Learn How to Scan an Object for 3D Printing in a Few Simple Steps

Posted by

3D printing is a rapidly growing industry that offers many benefits to various fields, from medicine to architecture. However, before printing an object, it needs to be scanned to create a digital model that can be printed. Scanning an object for 3D printing involves using a 3D scanner to capture the object’s shape and colors and convert it into a digital file that can be edited and printed.

There are several ways to scan an object for 3D printing, depending on the desired outcome and the available equipment. One option is to use a 3D scanner, which can capture an object’s geometry and texture in high detail. Another option is to use photogrammetry, which involves taking multiple pictures of an object from different angles and using software to stitch them together into a 3D model. Both methods require good lighting and attention to detail to ensure accurate results.

In this article, we will explore the different methods of scanning an object for 3D printing and provide tips for achieving the best results. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced 3D printing enthusiast, this guide will help you understand the scanning process and create high-quality 3D prints.

Choosing the Right Scanner

When it comes to 3D printing, one of the most important steps is scanning the object you want to print. Choosing the right scanner can make all the difference in the quality and accuracy of your final product. Here are some things to consider when choosing a scanner for 3D printing.

Types of Scanners

There are several types of scanners available on the market, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Here are the most common types of scanners for 3D printing:

  • Structured Light Scanners: These scanners use a projector to project a pattern of light onto the object being scanned. The scanner then uses a camera to capture the distorted pattern and create a 3D model of the object.

  • Laser Scanners: Laser scanners use a laser to scan the surface of an object and create a 3D model. They are typically more accurate than structured light scanners, but also more expensive.

  • Photogrammetry Scanners: Photogrammetry scanners use multiple cameras to take pictures of an object from different angles. The images are then stitched together to create a 3D model.

Features to Look For

When choosing a scanner for 3D printing, there are several features to consider. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Accuracy: The accuracy of a scanner is one of the most important factors to consider. Look for a scanner that can capture details as small as 0.1mm.

  • Scan Volume: The size of the objects you want to scan will determine the scan volume you need. Make sure the scanner you choose can handle the size of the objects you want to print.

  • Ease of Use: Some scanners are easier to use than others. Look for a scanner with a user-friendly interface and clear instructions.

  • Price: Scanners can range in price from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Consider your budget when choosing a scanner.

In conclusion, choosing the right scanner for 3D printing is crucial for creating high-quality prints. Consider the type of scanner, its features, and your budget when making your decision.

Preparing the Object for Scanning

Before scanning an object for 3D printing, it is important to prepare it properly. This involves cleaning the object, positioning it correctly, and applying scan targets if necessary. Here are some tips for preparing your object for scanning:

Cleaning the Object

The first step in preparing an object for scanning is to clean it thoroughly. Any debris or dirt on the object can interfere with the scanning process and result in an inaccurate scan. Here are some ways to clean your object:

  • Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any loose dirt or debris.
  • If the object is particularly dirty, use a mild soap and water solution to clean it.
  • Dry the object completely before scanning.

Positioning the Object

The next step is to position the object correctly for scanning. The object should be placed on a stable surface and positioned so that all sides are visible to the scanner. Here are some tips for positioning your object:

  • Use a turntable to rotate the object as it is being scanned.
  • If the object is too large to fit on the scanner, scan it in sections and then merge the scans together.
  • If the object has any intricate details or hard-to-reach areas, consider using a handheld scanner to capture those areas.

Applying Scan Targets

Scan targets are markers that are placed on the object to help the scanner accurately capture its shape. They are particularly useful for objects with smooth surfaces or reflective materials. Here are some tips for applying scan targets:

  • Use a spray adhesive to attach the targets to the object. Make sure they are evenly spaced and positioned.
  • Use a contrasting color for the targets so that they stand out from the object.
  • Remove the targets after scanning is complete.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your object is properly prepared for scanning and that you get an accurate and high-quality scan for 3D printing.

Scanning the Object

When it comes to 3D printing, scanning an object is the first step in creating a 3D model. Scanning an object can be done using a 3D scanner or by taking several pictures around the object and stitching them together using photogrammetry. In this section, we will discuss the process of scanning an object for 3D printing.

Setting Up the Scanner

Before scanning an object, it is important to set up the scanner properly to ensure accurate results. Here are some tips on how to set up the scanner:

  • Choose the right scanner for your needs. There are different types of scanners available, such as structured light scanners, laser scanners, and photogrammetry scanners. Choose a scanner that is suitable for the size and shape of the object you want to scan.

  • Make sure the object is clean and free of debris. Any dirt or dust on the object can cause inaccuracies in the scan.

  • Choose a suitable environment for scanning. The environment should be well-lit and free of any obstructions that may interfere with the scanner’s view of the object.

Scanning Techniques

Once the scanner is set up, it’s time to start scanning the object. Here are some techniques for scanning an object:

  • Start by scanning the object from different angles. This will ensure that you capture all the details of the object.

  • Use markers to help the scanner align the different scans. These markers can be placed on the object or around the object.

  • If the object has complex geometry, consider scanning it in separate parts and then merging the scans together in post-processing.

  • Be patient and take your time. Scanning an object can take some time, especially if it’s a large or complex object.

In conclusion, scanning an object for 3D printing is an important step in creating a 3D model. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this section, you can ensure that you get accurate and detailed scans of your objects.

Post-Processing the Scan

Once you have scanned your object, you will need to post-process the data to prepare it for 3D printing. This involves cleaning up the scan data and exporting it in a format that can be used by your 3D printer.

Cleaning Up the Scan Data

The first step in post-processing your scan data is to clean it up. This involves removing any unwanted artifacts or noise that may have been introduced during the scanning process. Here are some tips for cleaning up your scan data:

  • Use a software tool to remove any unwanted artifacts or noise.
  • Check for any holes or gaps in the scan data and fill them in using a software tool.
  • Smooth out any rough edges or surfaces using a software tool.
  • Remove any unwanted parts of the scan data that are not needed for the 3D print.

Exporting the Scan Data

Once you have cleaned up the scan data, you will need to export it in a format that can be used by your 3D printer. Here are some tips for exporting your scan data:

  • Choose a file format that is compatible with your 3D printer.
  • Check the file size of the exported scan data to ensure that it is not too large for your 3D printer to handle.
  • Check the orientation of the scan data to ensure that it is aligned correctly for 3D printing.
  • Export the scan data as a solid object that can be easily manipulated in your 3D printing software.

By following these tips, you can post-process your scan data to prepare it for 3D printing. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to create high-quality 3D prints from your scanned objects.


In conclusion, 3D scanning is an efficient and accurate way to create digital models of physical objects for 3D printing. By using a 3D scanner, you can capture the shape and color of an object and create a digital replica that can be modified, printed, and shared.

When scanning an object, it’s important to consider the size, shape, and surface of the object, as well as the scanning conditions such as lighting and access to an electrical source. There are different types of 3D scanners available, including structured light scanners and laser scanners, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

After scanning an object, the resulting digital model can be edited and prepared for 3D printing using software such as Meshmixer or Blender. It’s important to ensure that the model is watertight and has no errors before printing.

Overall, 3D scanning is a valuable tool for anyone interested in 3D printing, from hobbyists to professionals. With the right equipment and software, anyone can create digital models of physical objects and bring them to life through 3D printing.