3D Scanning Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Everything You Need to Know About 3D Scanning And Our Services

What is 3D scanning and what are it’s use cases

A 3D scanner captures the shape of an object using lasers or other light-based technologies. The data from the scanner is then used to create a CAD model of the object. This process called 3D scanning. As a new technology, many are unaware of the potential and use cases of a 3D scanners. Here we try to answer your most frequently asked questions about 3D scanners and its applications. We will try our best to regularly update this page.

RAF 3D - technician working on a 3D scanning project

How does 3D scanning work? What ARE point clouds?

A point cloud system is a method for collecting and storing 3D scan data. A point cloud is a collection of points in space that represent an object. By measuring the distance between each point in the cloud, which is defined by its coordinates, a detailed 3D representation of the object can be created.
Another way to obtain 3D scan data is through the use of light reflection, which can be achieved with an LED or laser scanner. The device sends out a beam of light, and the light that reflects off the object is captured to obtain information about its shape and dimensions. This information is then used to create a digital representation of the object in a virtual environment.
Another way to obtain 3D scan data is through photogrammetry, which involves capturing multiple images of an object from different perspectives and using software to combine them into a single representation. This representation can then be used to generate a textured digital model of the object.
Once the data has been gathered, it can be used to generate a virtual replica of the object, known as a digital twin, which is an exact copy of the real-world object but in digital form.
3d scanned data in form of cloud points

What are the different types of 3D scanners?

Several types of 3D scanners are available on the market today. They include handheld scanners, arm scanners, laser trackers, and 3D ultrasound.

Handheld scanners are the most common type of 3D scanner. They are typically small and lightweight, making them easy to carry around. They scan an object from multiple angles and then create a 3D model from the data.

Arm-mounted scanners, which are typically used in industrial settings, are more expensive and larger than handheld scanners. They operate by attaching the scanner to an arm and moving it around the object being scanned. Due to the fixed orientation provided by the arm or linkage, these scanners can achieve greater accuracy compared to handheld scanners.

Laser trackers are the most accurate 3D scanners available. They use laser technology to track the scanner’s movement and create an accurate digital model. However, they also come with a high cost. These scanners are primarily used in construction projects and can also be mounted on drones to create detailed 3D maps of both rural and urban areas for development purposes.

3D ultrasound is a medical version scanner that uses sound waves to create a 3D image of an object. It is non-invasive and does not require contact with the object being scanned. A 3D ultrasound scanner is usually used to do scans of babies.

RAF 3D uses a handheld laser 3D scanner with LED light and Color scanning capability. We do not offer Large scale environmental and construction scanning at this moment.

Preparing an item with white powder for 3D scanning

How accurate is 3D scanning?

Our handheld 3D scanner is highly accurate, with the capability to capture details as small as 0.04 mm under Laser Scan mode and a minimum point distance of 0.05 mm. However, it’s important to note that accuracy is not the only important aspect of 3D scanning. The data quality also plays a crucial role in determining the final quality of the 3D model. A scanner may have a high level of accuracy. Still, if it fails to produce high-quality data, the resulting 3D model will be of inferior quality.


  • The accuracy is usually expressed as the distance between each cloud point.

What are the limitations of 3D scanners?

3D scanning, like any other technology, has its own limitations. One of the limitations is the size of an object. Large objects can be more challenging to scan as they require more resources to calculate and store the cloud points data, and may need multiple scans to capture a complete picture. Another limitation is the level of detail that a 3D scanner can capture. Generally, the larger the object, the lower the scan resolution. This is due to the fact that resources are usually limited. Additionally, scanners may struggle to capture small holes.

Which 3D scanning service suits your need?

Handheld 3D scanners are suitable for small to medium size objects, such as scanning automobile parts, car body panels, and even airplane engines. For capturing color and textured materials such as art and statues, you can use either structured light scanning with a camera or photogrammetry-based scanning.
High-definition surveying (HDS), also known as laser scanning, is better for environmental and construction level scanning as it can capture large areas by shooting laser to far distances; however, it is more expensive and requires specialized training.
There are other applications, such as high-detail scanning and 3D dental scan, but they’re very specialized and have yet to become as popular.
Our scanner can scan in Laser mode for great details, in LED mode for Rapid scanning and fast turnarounds, or do color scanning to capture the object’s texture.
We do not currently offer industrial large-scale 3D scanning services such as site surveying or very high-resolution 3D scanning services such as jewelry scanning.

Why use 3D scanning?

In the past, creating a 3D model of an object required manually taking measurements and inputting them into a CAD program, which was a time-consuming and error-prone process. With the advent of 3D scanning technology, it is now possible to quickly and accurately capture the dimensions of an object and create a digital model. This technology has revolutionized the way we create 3D models.

Once you have a CAD model of an object, you can use it to create multiple copies without having to rescan the original object each time. This can be helpful if you need to develop various prototypes or if you want to mass-produce a product. Overall, 3D scanning is a powerful tool that saves time and money.

RAF 3D - laser 3D scanning method

Can you 3D scan with your phone?

Yes, there are photogrammetry and lidar scanning apps, but quality and accuracy are far from a professional-grade scanner. While playing around with 3D scanning with a phone can be fun as a hobby, we strongly suggest you use professional 3D scanning services for your professional workloads.

Can you 3D scan with an iPhone?

The short answer is YES.

If your iPhone has lidar like the iPhone 12, you’ll be able to 3D scan using cloud points. However, if you don’t have lidar, you will need to use photogrammetry instead.

Photogrammetry is the process of taking 2D photos and turning them into 3D models. It is a bit more complicated than lidar, but it can still produce good results.

There are a few different apps you can use for photogrammetry, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. For professional applications, we highly recommend using high-fidelity 3d scanners.

Cloud points turned into a solid model after getting 3d scanned


Automobile, manufacturing, aerospace, art and history, VFX and film, homicide and law enforcement, and healthcare are only a handful of industries that benefit greatly from 3D scanning.

How do specific industries use 3D scanning?

In automobile and aerospace, 3D scanning is usually used to speed up aftermarket product design. In the medical industry, 3D scanning is used to create models of body parts for pre-operative planning and the creation of prosthetics and implants. In the entertainment industry, 3D scanning is used to create models and assets for video games, movies, and theme park rides. In art and history, 3D scanning is used to preserve a digital copy of an asset or to have a detailed scan of a sculpture for later 3D printing or general archiving.

How would 3D scanning speed up reverse engineering?

Reverse engineering is taking a physical product and figuring out how it was made. Reverse engineering is often used to create a new product or improve upon an existing one. In the past, reverse engineering was time-consuming and expensive because it required creating a solid model from scratch. 3D scanning has changed all that. Now, engineers can quickly and easily create a highly accurate 3D model of an existing product using scan data. Once the scan data is captured, it can be imported into a CAD program, where it can be used to create a solid model of the product. 3D scans also eliminate the need for many different metrology tools. For example, it is much easier to measure the radius of a feature off of a 3D scan, rather than measuring it from the object in the real world. The entire process is much faster and more efficient than traditional methods.

3D scanning also has the added benefit of capturing the exact dimensions of an existing product. This is especially helpful when trying to reverse engineer something that doesn’t have any drawings or documentation available. By having an accurate 3D model, engineers can more easily determine how the product was made.

A decorative statue getting 3D scanned with LED scanning method

Can you scan something and 3D print it?

Yes, you can scan something and 3D print it. This is done by creating a solid object model using CAD modeling software. Once the solid model is created, it can be 3D printed.

How long does a 3D scan take?

This question is very subjective as it depends on the size, location, number of details, and many other variables. We usually ask our clients to email us photos and rough dimensions of the part to come up with an estimate.

how much do 3D scans cost?

Depending on the application, it can cost anywhere from $100 to over $500 an hour. We charge $125 per hour regardless of the scanning method, and our applications usually take 2 to 4 hours to scan. We also offer daily rates for 10 hours with a heavy discount and a subscription model for recurring customers like product designers.


3D scanned item ready for 3D printing cura slicer


Once a 3D scan is complete, it is typically saved in a mesh file format such as 3MF, STL, or OBJ. These file formats can be easily imported into most CAD applications, allowing you to use the scanned data to create detailed models. However, it’s important to note that the units of measurement in the scan must match the units set in the CAD program. For example, suppose the scan is in millimeters. In that case, the program’s measurement unit must also be set to millimeters for the model to be accurate.

3D scanned items usually have very high polygon numbers, so we suggest you reduce them before importing them into your CAD software and turning them into a cad model.

Some of the most known applications are Autodesk Fusion, SOLIDWORKS , Rhino, Autodesk Maya, Blender, Cinema 4d, Prusa Slicer and many others.

What is the final file format?

We offer STL, 3MF, and OBJ depending on the scan type and the project requirements. There is no extra charge for providing any of the listed file formats.

Anything else to know?

You may need to send your 3D scans to a CAD service provider to reverse engineer your parts. We do not offer such a service at this time.
While RAF 3D does not offer 3D printing services, we know a great 3D printing service provider, and we’re more than happy to take your business to them.
A good rule of thumb is to let your 3D scanning provider know if you need the file for 3D printing or reverse engineering and prototyping. This way, you’ll get a file to optimize for your needs.

Do you offer professional 3D scanning services?

Yes. RAF3D offers professional handheld 3D scanning services to many industries in Lower Mainland, BC. We provide on-site services, but you can also either drop your parts to us or we can offer pickup and delivery for an additional cost. Please contact us if you’re looking for 3D scanning services near you.