The legendary science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said, “any advanced form of science will be indistinguishable from magic.” This is definitely true of 3D scanning. How else can you describe an object capable of making detailed recreations of real-world objects and works of art?

It's no surprise that the 3D scanner industry has doubled in size since 2014.

The 3D scanner industry is truly vast in scope. There are a head-swirling array of different makes, models, types, and sizes of 3D scanners. With 3D scanners, size is in no way indicative of quality.

Today we're going to take a look at handheld 3D scanners. There is all manner of applications that call for a lightweight, portable 3D scanner. Keep reading to learn a few of the endless benefits of handheld 3D scanners.


Faster Prototyping

A handheld 3D scanner speeds up and enhances the design process in a major way. In the past, only the biggest companies had access to the tools to make mock-ups for their physical designs in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The ability to create detailed prototypes quickly gives a company an enormous advantage in the marketplace.

Handheld 3D scanners optimize the physical design process in numerous ways. Some are obvious while others are surprising and innovative.


Improves Communication

"A picture's worth a thousand words," as the saying goes. How many words is an actual, tangible object that you can see, touch, and hold in your hands worth?

Having a 3D prototype removes all manner of potential miscommunications. After all, everyone working on the design process understands they're looking at the same object. This alone is worth investigating the potential of portable 3D scanners if you're involved in physical manufacturing in any regard.

Tools like this are invaluable in today's decentralized digital workplace. They're only going to become more so as the world continues its evolution towards the virtual. Having detailed 3D scans means that anyone with access to a 3D printer can print out the design.

Even a design team working on the other side of the globe can have an exact replica of the 3D design you're working on.

A 3D printer isn't even necessary to enjoy the advantages of a 3D scanner. The prevalence of powerful 3D modeling platforms like Blender means that anyone with access to a computer can explore a detailed, lifelike replica of the object you've scanned.


Augmented Design

3D scanning lets you bring physical objects into the digital world. This has all manner of potential benefits.

The ability to try out different iterations and make minute changes without having to make a new prototype is the most obvious, but that's just the beginning.

3D scanning is one of the cornerstones of augmented reality. Having a 3D rendering of a physical object means you can experiment with that object in real-time, in actual space.

Say you're manufacturing coffee tables. First, you make a 3D scan of your prototype. Then retailers and potential customers could use that scan to audition that coffee table in their actual space.

They might discover that it's a little too long. Knowing this ahead of time offers the potential of making customized products in a way that was only available to the very wealthy in other times.

Augmented reality can enhance your design process in some less obvious, even more exciting ways, however. Importing a physical object into the digital realm opens up the possibility of using emerging new disciplines like machine learning to further refine the things you're manufacturing.

Artificial intelligence and mathematical modeling can figure out the optimal ergonomics of a physical object, based on users' preferences and feedback, in a way that would have required an entire room of statisticians in an earlier era.

Even if they have the mathematical skills to make a statistical model to improve your design, there's still no guarantee they'd have the manufacturing experience to bring those insights into real life.


Merge Physical Objects

3D scanning makes the impossible possible. Once you've got a 3D scan of an object, it's then possible to combine that object with other objects that you've 3D modeled.

Consider the #Woodvetia campaign from Schweizerholz (Swiss Wood) and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. This campaign was designed to show off wood's potential as a manufacturing material.

For this project, the artist Inigo Gheyselinck first creates a detailed 3D bust of a historical figure. Once it's complete, he scans the bust with a handheld 3D scanner. Once the model's complete, he sends the specifications to a CNC lathe.

The bust is then carved out of wood in exact detail.

Creating a 3D scan not only allows designers to combine objects in the physical world, it also opens up the possibility of mass-producing those detailed objects once they're scanned.


Collaborative Design

“Many hands make light work,” as another saying goes. “Two heads are better than one,” another one reminds us.

If two heads are better than one, what about ten? There is literally no downplaying the potential of collaboration in the design process.

We've all got our strengths. Even more, we all see things in unique ways. Creating a 3D scan opens your design process up to collaboration and input from your fellow designers. Even better, these collaborators aren't limited by geographical distance.

3D scanning an object lets you work with fellow designers anywhere on Earth. Indonesia, Morocco, Egypt, or Korea might as well be next door. Distance is no longer a factor once you've scanned an object with a handheld 3D scanner.

This remote collaboration allows design professionals to advance in their professional careers, as well. Their work can spread further and faster than at any other time in history.

This is good for designers and the design industry alike!


Create Special Effects

Handheld 3D scanning isn't only for manufacturing. It can be a major boon for special effects artists and film-makers wanting to create detailed special effects on a budget.

Handheld 3D scanners can be used to create detailed renderings of props, sets, or even actors on location. This was solely the terrain of the largest movie studios not that long ago. Now even indie film-makers can make use of tools that were winning big ticket blockbusters like Avatar Oscars not that long ago.

3D scanning movie elements opens up the possibility of doing practical effects in the digital realm. There's no need for strings or trick wires to make a broom levitate like a game of Quidditch.

Digital FX have come an astounding way in the last ten years. Handheld 3D scanners mean that even directors working with modest means can make use of this emerging technology.


Accident Recreation

The creative industry isn't the only realm that's making use of 3D scanners. A number of fields and industries are using 3D scanning in incredibly serious circumstances to quite literally save lives.

Forensic investigators have been using 3D scanners to create stunning, detailed 3D renderings of crime scenes and accident sites. Once a 3D scan's been made, investigators can explore the 3D scan at length and at their own leisure.

3D scanning for crime scene investigation has any number of potentially revolutionary applications. It opens up the possibility of collaborating with distant agencies, for starters. There might be some genius in accident vectors living in Osaka, Japan, who might be the only person on Earth who can crack a case.

It also has implications for verifying the chain of evidence. In the future, perhaps some combination of 3D scanning, time-stamping, and a verification process like the blockchain could help eliminate the possibility of crime scene tampering.

Law enforcement aren't the only ones who might make use of 3D scanning for crime scene investigation. Insurance agencies might use these same methods to help investigate claims.

These insights can even be useful for auto manufacturers. Once an accident site has been analyzed, manufacturers can analyze the data for useful patterns. Having detailed mathematical models of actual accidents could help auto manufacturers create safer, more ergonomic automobile parts.

3D scanning is only going to keep becoming more prevalent as our world becomes increasingly virtual. Companies of all kinds need to take advantage of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning if they hope to keep up with the competition. It's also a vital step towards breaking away from the past and truly embracing the future.


Looking for a Handheld 3D Scanner?

Handheld 3D scanners are offering a revolution in nearly every industry. Increasingly accessible and affordable, even small business owners can now make the most of this exciting new technology.

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