3D scanning is different from the regular scanning most of us are familiar with. Instead of recording 2D information from a picture or object placed on the glass, such as text, grayscale images, or color photographs; 3D scanners pick up positional information from the surface of an object, registering the location of points in space so that a 3D model of a form can be reconstructed. The means used to do this range from hand-held digitizing arms which capture a point at a time, to automated touch-probes that capture points by moving a sensitive needle over the surface of an object, to laser light beams that can record surface information from an object without touching it at all. Whether you’re trying to “reverse-engineer” a model from an existing part or measuring an irregular space for custom-fit hardware, scaling down an object you’ve sculpted to use in jewelry, making a right-facing part from a left-facing one, or creating a virtual model from a natural form or an archaeological artifact, these machines can save you a lot of time and effort in the modeling process.
3D scanning allows one to produce CAD models without having to construct each feature from scratch. Instead, one can start from an existing physical object and capture its surface geometry very quickly. Once the object has been converted to “virtual” form, it can be manipulated in various ways.