Dec 9, 2015 | By Kira

In industrial and professional fields, 3D scanning technology has been leveraged to replicate architectural or archeological sites, create digital 3D models for the preservation of historic artifacts, or even to create a comprehensive online platform of 3D body scans. The technology is becoming more advanced and accurate than ever, but at the same time, it is also becoming much cheaper—meaning that consumers can now take advantage of cheap, reliable 3D scanners and use them to expand their 3D printing possibilities.

In fact, as some see it, these high-quality, affordable 3D scanners could be the key to bringing 3D printing technology into the mainstream and making it more relevant and accessible to everyday makers. That’s because while not all of us have the time or desire to become 3D modeling experts, able to craft and design the exact object that we need through complicated software programs, with the range of top 3D scanners that are available in 2015, every single one of us can create an accurate, 3D printable model of existing physical objects—whether it be a delicate family heirloom, your prized antique car, or hard-to-find replacement parts for your toolkit.

In order to breakdown the range of 3D scanners available today by 3D scanner price, resolution, setup, etc, we’ve rounded up a list of the top 14 3D scanner models available on the market (plus one exciting upcoming technique). The list ranges from hand-held, smartphone add-ons that cost just a couple hundred bucks, to the professional-grade 3D scanner used on President Obama himself, to MIT’s recent discovery for creating 1,000x better 3D imaging technology. Read on to learn more about the top 3D scanners of 2015.

1. Matter & Form MFS1V1 

3D Scanner Price: $599
Setup: Stationary/desktop, can be folded for portability
Scan Accuracy: details within 0.43mm; size within 0.25mm
Scanning technology: HD CMOS sensor + 2 lasers
Software: Matter and Form Scan
Max object size and weight: 25cm high, 18cm diameter, 3kg

After a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign in 2013, the Matter and Form desktop 3D scanner has gone on to become one of the most popular, reliable, accurate and most of all, affordable, 3D scanners on the market. At the price of $600, the Matter and Form is hardly an investment, and yet it performs just as well as many professional grade scanners that can cost as much as five times the price.

It consists of a moving camera head on a 360-degree rotating platform and a dual laser camera head attached to a Z-axis that can collect more than 2,000 capture points per second at 0.42mm resolution, resulting in highly accurate 3D scans in as little as five minutes, or high-definition scans in ten.  It’s also sleek, lightweight (roughly 7 pounds) and foldable, meaning you can take it from your garage to the office, to anywhere else you need it quickly and easily. Matter and Form’s included software can export the final, full-color 3D scan into watertight STL, OBJ or PLY formats that can be imported directly into Blender, Maya, Max or almost any other 3D printing software.

All in all, we’ve gotta say that the Matter and Form is an almost perfect 3D scanner for those who need to scan detailed items that are on the smaller side. That being said, keep on reading for some other stellar options that might suit your needs better.


2. Cubify Sense 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $399
Setup: Handheld
Scanning range: 0.35mm-3m
Scan Accuracy: 1.0mm
Scan resolution: 0.9mm
Software: Cubify software
Scan Volume: 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.2m (min) to 3 x 3 x 3m (max)

Cubify’s Sense 3D scanner, backed by 3D Systems, is a great option for those who need versatility, portability, and ease of use. This handheld powerhouse has the most versatile scan range in its class, with auto-optimized settings for objects as small as 0.2m (such as fine jewelry) to 3 meters in all directions (an entire motorcycle). One side features a handgrip for control, and the other features a set of dual lasers that perform object recognition, offering a more-than-decent maximum resolution of 0.9mm and an accuracy of 1mm. The new Sense software upgrade improves tracking capacities and can scan at 25 frames per second.

Though the Sense was designed with portability in mind, it does have one small catch—since it has no built-in battery, it has to be connected via USB to either a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Nevertheless, it’s a solid choice for a variety of 3D scanning needs, and it gives users a great feeling of hands-on control.

Cubify also offers the iSense 3D scanner, which snaps onto your iPad and turns its existing 2D camera into a 3D scanner. If you already own an iPad, the iSense is probably your best option for a very cheap and reliable 3D scanner, as it costs just $280 and offers similar specs (same accuracy and resolution, with a small loss in its operating range) as its non-iPad counterpart.


3. XYZPrinting Da Vinci 1.0 AiO 3D Printer + Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $799
Setup: Desktop
Scan Accuracy/Resolution: 0.25mm
Scanning Technology: Slit Laser Triangulation
Software: XYZware
Scan Size: 15 x 15 cm  (Ø x H)

So you’ve decided you’re really into 3D scanning and want to get a reliable, fool-proof model to create some great 3D prints…only to realize that you don’t own a 3D printer either. Have no fear, XYZprinting’s Da Vinci All-in-One (AiO) gives you the best of both worlds: an FFF 3D printer with a built-in 3D scanner that can scan with industrial-grade resolution in minutes, and 3D print objects up to 8 inches in size.

According to XYZprinting, the entire process from 3D scanning to 3D printing happens in three totally intuitive and inclusive steps: place your object on the scanning turntable, edit the 3D scan using the bundled XYZscan software, and then print it on the plug-and-play FFF 3D printer—it’s all right there in front of you, and practically ready-to-use right out of the box. Although the 3D printer itself isn’t the most refined model on the market, at $800, it’s still a great entry-level, plug’n’play, two-for-one-option for simple 3D scanning and printing projects.


4. BQ Ciclop 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: approx. $270
Setup: Desktop
Scan Accuracy: 0.5mm
Scanning Technology: Rotational Laser Triangulation
Software: Horus open software
Scan Size: 250 x 205 mm (Ø x H)

It brings me a special kind of happiness to include open source options in these 3Ders roundups, and the BQ Ciclop 3D scanner is no exception. Part of BQ’s 100% open source ecosystem, the Ciclop is a 3D rotational laser triangulation scanner that uses two lasers projected over an object to capture its geometry and texture. Horus, BQ’s open source software, can be used to calibrate the scanner, adjust the camera exposure, or view the point clouds generated. The system has been designed to calculate the internal scanner settings automatically using the structure set up by the user, by auto-calibrating correctly. This means guarantees a good result every time you scan.

Ciclops has been released under a CC-BY-SA and GPL license, meaning all of the mechanical designs, electronics, and software is available for free to be continuously developed by the community. You can either buy the Ciclops 3D scanner for about $270, or purchase the Electronic Kit separately for about $175. The kit includes all the necessary pieces and a step-by-step assembly guide, enabling you to set it up in less than an hour. The 3D parts are also available to download via Thingiverse.


5. Fuel3D Scanify 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $1,490
Setup: Handheld
Operating range: 350-450mm
Scan Accuracy: 350 microns (0.25 mm)
Scan Resolution: 210 x 300mm
Scanning Technology: Fusion of stereoscopic and photometric data
Software: Fuel3D Studio Starter
Scan Size: 210 x 300 mm (400mm diagonal)

The Fuel3D Scanify scanner is ideal for those who need the flexibility to scan large objects on the fly without compromising scanning resolution. Instead of your typical rotating laser, the Scanify has a dual-laser, pre-calibrated stereo camera that can capture 3D images with photometric imaging in as little as one tenth of a second. Despite that insane speed, it can still capture detail down to 350 microns, or 0.25mm, and make the scan available within 30 seconds. That type of accuracy makes it ideal for capturing human faces, fabric textures, or natural elements such as flowers and leaves.

Aside from its tech specs, another big advantage of the Scanify 3D scanner is its portability, which allows users to capture full-size objects without being encumbered by cables or an attached platform. By the same token, its viewing angle does not permit entire 360 degree scans, but that’s partly resolved by its large scan area.

Priced at $1,490, the Scanify 3D scanner is a relatively low-cost, high-quality option.


6. DAVIS SLS-3 Structured Light 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $5,990 (pre-order)
Setup: Portable
Scan Accuracy: up to 0.05mm (up to 0,05% of scan size)
Scan Resolution: up to 0.05mm
Scanning Technology: Structured light technology
Software: David Pro Edition 3
Scan Size: 60-500 mm

The new DAVID SLS-3-HD, building off of the previous SLS-2 model, takes a different route from typical dual laser scanning systems and instead utilizes a technology known as structured light, which relies on lighting and an industrial HDMI camera with high quality lens. While this 3D scanning method is normally only available for enterprise-grade machines, David Vision Systems has managed to pack it into a consumer option, that is still well-above the average price point for a consumer 3D scanner, but proves its worth by providing mind-blowing scanning accuracy in a matter of seconds.

The newest SLS-3 model, now available for pre-order, can scan twice as fast as before while offering 0,05mm accuracy and a mesh density of 2,300,000 vertices per scan. Its portability and smooth camera slider also allows you to 3D scan all sides of an object, be it large or small, an render an enclosed 360-degree model.


7. IIIDScan PrimeSense 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $1,441
Setup: Handheld or Stationary (with tripod)
Focusing Range: 0.5 -3m
Scan Accuracy: 0.5mm
Scan Resolution: 640x480
Scanner Technique: PrimeSense 3D Depth Sensor
Software: Included

Another mid-range option in terms of price, the IIIDScan is unique in that it is designed for both handheld and stationary use, and in that it uses a precise 3D laser scanner equipped with the PrimeSense 1.09 closer-range sensor. It can scan either humans or objects from half a meter to three full meters away, while maintaining an accuracy level of 0,5mm. Once complete, the included software allows you to edit and merge the image captures quite quickly. Though perhaps not as well known as some of these other top 3D scanners, the IIIDScan has received some pretty good reviews, and could soon be competing with the big guys.


8. Occipital Structure Sensor

3D Scanner Price: $379
Setup: Handheld
Scan Range: 40cm – 3.5m
Scan Accuracy: 4mm
Scan Resolution: 0.5mm
Software: Includes free access to Structure SDK
Scanning Technique: Structured light technology

Like the Matter and Form, the Structure Sensor 3D scanner was launched through a crowdfunding campaign, and at $379, it’s definitely a strong competitor for the title of best value 3D scanners. Mind you, that low-low price comes with the assumption that you already own an iPad, because like 3D System’s iSense, Occipital’s Structure Sensor only functions through an iPad’s existing camera.

Through structured light technology, Structure Sensor offers rapid 3D scanning of objects and people, 3D maps of interior spaces, and even augmented reality experiences. When used as a 3D scanner, the Sensor allows users to capture dense geometry in real-time, with scanning resolutions as high as 0.5mm and an accuracy of up to 4mm. The iPad-level portability also allows users to capture 3D images from 40 cm to more than three meters away—ideal for 3D scanning an entire room or relatively simple forms, however not-so-ideal for capturing highly detailed objects if you intend to 3D print them.

Occipital’s main app is called Structure, and it offers three data streams: infrared, depth, and depth and color. However, what makes the Structure Sensor stand out is the Structure SDK, which allows users to actually develop new applications and ‘hack’ their sensor for a variety of uses beyond 3D scanning for 3D modeling or 3D printing purposes. A great option given its price range and overall ‘hackability’.


9. NextEngine 3D Scanner Ultra HD

3D Scanner Price: $2,995
Setup: Desktop
Scan Resolution: 0.1 mm
Scanning Technology: Proprietery electro-optical system
Software: ScanStudio
Scan Size: Up to 22 inches at the furthest range

NextEngine’s "#1 best-selling" 3D scanner makes some pretty impressive claims, including being the choice of industry & EDU in 90 countries, and being able to hold its own against industry-grade $25,000+ 3D scanners. This is due to new technology invented by NextEngine, in which an electro-optical architecture and sophisticated algorithms use an array of lasers to scan in parallel. The result is higher point throughput (up to 400 sample points per inch) and clean surface data. The NextEngine also comes in a compact desktop setup, which can easily be moved from office to home or wherever its needed, and since there is no turntable platform, there is practically no limit to the size of objects that can be scanned. Every NextEngine scanner also comes with a built-in array of spatially diverse, diffuse illuminators for shadow-free imaging.

The company’s website even offers a ‘comparison’ feature so you can just how much better their scans are compared to other models, including Sense, MakerBot, and even the free 123D Design app, however since these much cheaper 3D scanners aren’t anywhere near in the same price range, it’s not really a fair comparison. At just under $3,000, the NextEngine is not a beginner 3D scanner. Rather, it’s for those who need reliable and seriously high-quality, richly detailed 3D scans.


10. EinScan-S by Shining 3D

3D Scanner Price: $1,200
Setup: Desktop
Scan Accuracy: 0.1mm
Scan Resolution: 1.3 mega pixel
Scanner Technique: Structured light technology
Scan Volume: 200x200x200mm (automatic scan); 700x700x700 (free scan)

Yet another mid-range priced 3D scanner and another that got its feet off the ground thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The EinScan-S portable 3D scanner by Chinese manufacturing company Shining 3D, uses structured light technology and two cameras to capture 360-degree scans off of its rotating turntable platform. Two 3D scan modes are offered: automatic scan, and free scan. The first is the simplest; whatever you’re seeking to scan, simply place it on the EinScan’s rotating surface. The machine then scans the objects in just 3 minutes, down to an accuracy of 0.1 mm. However, for larger models the free scan mode is a much better alternative (up to 700 mm x 700 mm x 700 mm), and works by rotating the scanner on a tripod around the object (the tripod comes at an extra cost).

According to Shining 3D, EinScan-S delivers printable 3D models with high accuracy, ideal for creative FDM 3D printing projects. The website offers quite a few examples of objects that were 3D printed based off of EinScan-S scans, so take a look if you need convincing.


11. EORA 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $330, available $255 for pre-sale now
Setup: Portable
Scan Range: up to 1 meter
Scan Accuracy: 0.5mm
Scanner Technique: Green laser technology
Scan Volume: 1 m² in one scan
Software: Eora 3D app for iOS or Android

We’ve seen two relatively cheap and reliable 3D scanners that leverage the iPad’s camera, but the new Eora wants to make 3D scanning even more portable, accurate and affordable than any other option on this list; it’s high-precision 3D scanning powered by your very smartphone.

Developed by three Austrialian entrepreneurs who were frustrated with the high costs of traditional 3D scanners, they challenged themselves to develop a 3D scanner with all the qualities found in expensive models, but that would leverage the existing, advanced technology of something they all already had in their pockets: an iPhone.

Also unlike many of these top 3D scanners, Eora utilizes green laser technology. As the developers explain, “digital camera CMOS sensors (like our eyes) are twice as sensitive to the green spectrum as they are to red. (It's how we evolved to better spot predators in the brush.) This means you can scan in a variety of lightning conditions, even outdoors.” The end result is a powerful 3D scanner that can scan an object within 5 minutes while generating up to 8 million points. It also comes with a Bluetooth powered turntable for capturing watertight, 360-degree 3D models.

Eora launched a successful Kickstarter to get the idea off the ground, and has made the final product available for pre-order.


12. MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $799 (down from $949)
Setup: Desktop
Scan Accuracy: 2.0mm
Scan Resolution: 0.5mm
Scanner Technique: Multi-scan technology
Software: Makerware for Digitizer
Scan Volume: up to 20.3 x 20.3 cm (Ø x H)

MakerBot’s offering to the 3D scanner marketplace was designed to work seamlessly with the MakerBot Replicator, and therefore is ideal for scanning small to mid-sized, relatively simple objects for 3D printing purposes. Objects up to 20x20cm are simply placed on the rotating wheel, while two class-1 lasers capture all sides, a process that generally takes twelve minutes. The Makerware software then creates clean, watertight 3D models that are ready to 3D print, or easily share with the 3D printing community via MakerBot’s Thingiverse.

Though the MakerBot Digitizer hasn’t exactly received stellar reviews on Amazon, it is nevertheless a popular option, especially given the prevalence of MakerBot 3D printer users.


13. Artec Eva 3D Scanner

3D Scanner Price: $15,000
Setup: Handheld
Scan Range: 0.17-0.35m
Scan Accuracy: 0.1mm
Scan Resolution: 0.5mm

Ok, so at $15,000, the Artec Eva handheld 3D scanner is way above the others on this list in terms of price, and if you’re considering buying one, you probably already know a heck of a lot about 3D scanning. Still, this one absolutely had to make the list because of its recognized quality and proven applications in industrial design, quality control, heritage preservation, forensics, medicine, art, automotive and even aerospace. Yes, it was even used by to scan Barack Obama to make the very first 3D printed portrait of an American president, and even more recently to 3D print the likes of Larry King and comic book legend Stan Lee!

With incredibly high resolution (0.5mm) and accuracy (0.1mm), all in a convenient, handheld scanner that weighs just 1.9 pounds, the Artec Eva 3D scanner is ideal for making quick, textured 3D scans for a variety of professional uses. If that’s what you’re after, better start saving now.


14. FARO Focus3D X Series

FARO Focus3D X Series includes three options for indoor and outdoor 3D laser scanning: the entry-level Focus3D X 30, with a scanning range of 30 metres; the X 130, with a scanning range of 130 meters; and the incredibly long-range X 330, which offers a scanning range of 330 meters, and is specially designed for outdoor applications due to its small size, light weight, extra long range and extended scanning possibilities even in direct sunlight. In fact, all three options are lightweight and portable, and offer distance accuracy of up to 2mm.

Ideal for architectural preservation, as-built documentation, building information modeling, engineering, facility management, crime-scene investigation, and forensics, FARO offers quite a comprehensive range of quality 3D scanners for various professional uses. Quite recently, the company also introduced the Freestyle3D X Handheld 3D scanner, which operates with a scanning accuracy of 1mm at 1m range, and was marketed as ideal for forensic use.

Because these are professional, industry-grade scanners, interested customers must request a quote, however you can expect the prices to be in the $10,000-$50,000+ range.


15. Upcoming: MIT’s 1,000x better 3D scanning technology

Okay, so technically this is not a 3D scanner model that is available on the market, however it is an exciting technological advancement that could eventually lead to world-class, super cheap 3D cameras built into cellphones. The technology was discovered by researchers at MIT, who realized that by exploiting the polarization of light, they could increase the resolution of conventional 3D imaging devices as much as 1,000 times.

Surprisingly, they relied on old-fashioned polarized lenses and a Microsoft Kinect to make this massive 3D scanning breakthrough. "Today, photographers use polarizing filters on 2D cameras to create stunning photos. Polarized 3D probes the question: what if a polarizing filter is used on a 3D camera? The answer: commodity depth sensors operating at millimeter quality, can be enhanced to micron quality, improving resolution to 3 orders of magnitude," explained the researchers.

Though still in development phase at MIT’s famed Media Lab, the technology has obvious consumer applications in everything from smartphones to self-driving cars, and we look forward to the day when it’s made commercially available.

So that's the roundup of some of the cheapest 3D scanners, most reliable 3D scanners, and highest quality 3D scanners of 2015. Let us know in the comments or on social media if there are any other "best 3D scanners" that you would add to the list. To check out more applications for 3D scanning technology, you can also read about how 3D scanning and printing could help cyclist Nairo Quintana win the Tour de France, how 3D scanned people starred in a brand new music video, or my personal favorite, Rosalie Yu's artistic exploration of human intimacy through 3D scanning and 3D printing technology.



Posted in 3D Scanning



Maybe you also like: wrote at 11/12/2016 5:12:33 PM:

I'd like to partner to develop 3d scanned automotive application(s).

Mica wrote at 9/28/2016 12:14:39 AM:

Hi, Can you make me a quote for the item below? We are a re-seller and this is for bidding. Please include shipping fee and the shipping business days. Your response is highly appreciated. Thanks! Shipping address: Moffett Field, CA 94035-0001 1 . One Portable 3D Optical Laser Scanner. Specifications a) Handheld and portable to provide flexibility in regard to hard to reach areas, e.g., holes and cavities. b) Plug and play type connection. c) Automatic calibration to maintain system accuracy. d) Dynamic referencing (using built-in photogrammetry system) compatible with in-house MetraScan 70 and VSTARS systems to extend measurement volume without loss of accuracy, making measurements immune to instability or vibration. e) Spatial resolution of 0.002 in with accuracy of 0.001 in or better. f) Data rate of 250,000 measurements/sec or better. g) Ability to measure black or shiny surfaces. h) Laptop-based 3D data collection, storage, and export capabilities.

Mike beaver wrote at 7/11/2016 8:26:00 PM:

I am looking for a good 3 d scanner that I can use for a variety of different things. I noticed the 599 one at he top of this site. Could you tell me more about that one including if it will work on windowed 10. And or will it work on Apple computers. Does it come with its own software to load on its private computer. All my printers and laser printers have their ow computer. Please I am waiting to hear from you

ilona joi wrote at 6/28/2016 6:02:14 PM:

3D Scanners are gaining accuracy and speed each year. The technology is making significant improvements to make this tool the most reliable possible to get a perfect 3D model.

Paquin wrote at 6/5/2016 4:00:58 PM:

Hello I'm interested by your EORA 3D Scan Can you contact me at : 0646170071 or for more details Thx Paquin

Lucky wrote at 12/11/2015 8:32:21 AM:

What about the Zeus All In One 3d printer and scanner with an on-board computer? It is made by AIO Robotics in L.A. and has a scan resolution of .15 mm. It is also a 3d printer and is an actual stand alone system that is plug-n-play with an excellent user interface and an onboard computer with 7" monitor. They came out before XYZ's all in one, so I am surprised the Zeus 3d printer wasn't mentioned here.

Tom McBaum wrote at 12/11/2015 5:22:36 AM:

The inclusion of the awful MakerBot Digitizer destroyed my faith in the credibility of this "Best 3D Scanners" list.

Bruce wrote at 12/9/2015 7:30:30 PM:

The Asus Xition type scanners are dead in the water as ASUS has end of lined and stopped manufacturing them. PrimeSense was purchased by Apple and they stopped selling those over a year ago. All of these type scanners including the Occipital sensor and the Cubify Sense are just toys as the scanning dimension accuracy and the resolution is very poor +/- 2-5mm. Only really good for scanning people and large objects. The low cost laser scanners are only good for gnomes and objects with circular nature, for example they can't scan an iPhone or an Iphone cover. So for the money I would go for the Einscan as it uses structured light and the files are closed and ready for printing.

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