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How to 3D scan an object with a portable structured light scanner

June 06, 2019
4 min read

When using a structured-light 3D scanner, there are certain rules and factors every professional should know. In this article, we’ll show you how to prepare an object and environment before you start scanning, different techniques, and some tricks to get the best possible 3D scan of your object.


To 3D scan an object, you should consider a few important things before you get started:

  • the size of the object and the type of scanner that will be able to capture it
  • the shape of the object and its surface (for example, if it’s black, shiny, or matte)
  • the scanning conditions, such as the lighting, access to an electrical outlet, and the ability to freely move around the object while scanning.

Once you’ve chosen the right 3D scanner for your applications, whether it’s reverse engineering, or an art or science project, it’s vital to know how to get the best results from your device. Different types of 3D scanners require slightly varying approaches to 3D data capture, e.g. placing targets on the object, keeping the object perfectly still, or rotating it on a turntable. This article will mostly focus on how to scan an object using a portable, structured light 3D scanner.

In order to get the best scans each time, make sure that your 3D scanner is paired up with advanced 3D software that’s able to quickly and accurately process captured data and form a 3D model.

Getting ready for your 3D scanning session

Nobody likes interruptions, so before you start scanning, check to see that you have everything ready to go.

If you choose to scan an object indoors that might take a while to capture, make sure to have a steady and reliable power source nearby. If the object you’re going to scan is rather large, be sure that you can easily access all of its surfaces. You may want to have a chair or a ladder close by, just in case you need the extra height.

Remember that having the right lighting is highly important. Refrain from capturing objects in uneven lighting conditions, as this can have an impact on the color of the final model. Also, avoid scanning objects in direct sunlight, as some structured light 3D scanners can have difficulties capturing data when the object is exposed to bright light.

If your session is likely to be outdoors, and you won’t have any place to plug your 3D scanner in, take a portable battery pack with you. This will ensure that you can scan on the go for hours.

How to 3D scan an object

So, how do you make a 3D scan of an object?

Following just a few simple rules can make a big difference in the results you get from your 3D scanning sessions.

  • If you’re using a 3D scanner with hybrid geometry and color tracking, try to choose objects with rich texture and geometry. This will make it easier for the 3D scanner to maintain tracking and compensate for any sudden movements which can easily be made by those without much experience in 3D scanning.
  • Keep in mind that some objects can be rather hard to scan, i.e., black, shiny, transparent, or thin surfaces, etc., and may require additional preparation. This can include dusting an object with talcum powder, placing targets on it, or choosing a background with a lot of color and texture.
  • Try to keep the optimal distance between your scanner and the object you are capturing. If you position your scanner too far away or too close to the object, you might lose tracking and end up with unsatisfactory results.
  • Try not to make any sudden movements during scanning, as this can cause the scanner to lose tracking. Nice and smooth brings the best results. Also, be sure to move your wrist and keep it relaxed enough. This will ensure that you are capturing your object from multiple angles.
  • Rather than looking at the object, keep your eyes focused on the screen of your computer/tablet while scanning, as this way you’ll be able to monitor the capturing process and notice any missed areas or trouble spots as they show up.
  • When digitally capturing an animal or a person, try to keep them as still as possible. If they move, you can end up with distorted data.

Body scanning

For multiple applications in healthcare, CGI, art, and other industries, using a portable 3D scanner is a great way to safely have a person’s entire body scanned in no time at all. However, even though this method of 3D data capture is straightforward, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind if you want to achieve the best possible results.

Watch the video below for more information.

These are just a few useful tips and tricks on how to capture objects in 3D. If you have any questions or require help with your Artec 3D scanners, please don’t hesitate to contact your reseller.

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Natalia Kivolya

Tech reporters

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