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3D Scanning: What It Is, Applications & Cost

3D scanningWith an estimated value of $32.78 billion by 2023, the 3D printing industry has become involved in industries ranging from medical and manufacturing to aerospace and automotive. And while most people are aware of the roles that 3D printers and additive manufacturing are playing in innovation, many are still unaware of the impact 3D scanning has had on design. Here is everything you need to know about 3D scanning.

What Is 3D Scanning?

3D scanning is the process of capturing the shape of a physical object and replicating it as a 3D model. It is achieved through the use of a 3D scanner and is a safe way to explore the geometric properties of an object without physical contact.

How Does 3D Scanning Work?

3D scanning works by using a 3D scanners’  lasers to capture the geometric properties of an object and then fuse, optimize, and texturize that data to create an accurate 3D model. While some 3D scanners require special positioning requirements to achieve an accurate scan, there are also models that allow for simple “point and shoot” scanning.

3D scanning is useful in the design process because the 3D model can be exported to simulation software for quality control or 3D printing purposes. It has useful applications in a variety of industries, both as a part of the 3D printing process and as a standalone product.

What Is 3D Scanning Used For?

3D scanning is used in everything from heritage preservation and medicine to automotive and rapid prototyping. According to Artec, a 3D scanner manufacturer, common applications of 3D scanning include:


3D scanning can be used in the healthcare industry to scan the parts of the human body and use the precise measurements it processes to create 3D printed medical devices, prosthetics, and medical models. 3D scanning and printing allow medical professionals to customize and create products more cheaply than with traditional methods.

Industrial Design

According to Artec, 3D scanners speed up the industrial workflow by making it easier to obtain the data needed for product development, rapid prototyping, and quality control. 3D scanning can be used to quickly catch errors in existing products or inform decisions for future prototypes.

3D scanning industrial design


3D scanning has also had exciting applications in the scientific community by making it easier for researchers to capture and share data. Fragile fossils and mummies can be safely scanned without fear of damage and shared with other experts to make more informed decisions on historical preservation, or to print reproductions.

Art & Design

In addition to replicating existing objects, 3D scanning can also be used to create everything from Jurassic Park dinosaurs to 3D printed celebrity figurines. 3D scanners’ ability to map such accurate details have made them a popular tool in special effects and life-size recreations.

3D scanning art

How Much Does 3D Scanning Cost?

The cost of 3D scanning depends on whether you are contracting a 3D scanning service or are doing the work yourself.

  • 3D scanning services typically charge based on the size and complexity of the object being scanned, the provider’s experience, and where the scanning takes place.
  • The cost of doing the work yourself will vary based on the 3D scanner you purchase and the number of hours you invest in the project. A small, handheld 3D scanner can be relatively inexpensive, but the scanner you choose will ultimately depend on the desired application and size of the object(s) being scanned.

Want to learn more about 3D scanning? You can contact our 3D scanning experts with your questions or fill out the form below for a demo. 

3D scanning questions

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About the Author

Lisa HannonLisa Hannon is a marketing manager at Fisher Unitech.  She develops content for 3D printing topics that have an impact across all industries that are researching ways to maximize getting products to market faster as well as cost savings with 3D printing solutions.  Lisa has worked as a marketing management professional since 1998, most recently with Stratasys. You can follow her on Twitter: @lmci37.