3D scanners are changing how we make, design, and see the world. By projecting lasers or structured light, these scanners create entire 3D digitized models of physical objects in just seconds!
Sometimes called 3D laser scanners, 3D model scanners or 3D object scanners, 3D scanners are integral for rapid prototyping and other forms of 3D printing, for saving historical artefacts as digital models, and have extensive uses in dentistry for creating perfect-fitting implants and dental models.
First developed and used only for industrial applications, now you can pick up powerful low cost 3D scanners for just a few hundred dollars, and if you’re content with low-quality basic scans, you can even use your phone!
To rank the best 3D scanners, we used criteria such as scan quality and price-performance ratio, ease of use, versatility, and more. We grouped the scanners by price range: cheap 3D scanners under $1,000; medium priced 3D scanners under $10,000; and industrial 3D scanners over $10,000.
But before we get into the best scanners, here’s a quick intro to how 3D scanners work:
- We have also ranked the best DIY 3D scanners
- We also have a guide to the best 3D scanning apps for your smartphone.
How does a 3D scanner work?
3D scanners create point clouds based on images taken of a solid surface or object — basically huge numbers of data points that denote where an object is — to create a 3D model of the scanned part. Millions of individual data points make up the larger 3D measurement, which can then be imported into 3D CAD software to edit and optimize the CAD model.
3D scanning includes several different technologies, such as Structured Light scanning and Laser Triangulation, as well as varying across types of scanner such as stationary and handheld 3D scanners.
Other forms of 3D scanning include photogrammetry. This involves taking a large number of individual photos of a stationary object, each at slightly different angles, and then collating them together to create an accurate 3D model.
3D scanning makes for far more efficient 3D fabricating and iterating. They can both quickly create digitized versions of objects, and scan existing objects to act as quality control for whether they are perfectly precise or if they need to be fixed in a future iteration.
3D Scanning to 3D Print
3D scanners are often used to create 3D printable models, with 3D scanner and 3D printer setups allowing you to replicate almost anything in front of you. Simply use the 3D scanning camera to create a digital model of your object, and then 3D print the scan.
Large objects can be scanned using handheld 3D scanners and moved around the object’s dimensions, and then sized down and 3D printed as a scale model. These 3D printer scanner combos offer almost limitless versatility.
- Once you’ve read this ranking, check out our list of the best free 3D software tools to import your scans into.
- If you’re a maker and want to use 3D scanning for 3D printing, check out our list of the best 3D slicers.
- We also have a ranking of the best photogrammetry software.
The Best 3D Scanners for All Prices Ranges
|3D Scanner Brand & Name||Type of 3D Scanner||Price||Where to buy and where has the best price|
|SOL 3D scanner by Scan Dimension||Desktop 3D Scanner||$699||Amazon here|
|BQ Ciclop||Laser Triangulation (DIY)||Depends if pre-assembled or DIY||Amazon here|
|Matter & Form V2||Desktop 3D Scanner||$749||Amazon here|
|HP Z 3D Camera Scanner||Mounted 3D / 2D scanner||$539||Amazon here|
|Shining 3D EinScan SE||Desktop 3D Scanner||$1,399||Amazon here|
|HP SLS Pro 3||SLS 3D Scanner||$1,799-$3,499||Amazon here|
|Shining 3D EinScan SP||Desktop 3D Scanner||$2,500||Amazon here|
|Shining 3D EinScan Pro 2X Plus||Handheld 3D Scanner||$6,800-$8,300||Amazon here|
|ScanTech iReal2E||Handheld 3D Scanner||Contact for price||ScanTech Site|
|ScanTech KSCAN||Handheld 3D Scanner||Contact for price||ScanTech site|
|Artec EVA||Industrial 3D Scanner||$19,800||Artec|
1. SOL 3D Scanner by Scan Dimension — Perfect desktop 3D scanner
- 3D scanner price: $699 — Available on Amazon here
- Company based: Denmark
- Accuracy: up to 0.1 mm
SOL is a desktop laser scanner designed for scanning small yet detailed items, with good accuracy for the price. The actual scanner itself weighs just 7 pounds, and can scan objects that weigh up to 2kg. This light weight makes it a perfect portable 3D scanner if you’re on the move, for example if you want to scan objects in different places.
It has two different modes depending on what you’re scanning:
- Near mode: for scanning objects of up to 100 mm in diameter and 100 mm in height.
- Far mode: for scanning objects up to 170 mm in diameter and 170 mm in height.
The SOL boasts an accuracy of around 0.1 mm, extremely good for the price range. You scan objects with their included SOL 3D software, and can then easily export your scans as OBJ or STL files and import them into a 3D slicer for 3D printing.
The Danish company promote this impressive 3D visualizer not only for makers or hobbyists, but also for entrepreneurs. They sell the SOL 3D scanning camera as a way for entrepreneurs to show their products off with a 360 degree view, with easy ways to share these scans on Facebook. Additionally, Scan Dimension say the scanner is also perfectly suited for education, for teaching students STEM education through scanning and editing structures.
Overall, it’s well suited as both a 3D scanner for businesses, as well as a home 3D scanner for hobbyists.
2. BQ Ciclop — Best home 3D scanner
- Price: Dependent on buying/making — Available on Amazon here
- Company based: Spain
- Resolution: 0.5 mm
- Maximum scan volume: 200 x 200 x 205 mm
- 3D scanning technology: Laser Triangulation
Unlike many scanners, this DIY 3D scanner is open source, with all the files hosted on Thingiverse for you to download and print. The Ciclop has proven popular, with tens of thousands of downloads on Thingiverse alone. BQ provide all of the information, software, and electronics for this 3D scanner kit which you can modify for yourself on their website.
The BQ Ciclop 3D scanner uses laser triangulation technology, and can scan objects in a few minutes. Moreover, the instructions that BQ provide with the kit allow anyone — even a beginner! — to assemble the scanner in under an hour. BQ host downloads for all the drivers for the camera and firmware that you need, and developed a specialized 3D scanner app called Horus for scanning on your Ciclop.
Here’s how you assemble your own BQ Ciclop:
It’s simple but effective. It’s made from ten 3D printed parts (download .STL files from Thingiverse), a threaded rod, a Logitech C270 webcam, two line lasers, and a turntable platform with a stepper motor, though you can edit and modify it as you wish. It’s simplicity has led to Cowtech making their own model in 2015 which raised $183,000 on Kickstarter.
The BQ Ciclop scans a volume of 250 x 205 mm and has a resolution of up to 0.3mm. It can be connected via USB or Bluetooth, and is therefore a versatile and affordable low-cost 3D scanner for beginners to 3D scanning.
3. Matter and Form V2 MFS1V2 — One of the best 3D scanners under $1,000
- 3D scanner cost: $749 — Available on Amazon here / Available on Matterhackers here
- Company based: Canada
- 3D Scan Accuracy: 0.1 mm
The Matter and Form V2 is an updated version of the original desktop 3D scanner made by the Canadian tech startup. This low-cost 3D scanner uses 2 lasers and a HD-CMOS sensor to produce high-resolution, full-color 3D scans.
The scanner has an accuracy of up to around 0.1mm, and is easily connectable to your computer through USB to transfer over your scans. For editing scans, the Matter and Form scanner comes with specialized Mfstudio and Quickscan 3D software to make sure your scans look perfect. You can then export the .STL files and print them with your 3D printer.
The 3D scanner can scan objects in size up to 25 cm tall and 18 cm in diameter. It is compatible with every major OS, so Mac users needn’t worry. What we like most however is that it folds up, making it a perfect portable 3D scanner.
4. HP Z 3D Camera Scanner
- Price: $539 — Available on Amazon here
- Company based: USA
American giant HP have moved into both 3D printing and 3D scanning, with their Multi Jet Fusion printers, and their HP Z and HP SLS Pro 3 scanners.
This cheaper model, the HP Z, cheaply and quickly turns your PC into both a 3D and 2D scanner, able to scan standard documents and export them as JPG and other file types, as well as 3D scan full objects.
Acting as a 3D camera, simply mount the HP Z on your monitor and hold your chosen object in front of the scanner, rotating it so that the 3D sensor can pick up each side and texture. The HP Z uses SLAM Fusion technologies to then construct the object as a 3D model which you can export for 3D printing or editing in other software modeling tools.
The stationary 3D scanner uses HP’s WorkTools software, and weighs just 1.2lbs. It is incredibly simple to set up, just plug it into your PC via its USB connection and you’re good to go.
Medium Priced 3D Scanners: $1,000 to $10,000
5. Shining 3D EinScan SE — Best 3D scanner under $1,500
Shining 3D have made a name for themselves in the medium range 3D scanning sector recently, with cheaper options such as the EinScan-SE as well as more expensive scanners like the EinScan Pro 2X Plus.
The EinScan SE is one of the best 3D object scanners in its price range. It scans in around 8 seconds (versus 4 seconds for the EinScan SP) and can complete a whole 360 degree scan in its Automatic Scan mode in around 2 minutes. It can scan objects up to around 200 mm wide and 150 mm tall, with a single shot accuracy of around 0.1 mm — making it a great 3D printer scanner.
Overall, this 3D model scanner is accurate, reliable, and makes it easy to quickly scan stationary objects and 3D print them with ease. The EinScan SP — described in more detail further in this guide — is more precise, but costs more. Therefore, it’s a matter of your budget and how important this additional quality is for you personally.
6. HP SLS Pro 3 — Great Structured Light Scanner
- 3D scanner cost: $3,400 — Available on Amazon here
- Company based: USA
American technology giant HP have been heavily involved in both 3D printing and scanning in the last few years. Since announcing their entrance into 3D printing they have pioneered Multi Jet Fusion technologies, and now intend to innovate in the desktop 3D scanner sector.
Their newest scanner, the Structured Light Scanner Pro 3, is a very powerful piece of kit. It features both an industrial-level camera with high quality lens, as well as a video projector equipped with a specialized lens for larger focal ranges. The camera can be moved across the slider based on your needs at the time, and can complete scans in just a few seconds.
As suggested in the name, the HP SLS Pro 3 uses Structured Light scanning technologies, allowing for extremely detailed scans to be captured with up to 0.05 mm accuracy. The HP SLS Pro 3 3D object scanner can scan anything between 60 and 500 mm in size, which should be enough as long as you don’t intend on scanning cars or full bodies — in which case you’ll need a handheld 3D scanner.
7. ScanTech iReal 2E Color 3D Scanner — A complete 3D scanning solution
- Scanning area: Up to 850 mm x 800 mm
- Accuracy: Up to 0.100 mm
iReal 2E is a professional handheld color 3D scanner manufactured by ScanTech. The company specializes in developing, manufacturing and selling intelligent visual inspection equipment and sells an entire range of 3D scanners for various applications and sectors.
The iReal 2E uses red VCSEL structured light technology to offer you a simple and safe 3D scanning experience, eliminating the issues of dazzling lights and difficulties in hair 3D scanning. Without attaching markers, a quick and accurate texture and geometry scan can be achieved with a wide scanning area of 850 mm x 800 mm, 750 mm depth of field, 1.5 million measurements per second, and at 0.100 mm accuracy. Mixed alignment modes meet various scanning situations.
8. Shining 3D EinScan SP
The second Shining 3D medium-range 3D scanner in our ranking, the SP is cheaper than some of their more premium models like the Einscan Pro range, but still very effective. It is more accurate than the EinScan SE, with accuracy up to 0.05 mm rather than 0.1 mm, and scans single shots in half the time (4s vs 8s). Double the price, double the accuracy — and half the scanning time.
The scanner utilizes white light scanning technologies to make very accurate scans of objects as small as 30 x 30 x 30 mm. Full objects are typically scanned in less than a minute, and images in less than four seconds. What’s more, despite its cheaper price, many Amazon buyers have reported that it can compete with scanners costing ten times as much for scan quality! It also comes with a tripod.
9. Shining 3D EinScan-Pro 2X Plus — One of the best 3D scanners around
- Price: $6,900 for the scanner, $8,300 for full industrial pack — Available on Amazon here / Dynamism here
- Company based: China
Shining 3D produce a number of different 3D scanners for different price points. The EinScan-Pro 2X Plus can be used as a fixed or handheld 3D scanner to capture objects of varying sizes. The EinScan-Pro 2X Plus uses white light 3D scanning technologies to increase accuracy and scan faster, creating high-quality scans in record time.
This 3D scanner’s price is significantly higher than the other Shining 3D scanners on our ranking, but the 2X Plus comes with a number of key advantages. You can simply hold the scanner and point it towards the object or room you want to 3D scan, and instantly record crisp scans of your surroundings. You may want to 3D scan a car, your friend, or even turn it into a baby 3D scanner for a 3D memory of your child before it grows up!
Chinese company Shining 3D first came onto the scene with a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $120,000. Since then they’ve expanded, and now this 3D scanner is accurate up to 0.03mm for objects less than 4m away.
Professional 3D Scanners: $10,000+
10. Artec EVA — Powerful handheld 3D scanner
- Industrial 3D scanner price: $19,800
Creating new innovative solutions in 3D technology since 2007, Artec 3D is a global leader in handheld 3D scanners. Their most popular scanner, the Eva, is a handheld, industrial 3D object scanner, and an excellent solution for medium sized objects ranging from motorcycle wheels to car exhaust systems, human busts and facial close-ups.
Light, quick, and versatile, Artec Eva captures precise measurements in high resolution, while structured light scanning technology makes the scanner safe to use in any situation – even difficult to scan surfaces such as black or shiny surfaces are effectively captured by Eva.
Ideal for use in industries including product design, heritage preservation, healthcare, and reverse engineering, this market leader can accurately scan full-color objects at a range of up to 100cm with color and texture, making it a great solution for fast and accurate 3D models.
11. ScanTech KSCAN-Magic — industrial handheld 3D scanner
- Resolution: 0.010 mm
- Scanning rate: 1,350,000 measurements/second
- Scanning area: 1440 x 860 mm
Esteemed 3D scanner company ScanTech have announced the launch of their latest KSCAN 3D scanner, with 5 five different modes for all types of scanning. These include a large area scanning mode, fast scanning mode, photogrammetry, as well as a fine scanning mode. Featuring both infrared lasers and blue laser technologies allows the KSCAN-Magic to accomplish a wide range of scanning functions effectively.
It scans accurately, quickly, can handle small and large objects, and is designed to accelerate time-to-market. The 41 equipped laser lines can handle an incredible 1.35 million measurements per second, creating detailed scans in record time.
If you are looking for leading-edge 3D solutions for your business, KSCAN definitely surpasses expectations with its resourcefulness and precision.
The main types of 3D scanner
The two most-used technologies are structured light scanning and laser triangulation.
Structured Light Scanning
Structured light scanning is commonly used in handheld 3D scanners and involves projecting patterns of light at an object, with two cameras usually placed either side of the projector to measure the light pattern from each side and calculate precise differences at every point in their field of view.
These cameras measure how the light deforms the light pattern, and by triangulating these multiple different reference points across different images of the scan from each camera view, you can accurately calculate the dimensions of the object.
As a result of its portability and accuracy, dental 3D scanners typically use structured light scanning to scan patient’s mouths and create dental implants and models. Beyond this however, architects and historians are using these types of 3D scanning to keep digital records of priceless historical monuments, and NASA even use it to map interplanetary terrains.
However, the use of projected light makes it very sensitive to the lighting conditions in the scanning environment, so working outside or in other similar environments can be difficult.
Laser scanning involves projecting a laser point on an object and then using sensors to capture the reflections to gather data on the object’s size. Based on the reflection angle from the laser’s sensors, the 3D scanner can create accurate textures and surfaces using trigonometric functions.
However, because it works off reflections it can be ineffective if scanning shiny or reflective surfaces, and won’t work well with anything transparent.
Structured light scanning is generally considered more accurate than laser scanning, with less noise in scans.
LiDAR 3D scanning and Time of Flight 3D scanning
Another form of 3D scanning, and the technology used in the latest iPhone 12 Pro, is LiDAR. Light Detection and Ranging involves shooting out light beams and calculating the objects area — based on the speed of light — on the time taken to reflect back to the Lidar 3D scanner.
These are very similar to time of flight 3D scanners. These time of flight 3D scanners shoot light pulses, calculating the time of flight for each pulse to create a 3D visualization — or point cloud. It’s commonly used to map terrains, measure real estate, and in architecture and construction.