If you have a 3D printer, you have probably downloaded and printed a few objects, and then moved on to building your own — only to realize that 3D modeling is difficult. Often, it is easier to model an object in clay and then scan it, or just scan an existing object. That’s what the $400 Sense 3D scanner from 3D Systems does: scans an object and creates a 3D model that can be modified on a computer and printed from a 3D printer or online printing service.
Overall, it does a good job of scanning large objects quickly and producing high-quality 3D models. It does have limitations, though: It can’t do small objects, doesn’t always pick up fine details and can’t handle transparent or shiny objects.
How the Sense 3D scanner works
The Sense 3D scanner itself is pretty light, and looks like it could double as a ray gun at a sci-fi convention. You hold it in your hand and move around the object to scan it. The scanner projects a patterned infrared (IR) beam onto the object from the bottom opening that is then detected by the middle webcam. On the PC (Windows only), the included software then translates the information into the shape of the object. At the top of the Sense is a normal webcam, which the same software uses to translate the images it captures into the surface colors of the object.