How Does 3D Scanning Work?

3D laser scanning has proven to be useful in a variety of industries over the last few years. From construction and architecture to reverse engineering, 3D scanning is setting a new standard for industrial professionals. However, choosing the best 3D scanning companies for your needs is a complicated task—as with any other technological device, there are numerous factors to consider.

A variety of factors influence how much it may cost to 3D scan something. In this guide, we’ll go over the main factors that influence the cost of 3D scanning, as well as why working with experts is your best option when looking for professional 3D scanning companies.

How Does 3D Scanning Work?

3D scanning is the process of analyzing an object in the real world in order to collect all of the data needed to digitally recreate its shape and appearance. This process converts the object into a 3D model, which can be used as a foundation for the 3D project you are about to create, but it can also be used to reconstruct, analyze, or simulate ideas.

Laser 3D scanning is without a doubt the most common and widely used technique in capturing the shape of an object digitally, with the use of laser light to create a digital representation of the real object.

3D scanners can measure extremely fine details and capture free-form shapes—resulting in highly accurate point clouds. This method is ideal for measuring and inspecting complex geometries and enables the collection of measurements and data from locations where traditional methods are impractical.

Costs of 3D Scanners

Should you just buy a 3D scanner and do it yourself? When shopping for a 3D laser scanner, you can expect to see a variety of price ranges, and the overall prices vary greatly depending on the model. It can range from a few hundred dollars to around $50,000 for more advanced 3D scanners.

For example, the price range for a handheld 3D scanner is extremely broad. However, industrial 3D scanners typically have more advanced features and higher precision. As a result, their prices can be quite high.

$200 – $1,500

3D laser scanners in this price range are more finicky and require the user to do some work in order for the software to function properly. These options are small and foldable, but due to the lower fixed scan quality, it usually requires multiple scans.

$1,500 – $5,000

3D laser scanners in this price range typically perform better and are simpler to use. However, 3D scanners at this price point typically require the user to have some prior 3D file knowledge in order to operate smoothly, so some learning may be required on your end.

Over $5,000

These 3D scanners are optimized, accurate, and simple to use, even for everyday tasks.

The Cost of a 3D Scanner Can Range Because of the Size

The overall size of the object or a part that you need to scan is one of the first and most important factors to consider when planning your scanning budget. A larger object will typically take more time and scans to complete than a smaller object. If you plan to buy a scanner, make sure that the model you choose can capture the object sizes that you require.

Here are a Few More Things to Consider When Purchasing a 3D Scanner

The Geometry of an Object or Part

The second important factor to consider is whether an object’s geometry is complex or simple. Scanning a simple object with no elaborate details is much easier and faster than scanning a surface with complex object features such as holes, fine lines, sharp edges, overhangs, threads, and so on.

Number of Parts and Objects 

The more objects or parts you need to capture, the more resources you’ll need to scan large objects and process them, whether you plan to do it in-house or outsource it. Each part of an object, or multiple medium-sized objects, must still be scanned separately and may necessitate a different scanning process workflow.

Accuracy and Resolution

Another important factor to consider when calculating scanning costs is the accuracy and resolution of the final 3D model. Different scanners have different technical specifications, and the technology that powers them defines their resolution and accuracy parameters.

The higher the quality control, speed, precision, and predictability of the results, the more advanced the hardware and software on board.


Color is another factor that influences the overall scanning cost. Color scans and a true likeness of an entire object are required for some applications. And in some cases, such as when you only need to measure an object, that isn’t necessary.


3D scanning is typically just one component of a larger workflow. Every application has its own set of requirements, whether it’s a scan of a broken car part that needs to be repaired, a scan of a chair for an online store, or a scan of a foot for custom orthotics. The data captured by a scanner must be further processed and prepared before it can be used.

Complex Scanning Conditions and Materials

Some reflective surfaces can be difficult to capture as-is and may require additional time spent on preparation, spraying with a washable or vanishing scanning spray, and cleaning up afterward. In addition, some scanners require a special setup and the use of additional accessories, such as targets, to successfully scan larger objects.

Leave Your 3D Scanning Project to the Professionals

3D scanning service providers are experts in the application of 3D scanning in various industries. They have a skilled crew with the necessary tools and experience required for a complex project, making it wiser to leave your intensive projects to these professionals.

And with all the breakthroughs constantly happening due to the increased experimentation in the world of 3D technology, it would definitely be more prudent to hire experienced 3D scanning services rather than buying and using your own 3D scanner. What’s “cutting edge” today, could very well be tomorrow’s last-gen.

Tangent Solutions’ Triangulation Technology

Tangent Solutions combines the latest in structured light scanning technology along with our 15 years of CAD design knowledge to help you bring your ideas to life. Our laser triangulation technology uses high-precision scanners to help companies in a variety of industries get their products to market faster and with less overhead.

To provide a complete end-to-end solution for any design challenge, we offer a comprehensive set of 3D services, including drafting, reverse engineering, rendering, and 3D printing.

Our professionals use cutting-edge technology and expertise to provide clients with extremely precise virtual information and models, and we are proud to be a leading provider of 3D scan solutions.

Build Your Vision With Use Tangent

The best 3D scanner allows you to capture a 3D image of a real-world object in all its detail. You can take more precise measurements by controlling the infrared light and positioning the subject, rather than relying on guesswork as to where the 3D positions triangulate.

Whatever your project is, we hope you now have a better understanding of what 3D scanning costs. If you think you’re ready to buy a 3D scanner for your project after reading this comprehensive read and want to learn more about 3D scanners, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Eliminate the guesswork in your project.  Get our team of highly qualified and experienced experts to provide you with outstanding work.

Contact us at 949-345-0611 at Tangent Solutions today!

Sean Kepler

Sean is lead engineer with his previous career stemming from mechanical engineering, automotive dynamics, and aerospace. Pulling from real-world experience, he has over 15 years of experience as a designer and in fabrication. Before creating Tangent Solutions, Sean was the lead designer for many winning off-road race teams as well as mass-market production companies

About Tangent Solutions

Tangent Solutions offers the latest in 3D scanning technology paired with 15 years of CAD design experience, to bring your ideas to reality. Our team specializes in reverse engineering and data verification.