3D scanning is all about analyzing an object or environment and then collecting data about the appearance. From there, a tool begins creating a digitalized version of that object which you can then be replicated in a CNC mill or a 3D printer.
Professional 3D scanning can be sectioned into two main categories: contact and non-contact.
Contact scanning requires the object to be on a surface and uses probes to touch the object.
Non-contact uses other means to touch an object and can be either active or passive. Active non-contact measures will use the light surrounding the area to probe an object. Non-contact passive will use ambient radiation to scan.
Regardless of the method that you are using to scan an object, both the hardware and the software is usually very expensive to get your hands on. However through the development of technology, it starting to become possible to use your smartphone to scan with photogrammetry.
In the past, smartphones could still perform this but they needed extra hardware like a depth sensor. Today, iPhones are equipped with LiDAR (light detection and ranging) which allows you to scan directly from various apps.
Going back to photogrammetry, it uses photos from different angles to make a 3D image. It’s still going to take a while as this process involves taking 50 to 1,000 images as it stitches together a digital image for you.
Below is a list of some of the best apps that allow you to do all this.
Used for iOS devices, this app shines in capturing details of small objects to an entire environment. With a push of a button, the object mode captures images automatically while you begin walking around the object.
It also has a ARKit mode which makes for easy scanning. It’s great for large objects or environments. Do note that this mode is only available if you have ARKit enabled.
On top of this, you can import images which can then be converted into 3D models. You can even take selfies and make 3D models of those.
The app offers a lot of capabilities but the trade off is that it will require some setup to get the best results. You want to make sure the lighting is good. Ideally scanning outdoor lighting is ideal. Also, you want to make sure what you’re scanning it behind a blank background as backgrounds cause problems.
On top of this, Trnio scans are exported as OBJ files. If you want different files, you’ll have to look at MeshLab which can convert files. This is if you’re planning to do anything beyond scanning.
A more user-friendly app for 3D scanning on iPhones and iPads is Scandy Pro. The app can put together on-the-spot previews even while an object is being scanned. This is nice because you can determine in real time whether this is what you want to be scanning in the first place without wasting time.
It’s optimized with LiDAR on newer iPads and iPhones too. As a result, you create more accurate models of rooms or use your phone or tablet as a surveying tool.
The app has a simple user interface that begins scanning automatically once you start the process. Unlike Trnio, you need to keep your phone stationary this time and start rotating the object instead. Keeping the movements smooth or placing the object on a turntable is ideal.
The app has its own built-in editing tools as well so you can make changes or export them into STL files.
An app for both iOS and Android, this app is an all-in-one app where you can scan, edit, and export. The entire process is faster as well and doesn’t compromise the quality in the process. You can even scan in 4K.
The only big requirement for this app is that you need a special mat that the company provides you with on their website. You’ll need standard printing paper too. These mats are very flexible though if you’re looking to scan large objects, you’ll need a larger mat for it to be on.
The mat also puts further limitations as you may notice in the scanning process the app creates a dome. That dome is the scanning area and will focus only on that area. It’s nice if you have small objects, but it further inhibits scanning larger objects.
Designed for iPads, this is a great app to create 3D models of people or objects with professional results. Like Trnio, all you need to do to scan something is to walk around the object or person you’re scanning. The app even provides directions for you to follow.
Another positive is that this is an app where you can share models with other users or through social media. Files can also be exported in OBJ or PLY formats as well.
The only downside I see with this is if your iPad is older, you’ll need to get a structure sensor to get the most out of it.
If you’re only looking to scan faces, then this app is for you. Bellus3D offers professional-level facial-scanning for iPhones and its accuracy is very impressive. Dental professionals are currently using the app to make facial scans for planning procedures.
This app relies on the TrueDepth camera which means it’s even more restrictive to iPhone users. Only those with iPhone X and above can use it.
Aside from that, exporting files can come in OBJ, STL, or PLY and you can even set resolutions (and therefore file sizes).
As long as you’ve got an Apple device with FaceID or LiDAR technology, you can capture anything at all with this app. It’s capable of scanning body parts, cars, and more and can export them into PLY files or can be shared with other iOS users.
To get the best scan from the app, the object is best to be stationary as the device rotates around the object. The slower the movement is, the better the scan. This app also has precision settings that you can adjust as well depending on the object.
Another unique feature about this app is the infinite scanning capability. It’s incredibly helpful if you’re scanning large spaces. Enabling this means it doesn’t limit the size of your scan so long as you can keep scanning and you don’t run out of storage space.
Exclusive to iOS devices with a TrueDepth camera, this one scans by having the object rotating around. This app uses Augmented Reality as well to view the model in an environment or keeping it in place.
These scans can be shared through messaging apps as well such as Slack or iMessage. The files can also be exported in OBJ or PLY formats.
Sony 3D Creator
Easy-to-use interface as well as fast-scanning, this is helpful for beginners in a number of ways. That simplistic interface is one thing but it also comes with a guide that you can follow while scanning too. There is even video tutorials available for new users.
Unlike other apps here, this one has five different scan modes. This is on top of the face, head, food, and freeform modes. Scanning is done by you rotating your phone around the object slowly. The app then looks for characteristics that stand out and create a point cloud.
After the scan is done, you can then edit it within the app itself and the results can be shared across multiple social media platforms. There is even an animation feature too to bring it to life.
Not to be confused with Canva, Canvas allows you to make a 3D model of a space and convert it to a range of CAD formats. This is ideal for anyone looking to model the inside space.
You can capture an entire room within minutes and it can all be done by starting the scanning process and walking around the room. The app will then begin to scan from top to bottom. All of the scans that you make can be exported as fully editable CAD files – if you’re willing to pay – or as other file types – for free.
You’re also free to come back to any previous scans at any time you like. It’s a great tool for designers as well considering the speed.
This app is a very niche one, but if it’s your niche, it’s a helpful tool. That niche being selling shoes! This app was created to help shoe brands upscale their e-commerce, however that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be used for other products.
If you’re selling products of any kind, this app will be able to generate photorealistic 3D models of these products. This gives the items a more realistic feel in online stores as customers will not be relegated to a static image of the product. Customers will be able to rotate the object, and zoom in on details.
In order for you to get the most out of this app, you’ll need additional equipment like an automatic rotating table and a lightbox. Once the scan starts, you can then pause the scan to capture the top and bottom of the object too.
You can upload models to a website to be converted and there are range of other e-commerce add-ons you can use for a fee.