A 3D scanner is a device that analyses 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 three-dimensional models.
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.
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.

3D scanners are used by the entertainment industry to create digital 3D models for movies, video games and leisure purposes. They are heavily utilised in virtual cinematography. In cases where a real-world equivalent of a model exists, it is much faster to scan the real-world object than to manually create a model using 3D modeling software. Frequently, artists sculpt physical models of what they want and scan them into digital form rather than directly creating digital models on a computer.

3D photography

3D scanners are evolving for the use of cameras to represent 3D objects in an accurate manner. Companies are emerging since 2010 that create 3D portraits of people (3D figurines or 3D selfies).

Law enforcement

3D laser scanning is used by the law enforcement agencies around the world. 3D Models are used for on-site documentation of 

*Crime scenes

*Bullet trajectories
*Bloodstain pattern analysis
*Accident reconstruction
*Plane crashes, and more

Reverse engineering
Reverse engineering of a mechanical component requires a precise digital model of the objects to be reproduced. Rather than a set of points a precise digital model can be represented by a polygon mesh, a set of flat or curved NURBS surfaces, or ideally for mechanical components, a CAD solid model. A 3D scanner can be used to digitise free-form or gradually changing shaped components as well as prismatic geometries whereas a coordinate measuring machine is usually used only to determine simple dimensions of a highly prismatic model. These data points are then processed to create a usable digital model, usually using specialized reverse engineering software.

Real estate

Land or buildings can be scanned into a 3d model, which allows buyers to tour and inspect the property remotely, anywhere, without having to be present at the property. There is already at least one company providing 3d-scanned virtual real estate tours. A typical virtual tour would consist of dollhouse view, inside view, as well as a floor plan.

Virtual/Remote Tourism

The environment at a place of interest can be captured and converted into a 3D model. This model can then be explored by the public, either through a VR interface or a traditional “2D” interface. This allows the user to explore locations which are inconvenient for travel.

Cultural heritage

There have been many research projects undertaken via the scanning of historical sites and artifacts both for documentation and analysis purposes.

The combined use of 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies allows the replication of real objects without the use of traditional plaster casting techniques, that in many cases can be too invasive for being performed on precious or delicate cultural heritage artifacts. In an example of a typical application scenario, a gargoyle model was digitally acquired using a 3D scanner and the produced 3D data was processed using MeshLab. The resulting digital 3D model was fed to a rapid prototyping machine to create a real resin replica of the original object.


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