How Does the 3D Laser Scanning Process Work?

How Does the 3D Laser Scanning Process Work?

3D scanning refers to the process of accurately and quickly inserting the collected measurements of an object into a computer system in an organized way, resulting in 3D scan data. A 3D graphical rendering or a scale digital model is used to represent the 3D scan data. A computer user is then able to calculate all physical dimensions of the object, including width, length, height, feature location, surface area, feature size and more.

3D scan data acts as a bridge between modern manufacturing and physical objects. Data is first converted into computer-aided design (CAD) model , which then offers an infinite number of real world applications in various computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools that are available to us.

How it Works?

A 3D scanner is a device used for capturing 3D information. A number of methods are used for capturing 3D data of a physical object. Different scanners are used for collecting different types of 3D data.

Types of 3D Scanners

Scanners can be categorized according to how they collect and process 3D information. There are generally three different scanning methods available: laser triangulation, phase shift and time of flight. While the three technologies are generally applied independently, a number of scanning systems use a combination of these methods for collection of even more significant scanning results. Some popular hybrid laser technologies include conoscopic holography and accordion fringe interferometry.

Laser Triangulation

This scanning method is achieved by projecting a laser point or line onto the object. The reflection of light is captured using a sensor located at a distance from the source of laser light. Interpretation of reflection angle yields the 3D measurements of the object.

Phase Shift

These scanners compare the phase shift of reflected laser light with a standard phase to reveal the 3D coordinates of the object.

Time of Flight

A time of flight scanner captures and scans laser light reflected off an object. It uses the time difference between emission and capture of light to determine the coordinates of the object.

White Light Scanning

It involves the use of multiple projection patterns as well as multiple sensors to capture 3D data. 3D coordinates are interpreted by analyzing the change in shape of project against the referenced standards.


This technology is based on projective geometry and standard photography. It was first used to create digital blueprints of large objects, such as warehouses and buildings. It involves taking multiple images of the object from different angles. Different reference points are established in each photo. The reference points are used to get 3D aspects of the photographed object.

Coordinate Measuring Machine

Also known as CMM, a coordinate measuring machine has movable probes. A series of encoders are placed along each axis of the machine to determine the position of the probe. The encoders are designed to accurately track the probe’s movement. The probes physically contact the object to collect its measurement.

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