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3D scanning is the process of analyzing a real-world object or environment to collect data on its shape and possibly its appearance (e.g. colour). The collected data can then be used to construct digital 3D models.

A 3D scanner can be based on many different technologies, each with its own limitations, advantages and costs. Many limitations in the kind of objects that can be digitised are still present. For example, optical technology may encounter many difficulties with shiny, reflective or transparent objects. For example, industrial computed tomography scanning and structured-light 3D scanners can be used to construct digital 3D models, without destructive testing.

Collected 3D data is useful for a wide variety of applications. These devices are used extensively by the entertainment industry in the production of movies and video games, including virtual reality. Other common applications of this technology include augmented reality, motion capture, gesture recognition robotic mapping, industrial design, orthotics and prosthetics,reverse engineering and prototyping, quality control/inspection and the digitization of cultural artifacts

The purpose of a 3D scanner is usually to create a 3D model. This 3D model consists of a point cloud of geometric samples on the surface of the subject. These points can then be used to extrapolate the shape of the subject (a process called reconstruction). If colour information is collected at each point, then the colours on the surface of the subject can also be determined.


  1. Construction industry and civil engineering

  • Robotic control: e.g. a laser scanner may function as the "eye" of a robot.

  • As-built drawings of bridges, industrial plants, and monuments

  • Documentation of historical sites

  • Site modelling and lay outing

  • Quality control

  • Quantity surveys

  • Payload monitoring 

  • Freeway redesign

  • Establishing a bench mark of pre-existing shape/state in order to detect structural changes resulting from exposure to extreme loadings such as earthquake, vessel/truck impact or fire.

  • Create GIS (geographic information system) maps and geomatics.

  • Subsurface laser scanning in mines and karst voids.

  • Forensic documentation

   2. Design process

  • Increasing accuracy working with complex parts and shapes,

  • Coordinating product design using parts from multiple sources,

  • Updating old CD scans with those from more current technology,

  • Replacing missing or older parts,

  • Creating cost savings by allowing as-built design services, for example in automotive manufacturing plants,

  • "Bringing the plant to the engineers" with web shared scans, and

  • Saving travel costs.

    3. Entertainment

    4. 3D photography

    5. Law enforcement

  • Crime scenes

  • Bullet trajectories

  • Bloodstain pattern analysis

  • Accident reconstruction

  • Bombings

  • Plane crashes, and more

    6. Reverse engineering

    7. Real estate

    8. Virtual/remote tourism

    9. Cultural heritage

    10. Medical CAD/CAM

    11. Quality assurance and industrial metrology

    12. Circumvention of shipping costs and international import/export tariffs,


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