How Much Does 3D Scanning Cost?
When people start looking into 3D scanning to fulfill the needs of their business, one of their main questions is “How much will this cost me?”. The short answer is that it varies. At 3 Space, 3D scanning is billed as an hourly service. Our rates for scanning are between $100 and $200 per hour. However, 3D scanning is typically not the end of most projects. 3D scans are used either for QA/QC or turned into CAD via reverse engineering and these services are additional costs.
Below we have outlined the various factors that dictate how long and, therefore, the total cost of 3D scanning and subsequent services will be for your parts.
Geometry of the Part/Project
The primary factor that determines the cost of 3D scanning is the geometry of your part, with the overall size being the first consideration. Most 3D scanning technologies require taking more than one scan of an object to get a complete picture. Typically, the larger the object, the more scans it will require. Therefore, you can reasonably expect a scan of a larger object to cost more than a scan of a smaller object.
The second facet of the geometry of the desired product is the complexity. A flat surface will be much easier to scan than a surface with more complex features like pins, posts, holes, threads, and overhangs. A complex object will require more time using the scanner to capture every feature and provide a complete, accurate scan. For example, scanning all of the various surfaces of a car’s transmission housing would take much longer than it would to scan the same car’s fender, which is mostly featureless surfaces.
3D Scanning Technology
Every part is different and each 3D scanning technology has its strengths and weaknesses. Selecting the right technology for your parts will help ensure the fastest possible lead times and the lowest cost. The first consideration when selecting a 3D scanning technology is the minimum detail required for your project. The fastest scanning technology we offer may not yield the detail you need.
Additionally, not all 3D scanning technology can handle objects of any size. An object with a very large bounding box will require the use of a 3D scanner that has a large field of vision. If you were to choose a scanner with a small field of vision for a large object, the scan would take much longer than necessary and increase the price drastically.
To see what technology might best fit your needs, let’s examine the types of 3D scanning technology we currently utilize here at 3 Space:
Structured Light Scanning
This type of 3D scanning technology uses various light patterns projected onto an object to determine its measurements and make a scan. One “shot” is taken of the surface facing the cameras and projector, and then either the object is rotated or the scanner is moved around the object and another shot is taken. While this process may not be the fastest, the structured light scanner has a minimum feature size of 0.0002” making it the highest-resolution technology we offer. However, since a blue light scanner has a small field of vision, it isn’t recommended for large parts.
Additionally, structured light scanning struggles with both black and reflective surfaces. To scan such objects, we coat them with welding developer, which is essentially a washable white spray paint. If your parts can’t be painted, we would have to use a different technology at the cost of accuracy.
Our Faro laser scanner is the way to go for larger parts that don’t require the level of accuracy offered by blue light scanning. With this scanner, a laser is run over each face of the object. This scanner is attached to a moveable arm, which makes it a more agile scanner that can scan difficult to reach areas on an object. Additionally, a laser scanner performs much better when faced with black or reflective objects, so the objects will not need to be painted as with the blue light scanner.
Touch Probe Scanning
An additional feature on our laser scanner is a touch probe scanner, which can be used separately or in tandem with the laser scanner. The touch probe scanner allows more precise measurements as the probe is touched to various points on the object’s surface. This can help with particular areas of an object and makes it an excellent tool to use alongside the laser scanner. Furthermore, if you only need a few critical dimensions, rather than a scan of the entire object, we can get those measurements in a matter of minutes with the touch probe. This serves as a faster, albeit less precise, alternative to CMM.
As we mentioned at the beginning, 3D scanning is usually just a means to an end. Most of the time our customers want to use the data produced by 3D scanning to either reverse engineer their part or for QA/QC purposes. We offer both of these as secondary services and, like 3D scanning, they are both hourly services. Our rates range from $100 to $200 per hour. The time it takes to perform these services is, again, dependent upon your part’s geometry and the requirements of your project.
Once again, size and complexity are key components here. Reverse engineering from a 3D scan can be used to create CAD files for discontinued or broken parts or to help modify designs without existing CAD files. A CAD file is necessary if you want to modify your design later or check your products against the original design once they’ve been made. The reverse engineering process produces a ready-to-use CAD file for you. However, this is a manual process, which typically means some tedious work is done to make sure the tiny details, fixes, or modifications are just right. If an object is larger, it will take more time to assess. Furthermore, a more complex object would require additional work to make sure it is accurately repaired or modified to fit its intended purpose. If the reverse engineering process is rushed, it could result in overlooked details that are crucial to the object’s functionality, and cause problems down the line.
Another use for 3D scans is part inspection, or quality assurance and quality control. If part validation is part of your QA procedure or if your production parts are out of spec, a 3D scan of your parts can be taken and compared to the original CAD to check critical dimensions and find any deviations. Specifically, a color map will show where and by how much each point on the object differs or aligns to its CAD file when measured against a specific tolerance. This is beneficial for producing a quick overall part inspection, and this can find problem areas that you may have not expected. However, when different areas on the same object require measuring against a different tolerance, as in when the margin of error can may need to be more specific for a particular area, this requires individual measurements to be compared. The more data points that you request to be analyzed in this way, the more time the quality assurance assessment will take to complete, which means a higher price for the results.