Top 7 3D Scanners + Best 3D Scanner Apps in 2023

The 3D scanning technology initially started quite similar to photography, trying to replicate a real-life object through the use of lighting phenomena. The process of 3D scanning requires advanced technology to collect data from an object and create digital 3D models. This technology has a variety of applications in the industrial and artistic world such as jewelry making, orthopedics, odontology, engineering, prosthetics, robotics, quality control, and mapping. In this article you’ll find relevant information about this advanced technology and its multiple applications.

3D scanning technology

In contrast to standard cameras, 3D scanners don’t collect color information. They collect data from objects’ surfaces, distances, traits, and positions of each point of an object from their field of view. 3D scanners use lasers, infrared light, and refraction and diffraction patterns to gather information from a specific object. That’s the main reason why scanners need to be placed or used at different angles to recreate a real-life object. They collect data from each scanning, then registers and processes the data to build the digitized 3D model.

The 3D model obtained from the 3D scanning process is usually converted into a CAD file in different formats depending on the purpose. Each 3D scanner is compatible with a type of CAD file or software so users can manipulate, edit, modify or print their models.


CAD production for manufacturing

Manufactured parts can be scanned to produce a CAD file (e.g., STL file) with no original drawings or geometry from the manufacturer. This is especially useful for discontinued parts or models that need to be recreated from scratch. In this case, it was common in the industry to build hand-crafted pieces to solve this problem, but 3D scanning solves this problem with more accuracy and efficiency.  For example: replacing a mechanical part of an old classic vehicle.

Reverse Engineering

Consists of gathering information from an object, shape, device, or machine to recreate a model and understand its functioning and constituent parts. It has the purpose of dissecting and analyzing an object to duplicate it, perform enhancements, or for educational purposes. This helps engineers to obtain details of an object in terms of dimensions, geometry, and shapes.

Replication of intricate bodies

Complicated and highly detailed shapes or figures can be difficult to recreate with traditional CAD software or by direct measuring which can result in an inaccurate representation, hence scanners help to model intricate shapes with high fidelity. For example, 3D scanners are often used in dental health to provide accurate data from patients’ teeth and replicate the exact geometry and shape of dental prostheses.

Inspection of parts

3D scanners can be used to determine the dimensions and properties of manufactured parts and compare them to the original CAD file. The result of this comparison process is a “color map deviation report” to show the difference between the two parts. This is useful to inspect critical dimensions in assemblies or manufactured devices. For example, scanning a set of mechanical stands and comparing it with the original CAD to check if it meets the safety standards.

Rapid prototyping

3D scanning allows the visualization of a product or device in its early stages and to evaluate the design concept and functioning of it in real life. It provides an efficient and affordable solution for engineers, allowing them to scale, modify or change features in a prototype with high accuracy before launching a product. It also saves companies hundreds of working hours since the common prototyping process usually requires specific tools, and experienced technicians and is time-consuming.

3D scanning technologies

 3D scanners have evolved over the years to provide better ways to acquire geometric data from objects and recreate high-quality 3D models. In this sense, engineers use and combine technologies to build specialized 3D scanners. Here’s a list of the main technologies used in scanners available in the market.

Laser Triangulation

This technology uses laser light to digitalize the graphic data from highly detailed objects. It works by projecting a grid onto the directed object. Then a camera measures the deformation of this grid by calculating the distance to the laser source. The dimensions of the object are determined by calculating the angle and distance. This is one of the most popular technologies used in 3D scanners nowadays.

Time-Of-Flight (TOF) Capture

Also called LIDAR technology, this technique is based on a laser pulse. A laser first scans the object, then measures the amount of time the laser takes to target the object and how long it takes to reflect the light to the sensor. This technology is based on indirect measurements hence, it’s more suitable for larger objects and big scales since it’s not as accurate as laser triangulation technology.

3D Scanning of Phase Fields

Similarl to the Time-of-Flight technology, it uses a laser to collect information from an object by using phase-shifting systems to scan. This method is a subcategory of TOF with the difference that the scanner modulates the laser beam. The phases of the transmitted and returning laser beams are compared by the 3D scanner. Similarly, to the Time-of-Flight technology, it’s more appropriate for larger objects.

Fringe Projection/Fringe Light

This technology is commonly used in 3D portable scanners. The fringe projection process involves projecting a light pattern onto the object using an LCD projector. The sensors or cameras (depending on the scanner) then calculate the distance of each point. It is especially useful for scanning objects over a short distance. It has the advantage of providing high-speed image processing and a wide scanning range but it is vulnerable to outdoor sources of lightning.

Structured Light

Structured light is a technology based on trigonometric triangulation by projecting a series of light patterns into an object instead of using a laser. The result of this method is a very accurate 3D model. The light is applied to the object in stripes, allowing the scanner to examine the edges of each line in the pattern to calculate the distance from the scanner to the object’s surface. The structured light can be blue or white depending on the spectrum and the type of projector.

It is the most popular technology used in 3D scanners due to its accuracy in the digitalization process, however, it does not work with high accuracy with moving objects and can have trouble with processing images in the daylight.


This method is called passive scanning. A camera photographs the object from different angles while it is rotated. It uses the parallax obtained between several pictures and works similarly to the stereoscopy of human vision, and it is used to get all information about existing physical objects. It does not provide the accuracy of laser scanners, but it was the first technology used to replicate 3D shapes and models.


The most popular 3D scanners in the market are usually based on laser triangulation and structured light technology due to their versatility and accuracy in generating virtual 3D models. Other methods (such as Fringe projection or photogrammetry) are commonly used to recreate images with lower standards of accuracy. Here’s a list of top-rated 3D scanners for CAD purposes:

1. 3D Scanner 1.0 A from XYZprinting

A handheld 3D scanner based on structured light technology, ideal for beginners and enthusiasts due to its affordable price. It’s fine-tuned to scan faces, heads and shoulders, full bodies, and objects with an accuracy between 1.0 to 2.5 mm. Is very easy to manipulate and offers user-friendly software, enabling users to export files in different formats including STL (compatible with 3D printers).

2. Phiz 3D Scanner from Kiri Innovation

The Phiz 3D is a handheld scanner suitable for professionals and beginners due to its affordable price. It uses Laser triangulation technology and is aided by smartphones to process the images captured by the scanner with professional-looking results.  

3. Occipital Structure Sensor 3D Scanner Mark II

One of the best and most affordable 3D scanners in the market, compatible with the iOs system, specially designed for iPads and Apple users. The scanner is very versatile due to its small size and is based on structured light technology.   It can use several different apps and software depending on the user’s preferences. It can scan up to 10m of distance with an accuracy between 1.7mm and 0.2mm.

4. 3D Scanner V2 from Matter & Form

The V2 scanner is a compact, foldable 3D scanner with 360-degree scanning options plus Quickscan and laser triangulation technology to deliver 3D models as fast as 65 seconds. It has an accuracy of 0.1 mm and is compatible with many CAD programs. This scanner has an affordable price starting at $750, making it accessible for enthusiasts and professionals.

5. EINSCAN – SE and Pro Plus by Shining 3D

Handheld regulable 3D scanner with high accuracy (0.04mm) and advanced 3D images. It’s based on structured light technology and it allows users to get 360 degrees coverage. Is considered a professional device and the price ranges from 5000$.

6. Range Vision Smart from RangeVision

Portable 3D scanner with high accuracy (up to 0.02mm) and advanced 3D images. It’s based on structured blue light technology with a wide range of prices starting at 2500$ for professional devices. It offers hole-filling scanning options and detailed textures for all types of objects. It supports CAD exporting formats including STL, OBJ, and ASCII.

7. Eva Lite from Artec 3D

Handheld 3D scanner with high accuracy (0.1mm). and advanced 3D images. It’s based on structured white-light technology and it can scan up to two million points on an object in just one second. Is considered a professional device and the price ranges from $15,000.


It is a 3D handheld scanner of professional grade that suits industries from aerospace to VR development. It offers high power, speed, and accuracy (0.05mm) to scan objects of all sizes. It is one of the most complete and advanced scanners in the market especially for industrial scale, based on structured light technology. It offers a high level of detail and high-quality images, awarded for its versatility and design.

9. Faro Freestyle

It’s a top-quality high-accuracy handheld scanner for professionals. It’s a lightweight and portable device based on Laser triangulation technology. The 3D scan data can easily be imported into all commonly used software solutions for architecture, engineering, and construction including CAD software leader Autodesk.


3D scanning apps are useful for photogrammetry technology and to integrate smartphones and PCs with the 3D scanning processes. Some CAD software and high-tech companies developed 3D scanning apps to provide users with innovative tools to facilitate 3D scanning and 3D modeling. Here´s a short list of 3D scanning apps available in the market:

3DF Zephyr

3DF Zephyr is a scanning app developed for photogrammetry technology, recognized by its intuitive and user-friendly software. It offers helpful tools for beginners for its UI, enabling users to adjust and transform 3D models into CAD software.

Artec Studio

Artec Studio is one of the leading companies in 3D scanning technology providing high-quality devices and professional software to calculate the gathered 3D data and provide users with high-precision 3D models. They offer platforms with user-friendly and intuitive UI and alliances with CAD software to provide engineers and product designers with the best 3D experience possible.

Artec Studio now has an alliance with CAD software company SOLIDWORKS, so users can capture an object with Artec scanners, create a high-precision 3D model, and then export it into SOLIDWORKS in just one step. Also, they support a platform called Geomagic to perform reverse engineering operations with specialized tools.


Qlone is an all-in-one mobile 3D scanning software dedicated to beginners and 3D scanning enthusiasts that want to recreate models using only their smartphones. It’s an easy and fast app to use, allowing you to scan and process a complete model and then export it into several 3D formats and send it for 3D printing.

3D scanning is still an innovative technology that is growing and gaining relevance in the manufacturing and industrial fields. It provides precise and accurate solutions to aid engineers and designers in the 3D modeling process. 3D scanning technologies come in many presentations and hopefully, this article will help you to understand how it works and guide you to choose the appropriate 3D scanner.