Choosing the Right 3D Scanner

3D scanners are used to create digital 3D models of real objects. They work similarly to a camera, the difference is that they capture images of the volume of objects. From these images, a digital model is created, which can be rotated and viewed from different angles on a computer. With the development of digital technologies, 3D scanners have become an essential tool in many sectors of activity, including healthcare, such as digital dentistry or the medical device industry.

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  • What are the main applications of 3D scanners in healthcare?

    Your choice of a 3D scanner will depend on its intended use. In the health sector, we can distinguish two areas in which this technology is used: digital dentistry and medical applications.

    In digital dentistry, specially designed scanners are used to scan the inside of the oral cavity. Dental 3D scanners offer a number of advantages in areas such as:

    • Implantology
    • Dental prosthesis laboratories
    • Dental offices, where they are an alternative to traditional molding techniques

    3D scanners are also used in various medical applications, such as:

    • Surgery planning
    • Manufacturing and quality control of medical devices

    iTero 3D dental scanner

    Monoscan 3D scanner for manufacturing hearing aids

  • What are the different scanning technologies?

    There are various optical scanning technologies. In the health sector, laser and structured light technologies are the most common.

    • Laser scanning

    This technique is mainly based on laser triangulation, which is when a laser beam is projected onto the object to scan and determine its exact geometry.

    – Advantages: The high resolution and precision it provides are the main advantages of this technique. In addition, the scanners that use this offer good value for money and are therefore among the most widely used.

    – Disadvantages: The disadvantages relate to the extreme sensitivity of the laser to the physical properties of the surface being scanned. This technique is not suitable for scanning transparent and/or reflective surfaces, for example.

    • Structured light scanning (white or blue light)

    This consists of projecting a series of light patterns onto the object to be scanned.

    – Advantages: This technology is appreciated for its precision and speed. Structured light scanners provide quality results with good resolution for medium to large objects. As such, they can be used to scan people’s entire bodies.

    – Disadvantages: One of the main disadvantages is the sensitivity to ambient light, which can be problematic when scanning outdoors, for example.

  • Which configuration should you choose for a 3D scanner?

    There are handheld, benchtop, and booth-type 3D scanners for body scanning. The configuration is generally related to the intended use of the equipment.

    • Handheld 3D scanners: Compact and lightweight, these offer several advantages, such as making it possible to scan objects that are difficult to access. They are more versatile than 3D body scanners, as you can move them around the person to scan them. However, to obtain accurate results, the person must remain perfectly still throughout the scanning phase. For this reason, handheld scanners are used more for scanning limbs than the whole body. In dentistry, intraoral scanners are very common.
    • Benchtop 3D scanners: Also called desktop scanners, are recommended for scanning small to medium-sized objects. In general, they offer more precision and higher resolution than handheld models.
    • 3D body scanners: These are generally large systems equipped with various sensors that allow you to scan a patient from head to toe or just a part of the body.

    Carestream 3D intraoral scanner

    Myray benchtop 3D scanner

  • How much does a 3D scanner cost?

    The price varies according to the applications and scanning technology. However, to give you an idea of the initial investment you’ll have to make, here are the price ranges:

    • Basic 3D scanner: between 100 and 1,000 euros
    • Professional 3D scanner: between 1,000 and 10,000 euros
    • Top-of-the-range 3D scanner: between 5,000 and 32,000 euros
  • What are the most important characteristics for the performance of a 3D scanner?

    To evaluate the performance of a 3D scanner, you need to pay attention to several of its technical characteristics, such as accuracy, resolution, range, scanning speed, ease of use, the quality of the processing software, and the capture and representation of colors.

    • Accuracy: Indicates the maximum absolute difference between the actual value and the value measured by the device. This is generally around a micron.
    • Resolution: Corresponds to the smallest possible distance between two points in a 3D model. To obtain an extremely detailed 3D model, you need a high-resolution 3D scanner. However, the higher the resolution, the heavier the digital model will be and therefore the longer it will take to process.
    • Range: A 3D scanner’s range is very important. If you have to scan objects 100 meters away, for example, you’ll need a long-range scanner.
    • Scanning speed: The scanning speed varies from one model to another. As a rule, scanners with higher precision take longer to scan.
    • Ease of use: A scanner’s ease of use is important, as this could affect the efficiency of the entire work process. The easier the scanner is to use, the faster the workflow.
    • Quality of the processing software: A sophisticated 3D scanner, capable of digitizing objects of different sizes, requires advanced 3D software. Software capable of processing input data quickly and without errors is essential to obtain the best possible results.
    • Color capture and representation: Scanners that capture color offer a more realistic representation of the scanned object.

    It’s important to remember that all these features must be considered based on the type of objects you intend to scan, which means that choosing a 3D scanner depends on its intended use.

  • Are 3D scanners dangerous for your health?

    As mentioned above, 3D scanners use optical technologies and do not emit ionizing radiation. They simply project light onto the object to be scanned and therefore pose no health risks.

    However, certain lasers can be dangerous for the eyes, so it is essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

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