Get Started: How to Scan for 3D Printing

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3D printing has revolutionized the way we create things, from simple toys to complex machinery. However, before printing, we need to scan the object we want to print. Scanning is the process of capturing the shape and size of an object and converting it into a digital file that can be printed. In this article, we will discuss how to scan for 3D printing.

The first step in scanning for 3D printing is to choose the right scanner. There are many types of scanners available, ranging from handheld devices to stationary machines. Handheld scanners are portable and easy to use, while stationary scanners provide more accurate results but require more setup time. Once you have chosen the scanner, you need to prepare the object for scanning. This involves cleaning and drying the object, removing any dirt or debris that could affect the scan’s accuracy.

After preparing the object, you can start scanning. This involves moving the scanner around the object, capturing images from different angles. The scanner software will then combine these images to create a 3D model of the object. Once the scan is complete, you can edit the model to remove any imperfections or unwanted features. With the model ready, you can then proceed to 3D printing.

Types of 3D Scanning

When it comes to 3D scanning, there are several methods available, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Here are the four main types of 3D scanning:


Photogrammetry is a method of 3D scanning that involves taking multiple photographs of an object from different angles and using software to stitch them together into a 3D model. This method is relatively inexpensive and can be done with a standard digital camera, making it a popular choice for hobbyists and small businesses. However, it can be time-consuming and requires careful attention to lighting and camera settings.

Structured Light Scanning

Structured light scanning involves projecting a pattern of light onto an object and using cameras to capture the distortion of the pattern caused by the object’s shape. This method is highly accurate and can capture fine details, making it a popular choice for industrial applications. However, it can be expensive and requires specialized equipment.

Laser Triangulation

Laser triangulation involves using a laser to scan an object and measuring the time it takes for the laser to bounce back. This method is fast and accurate, making it a popular choice for quality control in manufacturing. However, it can be expensive and requires careful calibration.

Time of Flight

Time of flight scanning involves emitting a pulse of light and measuring the time it takes for the light to bounce back. This method is fast and can capture large areas, making it a popular choice for scanning buildings and landscapes. However, it can be less accurate than other methods and is sensitive to ambient light.

In conclusion, each type of 3D scanning has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of method will depend on the specific needs of the project. It is important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each method before making a decision.

Choosing a 3D Scanner

When it comes to 3D printing, choosing the right scanner is essential. A 3D scanner captures the physical dimensions and shape of an object, which is then used to create a 3D model that can be printed. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a 3D scanner:


Accuracy is a crucial factor to consider when selecting a 3D scanner. The accuracy of a scanner is determined by the distance between the actual measurements of an object and the measurements obtained from the scanner. A scanner with high accuracy will produce more precise 3D models. Therefore, it is essential to choose a scanner with a high level of accuracy that can capture the details of the object you want to print.


Resolution refers to the level of detail that a scanner can capture. The higher the resolution, the more detailed the 3D model will be. A scanner with high resolution can capture intricate details, such as the texture of an object’s surface. However, higher resolution often means slower scanning speeds, so it’s essential to find a balance between resolution and speed.


The scanning speed of a 3D scanner is also a crucial factor to consider. The speed of a scanner is determined by the time it takes to capture the dimensions and shape of an object. A faster scanner can capture more objects in a shorter amount of time, making it ideal for large-scale projects. However, faster scanning speeds often come at the cost of accuracy and resolution.

Ease of Use

The ease of use of a 3D scanner is another important factor to consider. A scanner that is easy to use will save you time and frustration. Look for a scanner with intuitive software and user-friendly controls. Additionally, consider the size and weight of the scanner, as well as the availability of technical support and training.

In conclusion, choosing a 3D scanner requires careful consideration of accuracy, resolution, speed, and ease of use. By taking these factors into account, you can select a scanner that meets your specific needs and helps you achieve your 3D printing goals.

Preparing the Object for Scanning

Before you can scan an object for 3D printing, you need to prepare it properly. This involves cleaning the object, applying markers, and positioning it correctly.

Cleaning the Object

The first step in preparing an object for scanning is to clean it thoroughly. Any dirt, dust, or debris on the object can interfere with the scanning process and produce inaccurate results. Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any loose debris and then wipe the object down with a cleaning solution to remove any remaining dirt or grease.

Applying Markers

Next, you need to apply markers to the object. These markers help the scanning software to identify the object’s shape and position accurately. Use a marker pen to apply dots or lines to the object’s surface. Make sure that the markers are evenly spaced and cover the entire surface of the object.

Positioning the Object

Finally, you need to position the object correctly for scanning. Place the object on a flat surface and make sure that it is stable and won’t move during the scanning process. You may need to use supports or clamps to hold the object in place. Make sure that the object is positioned in the center of the scanning area and that it is level.

In summary, preparing an object for scanning involves cleaning it, applying markers, and positioning it correctly. By following these steps, you can ensure that the scanning process produces accurate results that can be used for 3D printing.

Scanning the Object

Setting up the Scanner

Before starting the scanning process, it’s essential to set up your scanner correctly. First, ensure that the scanner is placed on a stable surface, and the object is positioned correctly. Also, make sure that the scanner’s lens is clean and free from dust or debris.

Calibrating the Scanner

Calibrating the scanner is an essential step that helps ensure the accuracy of the scanned object. To calibrate the scanner, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Usually, it involves scanning a calibration object that comes with the scanner.

Scanning the Object

Once the scanner is set up and calibrated, it’s time to start scanning the object. The scanning process may vary depending on the scanner’s make and model, but generally, it involves the following steps:

  1. Place the object on the scanner bed and ensure that it’s securely in place.
  2. Open the scanner software and select the appropriate settings for the scan.
  3. Start the scanning process and move the scanner around the object, making sure to capture all angles and details.
  4. Review the scan and make any necessary adjustments or touch-ups.

It’s important to note that the scanning process can take some time, depending on the object’s complexity and the scanner’s capabilities. However, taking the time to ensure a high-quality scan will result in a better 3D print.

In conclusion, scanning an object for 3D printing requires proper setup, calibration, and attention to detail during the scanning process. By following these steps, you can ensure a successful scan and a high-quality 3D print.

Post-Processing the Scan

After scanning an object, it’s time to post-process the data before printing. This section will cover three main sub-sections: Cleaning up the Scan Data, Exporting the Scan Data, and Fixing Errors.

Cleaning up the Scan Data

Cleaning up the scan data is an essential step in preparing the model for 3D printing. Here are some tips for cleaning up the data:

  • Remove any unwanted parts of the model using a software tool like Meshmixer or Blender.
  • Check for any holes or gaps in the model and fill them in using the same software tools.
  • Smooth out any rough areas in the model to ensure a clean print.

Exporting the Scan Data

Once the scan data has been cleaned up, it’s time to export it in a format that can be used for 3D printing. Here are some tips for exporting the data:

  • Choose a file format that is compatible with your 3D printer, such as STL or OBJ.
  • Check the file size and reduce it if necessary to ensure a faster printing process.
  • Save the file to a location that is easily accessible for the 3D printing software.

Fixing Errors

Even with the best scanning equipment, there may still be errors in the scan data. Here are some tips for fixing errors:

  • Use a software tool like Netfabb or Meshmixer to repair any errors in the model.
  • Check for any inverted normals that may cause problems during printing and fix them using the same software tools.
  • If the model is still not printing correctly, try adjusting the print settings or scaling the model to a smaller size.

By following these post-processing steps, you can ensure that your 3D printed model will be of high quality and accurate to the original object.