that meets your requirements.
If you’re in the jewelry business, getting a 3D scanner can be a game changer for your design and production process. Such 3D capture solutions can be used for modifying and replicating existing jewelry pieces with high precision or creating completely new items, saving you hours if not days of work. But digitally acquiring high-detailed jewelry pieces can be tricky, because they’re usually made of precious metals and gemstones, which are often shiny, uniformly-colored, and transparent.
3D model of a brooch made using Artec Micro
If you’re considering 3D scanner for your jewelry workshop, here are a few important things to bear in mind:
- Jewelry pieces are very small objects which require ultra-high resolution to be captured in 3D. Make sure to check if the unit you’re looking at can deliver enough resolution quality to your workflow.
- Jewelry items can be challenging to scan because of their design, and you need a solution that makes this process as easy and seamless as possible.
- As already mentioned, jewelry is often made of precious metals and gemstones, so in most cases you will need to matte all the shiny and semi-transparent surfaces prior to the scan.
3D scanning for dentistry
When it comes to selecting a dental scanner, make sure to check how accurate, fast, and easy-to-use it is for your 3D scan operations and procedures
3D dental imaging is another sphere where precision and accuracy of data are key. By having unquestionably accurate and reliable captured data, dentists, surgeons and clinical practitioners are then able to come up with the most suitable approaches for their patients. That’s why when it comes to selecting a solution for dentistry, you should be very selective about how accurate, fast, and easy-to-use the scanner is for performing those 3D scan operations as smoothly as possible for the dentist as well as the patients.
There are different types of 3D scanners, some specifically designed for dentistry purposes, and others with a wider range of applications and uses. For example, cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) scanners, intraoral handheld 3D scanners (IOSs), and dental lab desktop scanners.
Taking measurements of a mechanical part
If you’re looking for a professional dental 3D solution for your clinic, take a look at Artec Space Spider. Paired with an intraoral scanner, dental technicians use Space Spider to capture the front line of human teeth, and then match this data with intraoral scans to create customized dental implants. Unlike other techniques such as taking 2D images, Space Spider allows you to create ultra-accurate models of human teeth that precisely fit patients’ mouths, reducing production time down from several days to as little as 1 hour.
Another solution that can enhance your treatment room, particularly if you need to work on single dental components, is Artec Micro. This fully-automated desktop unit is an ideal choice if you need to digitize single teeth, entire arches, or complex impressions with ultra-high precision. Micro’s 3D models can be exported to any dental software available, such as ExoCAD, where they can be used by dental practitioners to review, diagnose, and provide more effective and fully-customized treatments for patients.
We recommend Space Spider and Micro for any dental professional looking for a cutting-edge solution for making exact digital reproductions and archival copies of crowns and bridges, inlays and onlays, dentures, custom abutments, implants, and more.
3D Scanning Technologies
If you’ve made it to this part of the review, you’ve probably learned that there are multiple 3D digital capture technologies out there. From laser and structured-light scanning, which have been mentioned here, to others such as photogrammetry, contact-based 3D capture, and more.
We believe that there are no good or bad 3D scanning technologies out there; all of them work well for different applications and scenarios. In the end, it doesn’t entirely matter which specific solution you choose, because it’s simply a question of what type(s) of object(s) you need to work with and the results you want to achieve.
If you want to learn more about the hows and whats of 3D digital capture technology, we recommend checking out our in-depth review of “What is 3D scanning?” in the Learning Center.
Why are 3D scanners so expensive?
You’ve probably kept this question at the back of your mind since starting to read this article. Maybe longer. Well, we’re glad you asked.
The prices for scanners vary a lot from manufacturer to manufacturer, and as you may have noticed, there are 3D scanners that cost as little as $300-500, and then there are some that go for as much as $30K-50K and beyond. How do they differ?
First and foremost, these units are made for completely different purposes. Low-cost 3D scanners are designed for non-professional applications, mostly to be used at home, at school, or for DIY projects, while professional metrology-grade scanners are developed for industrial applications, such as reverse engineering, quality control, healthcare, etc.
If you’re looking for the highest quality, accuracy, speed and versatility, go with industrial-grade 3D hardware. Thanks to a substantial amount of investment and resources that are put into the research and development of metrological equipment and software algorithms, only these types of devices are able to deliver unbeatable levels of quality and proficiency. As a result, professional 3D scanners are priced accordingly.
3D laser scanning of an industrial facility
The same principle applies to the software that goes along with professional 3D scanners. Manufacturers of industrial 3D scanners invest a lot of effort, time, money, and human resources to develop best-in-class processing software that will transform the raw 3D data into workable 3D models compatible with industry standards and specifications. And most low-cost 3D capture devices have little to no software that accompany the unit itself.
Professional 3D scanners are made to last, and include ongoing support, with the manufacturer standing by to help if the device ever breaks or needs replacing. In comparison, the lifetime span of low-cost 3D scanners is not very long, and quite often they are withdrawn from the market at a moment’s notice. This makes it hard to depend on them in the long run.
There are other costs associated with the production of professional scanners, such as set up, training, support and logistics, all of which factor into the final cost. So, we strongly recommend investing in an industrial 3D solution if you’re looking for a proven piece of technology to accomplish your professional tasks.
Best 3D scanners under $1000
While this review is mostly targeted at professionals who are looking for a 3D scanner for their work-related, quality-demanding tasks, we still want to cover a few accessible and entry-level 3D scanning solutions that could be a great introduction into the world of 3D data capture and processing.
If you’re looking for an affordable 3D capture device to get started with the very basics of 3D digital acquisition, check out these low-cost 3D solutions:
XYZprinting 3D Scanner Pro
5 x 5 x 5 cm to 100 x 100 x 200 cm
XYZprinting 3D Scanner Pro (image source: XYZprinting, Inc.)
This budget structured-light 3D scanner is just $250 and can capture people and objects ranging in size from 5 x 5 x 5 cm to 100 x 100 x 200 cm, at 640 x 480 pixels color resolution. The device uses an Intel Realsense 3D camera, and needs to be connected to a PC via a USB cable. It comes with the XYZscan Handy software kit, which allows you to do some very basic scan editing before export, and is also compatible with Artec Studio 13 Ultimate and all its professional algorithms. This choice could be a great introduction to the basics of 3D scanning, and a handy tool for at-home DIY/tinker projects.
Apple iPad Pro with LiDAR Scanner
Apple’s iPad Pro
Though not technically a scanner, the newly announced iPad Pro with its built-in laser depth sensor promises unprecedented depth-sensing capabilities to developers who utilize ARKit for their mobile applications. The device is capable of measuring the distance between the iPad and surrounding objects at up to 5 meters away. Once integrated, it can be a useful tool for applications requiring all sorts of measuring, including CAD, interior design, and medical applications.
from small to large
Snapshot of RealityCapture UI
Not a 3D scanner per se, this photogrammetry software solution allows you to create 3D content from photos and/or laser scans for VR, gaming, architecture, and visual effects. The advantage of photogrammetry is that you can achieve quite impressive texture results if you’re using an advanced digital camera with high resolution and DPI. The downside is that the geometry of the model will not be as accurate as what you can achieve with professional 3D scanners. Plus, photogrammetry solutions usually require significantly more knowledge and effort to set them up and post-process the data. So if you want to gain the best from both sides, you can combine the texture from photogrammetry with the geometry data from a 3D scanner, like we did for our recent scan of a BMW with Artec Leo.
DIY 3D scanners
A DIY 3D scanner
Another even more affordable alternative to the 3D scanners in the “under $1000 band” are DIY 3D scanners that you can try making at home. You can find 3D scanner kits on Amazon or at your local DIY store, with prices ranging from $30 to $300.
These kits are a great way to become acquainted with the very basics of 3D digital capture. But as with 3D scanners that cost under $1000, please don’t expect these devices to deliver the accuracy and resolution of professional-grade hardware. Most of these DIY solutions use very basic technologies to capture objects in 3D, and can only capture very small and simple things, like a tea cup or a toy.
As you can see, there are several important factors to consider when selecting the right 3D scanner. And as we’re coming towards the end of our review, let’s sum them all up here:
First check and see if the model you’re looking at can capture the exact size of the object(s) you need to scan. Will you need to scan very small objects only? Or also objects of different sizes? Then make sure the unit can capture objects in your size range, or perhaps consider purchasing two separate scanners to digitize your objects most effectively.
Then be sure to check that the scanner is suitable for capturing your type(s) of object, whether it’s a human being, vehicles, buildings, industrial equipment, or jewelry.
The next step is to check the accuracy of the scanner, to see if it meets your project requirements. Will you be using the scanner for reverse engineering, quality control or dentistry? If so, then accuracy should be one of the key parameters on your scanner wish list.
And last but not least, confirm if the scanner can capture objects in color, and look carefully at the quality of its texture resolution, if this is a crucial point. Most scanners today deliver color 3D models, but the resolution can vary significantly. So make sure to try scanning the object with different scanners and see which one provides the best quality.
And there you have it. We hope that this review has been helpful to you. And, if you have any other questions about what type of scanner is right for your project, feel free to send them to our sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will be happy to help.
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