3D Laser Scanning Equipment Features to Look For

The global 3D scanning market is expected to reach USD 8.04 billion by 2025 due to its growing use in healthcare, aerospace, architecture, engineering, and automotive as well as other manufacturing sectors. While this market growth reveals its vital importance across sectors, it tends to obscure the challenges inherent in the laser scanningdecision process.

While there are numerous laser scanning product choices available, they are not all created equal. The same holds true for their many market and sector uses and applications. Consequently, decision makers must have a clear understanding of those potential uses as well as the key features to look for in 3D laser scanning equipment to make the best-informed selection.


There are numerous application uses across many industries and sectors for 3D laser scanners that include:

  • Benchmarking to evaluate a process, such as total cost to manufacture, product defect/deviation ratios, manufacturing cycle time, unplanned machine downtime, and more.
  • The prototyping process for efficient checks of dimensional and tolerance accuracy, to CAD drawings for production runs
  • Additive manufacturing processes for cost effective process control, and production fabrication superiority
  • Reverse engineering processes to enable accurate modeling design and production, where CAD drawings may not exist
  • Historic Preservation for conducting structure scanning and analysis without compromising the original objects or enabling architectural replication, forensic investigation and restoration
  • Dimensional Inspections, Root Cause Analysis, and In-Process Testing for ensuring adherence to precise specifications and tolerances., complete collection of incident and problem data for thorough situation assessment pinpoint defect origins, raw material/component acceptance testing, new material supply validation, and scale-up-to-manufacturing


Scan line Width and Point Density

3D laser scanner equipment effectiveness is defined by its sensor, but vendors often compromise either speed or accuracy in their systems when they design the scanner. Since the goal is capturing the most data points along the surface of the product, laser scanners must far exceed the common 2,000 points per line. Ideal systems produce a maximum greater than three times that amount to deliver the accuracy range that most industries need from a laser scanner.

Maximumscanning width is integral to that points per line total to reduce the number of passes and accelerates the scanning process. To that end, superior solutions provide a maximized scan line width of 80 to 150 mm, which exceeds the common 100mm of most scanners, thus increasing speed and accuracy.

Material Flexibility (surface reflectivity and standoff distance)

Material geometry and surface finish play an integral part in laser scanner accuracy. Consequently, the chosen system must provide accurate scanning without surface preparation, regardless of reflectivity.

In addition, complex product and part geometries harbor deep crevices that few laser scanners can penetrate with accuracy, so the standoff distance of the system must be maximized to enable that accuracy.


The warm-up time required for many systems to become thermally stable prior to use as well as calibration time adds both complexity and time to the laser scanning process. Therefore, it’s imperative to choose a system that eliminates these burdens so that end users have instantaneous use of the laser scanner with verifiable accuracy levels, without wait times or time consuming calibration tasks.


Portable CMMs cannot compromise portability for accuracy, so choosing an integrated laser scanner and CMM arm that is designed to enable infinite flexibility without compromising accuracy is vital so there is no drop in point data capture accuracy.

Modeling Software Compatibility (Point Cloud Processing)

The accuracy of the scanner and the detail of the point cloud that it produces must enable easy manipulation, error reduction and broad compatibility with the numerous industry standards in CAD modeling software. With millions of points in a given scan, it’s imperative to have the intuitive capability to manipulate those points and have near automatic elimination of unnecessary points for accurate modeling.

These features are equally important across the various application uses and industries. Unfortunately, few 3D laser scanning systems can provide that breadth of agility and uncompromising accuracy and feature set. That’s why it’s important for decision makers to decide whether they want to pay for affordable quality and accuracy now, or pay the higher price of inaccuracy and inflexibility that can cripple their bottom line.


  • James Rawstron

    James Rawstron is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence North America, located in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Rawstron has 20 years of marketing communications experience in the software, high tech, industrial, advanced manufacturing machinery and medical device markets. He has written numerous articles for B2B publications, including blogs for a variety of industries. Prior to joining Hexagon, Rawstron served as a web marketing professional at IBM and a Marketing Manager at Vector Software. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and European History from Union College of Schenectady, New York.

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