3D Scanners: The Cheap, The Good, and the Disappointment

Have you ever wanted to get a good 3D scan of your dog or cat? It’s going to be tough and will likely cost you more than a few treats. It’s easier to scan inanimate objects simply because they aren’t going to wiggle. With some determination, though, it’s possible to get that scan in so you can make your pet the star of the next animated movie or just print off 3D models of your favorite dog or cat. If you can get your pet to hold still long enough to hold still long enough to get a 3D scan, though, these 3D scanners work well for the job.

This is what 3D printing can do when you can get a good scan.

It should be noted, though, that it’s nearly impossible to get a truly good 3D scanner cheaply. Most of the good industrial-level scanners cost at least a few thousand dollars. It’s worth it if you’re serious about creating high-fidelity 3D models of people’s pets as part of your business model because getting a truly good 3D scan of a living animal is difficult enough without dealing with subpar equipment. However, if your intent is to save a few bucks, you may be better off not buying one at all.

iSense 3D Scanner for iPhone 6 Kit

This is a portable 3D scanner that work with your iPhone 6 and 6+. Basically, you can do a quick 3D scan of any object you come across if it would be unfeasible to take that object back to your 3D printing lab. It’s advertised as a way to surprise friends and family with a little action figure of them that you sent to your additive manufacturing machine from your iPhone. There were some complaints about not being able to access scans that people sent to the cloud service, but you can retrieve your scans through iTunes if you want. Don’t expect a huge amount of detail from the scans you get, but if your aim is to get something that’s somewhat better than a Lego figurine from a handheld scanner, this is a favorite. One might wish they made a version of this for Android (maybe the manufacturer had some kind of intellectual property-related issue?) but it works well for its stated purpose of basically being the field model of the 3D scanning world.

DAVID SLS-2 3D Scanner

This one’s for people who are actually serious about getting the fine details when scanning an object. One customer who uses this one to scan his handmade clay models says that it’ll even pick up the fingerprints on the models. It’s just that good and can get a scan quality that’s nearly identical to a comparable Nextengine in less time. There’s no OSX version of the software, but if you aren’t going to be using this with a Mac, you probably aren’t going to care. You do want to spend extra time calibrating this, preferably with a calibration tool at a 90-degee angle. The instructions are clear and concise and, if you find anything confusing, there are a few tutorials on Youtube. It’s pricier than the handheld model, but like most things in the 3D printing and scanning world, you can spend a few hundred bucks on cheap junk or you can spend a few thousand bucks on a good “value for the money” machine like this one.

MakerBot Digitizer

Yes, there is a Makerbot scanner, but it’s not really for industrial use or people with high expectations. Basically, if you’re looking to get an industrial level scanner for less than $1000, you’re going to be disappointed even when you go with a well-known company like Makerbot. It’ll handle things like coffee mugs and piggy banks if the lighting is perfect, but it won’t do very well with objects that have sharp angles or attempts to scan in poor lighting conditions. Even then, it can take several scans to get a perfect capture of the object. It only works with MakerBot 3D printers if you’re scanning stuff to print. Tech support does not seem to know a ton about this product if you go by the experience of people who made multiple calls in an attempt to fix problems. A lot of people ended up returning it. It’s hoped that Makerbot, which actually does make good hobby-level 3D printers, will go back and fix the problems mentioned in the reviews for future generations of the Digitizer.

3D Scanners on eBay

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