What is the best handheld 3D scanner on the market?
There are hundreds of 3D scanners available on the market, from desktop 3D scanners to advanced 3D metrology systems. However, handheld 3D scanners have been gaining a lot of popularity over the past few years.
There are several key tendencies that may be behind this segment’s growth. Over the years, we’ve noticed that handheld 3D scanners and their software (which is often the most complex part of the process) are becoming much easier to use, with smoother workflows and improved design and ergonomics. New entrants – mostly from Asia– have driven prices down to overcome the market’s entry barriers, all while providing quality results.
More generally speaking, handheld 3D scanners offer various benefits over other types of 3D scanners:
- Ability to access hard-to-reach places
- Relative ease of use
Their versatility makes them suitable for a wide range of industries, including automobile, aerospace, engineering, and design, and some can even be used for 3D body scanning.
From affordable handheld 3D scanners to advanced, industrial-grade portable 3D scanners, the market caters to almost every need. Our goal is to showcase the best handheld 3D scanners currently available.
This buyer’s guide, which we update several times a year, is based on a combination of our own experience, in-house 3D scanner reviews, and feedback from our partners.
Best handheld scanners and portable 3D scanners in 2021
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
|peel 3D||peel 2||Structured light||0.25 mm0.009843 in||0.5 mm0.02 in||0.95 kg2.09 lb||Canada||$ 7,4907 490 €5,803 £788,944 ¥||Ask for a quote|
|Shining 3D||EinScan HX||Hybrid||0.04 mm0.001575 in||0.05 mm0.001969 in||0.71 kg1.57 lb||China||$ 12,00012 000 €9,298 £1,263,996 ¥||Contact the manufacturer|
|Artec 3D||Leo||Structured light||0.1 mm0.003937 in||0.2 mm0.007874 in||2.6 kg5.73 lb||Luxembourg||$ 29,80029 800 €23,090 £3,138,923 ¥||Ask for a quote|
|Creaform||Go!SCAN SPARK||Structured light||0.05 mm0.001969 in||0.2 mm0.007874 in||1.25 kg2.76 lb||Canada||$ 38,00038 000 €29,444 £4,002,654 ¥||Ask for a quote|
|ScanTech||KSCAN-Magic||Laser triangulation||0.02 mm0.000787 in||0.01 mm0.000394 in||–||China||$ 45,00045 000 €34,867 £4,739,985 ¥||Ask for a quote|
*Accuracy: single scan accuracy when possible. Note that some manufacturers only provide volumetric accuracy or do not specify which kind of accuracy they are providing.
**Resolution: mesh resolution or point-to-point distance when possible.
Overview of the best handheld 3D scanners
EinScan handheld 3D scanner systems are Shining 3D’s flagship portable 3D scanner series. The EinScan HX is a follow-up to the first-generation EinScan-Pro, EinScan Pro HD, and later EinScan Pro 2X and 2X Plus.
This portable 3D scanner features hybrid 3D scanning technology: its rapid mode is based on structured light, while the fine mode uses laser triangulation. A photogrammetry module est directly integrated for color and texture acquisition.
It is a powerful and versatile product that is capable of acquiring difficult surfaces (reflective, dark, or both) and adapting to parts of all sizes. Shining 3D also made great efforts in terms of weight and design; the HX is well-balanced and comfortable to use.
Read the full review: HX review
Peel 3d is a subsidiary of Creaform, one of the world’s leading 3D scanner manufacturers. They first created the original peel 3d (which we reviewed a while back) in order to tap into the entry-level 3D scanner market.
This second-generation peel 3D scanner offers a higher resolution than its predecessor, and is capable of capturing textures and colors.
Peel 3D scanners are easy to use, even for beginners with little 3D scanning knowledge. The software that comes with the peel 2 is also intuitive and user-friendly, offering multiple editing functionalities.
Artec’s Leo offers automatic onboard processing, providing an intuitive and wireless workflow. It is equipped with a built-in battery, touch screen, and its own, integrated computing platform. The Leo is one of the only wireless 3D scanners available.
It boasts a very large field of view and is capable of quickly 3D scanning large objects, all while capturing fine details. It is designed to capture even complex objects with shiny or black surfaces.
The Artec Leo’s technology enables it to 3D scan objects even in mediocre lighting conditions.
The Go!SCAN SPARK is one of the latest additions to Creaform’s highly regarded Go!SCAN product lineup. Creaform, which is based in Canada, is one the industry leaders when it comes to professional 3D scanners.
This handheld 3D scanner is one of the easiest scanners to use (it is a plug-n-play 3D scanner) and it features an interesting hybrid tracking scanning technology. You just need to point and shoot at the object to scan, and the software will instantly display your mesh in real time on your PC.
The GoSCAN SPARK is Creaform’s fastest 3D scanner, acquiring up to 1,500,000 measurement points per second. It’s one of the best handheld 3D scanners we’ve ever tested and we are particularly impressed with its color acquisition abilities.
Read the full review: Go!SCAN SPARK review
ScanTech is relatively new to the western market, but is growing fast thanks to highly competitive products that provide quality measurements at reasonable prices. The KSCAN-Magic is one of their flagship products and is precise enough for metrological applications like quality inspection.
It offers a highly flexible measuring range and boasts three different scanning modes; one for speed (11 blue laser crosses + an extra line), one for higher levels of detail (7 blue parallel laser lines), and one for large objects (11 infrared lines).
A probing CMM accessory is available for holes, planes edges, hidden points, and other geometries where marker placement isn’t possible.
Mantis Vision is a 3D scanner manufacturer from Israel. Their F6 SMART scanning solution is aimed at professionals that need to scan complex scenes.
The F6 SMART uses a color camera in order to deliver photorealistic mesh textures. According to Mantis Vision, this handheld scanner (which can also be used on a tripod, like most other portable 3D scanners) is able to 3D scan objects even in complete darkness.
This can be particularly useful in exploration and archaeology for example (caves, ruins, etc).
THOR3D has been producing professional 3D scanners since 2015 and is most famous for their Drake wireless handheld 3D scanner, which is now discontinued.
The Calibry is a very affordable handheld 3D scanner, and is one of the most lightweight you will find on the market. Despite weighing only 700 grams, the device is equipped with a built-in touchscreen, allowing you to see what you’re scanning in real time.
However, it does not work well on objects smaller than 200 mm in length, so it won’t face most of its competitors at the same ballpark price. THOR3D markets the Calibry Mini for smaller parts.
Polyga is a Vancouver-based manufacturer that develops industrial 3D scanning solutions. Their lineup mostly includes stationary 3D scanners like the Carbon or Compact series. The H3, launched in 2020, is their first handheld 3D scanner, though they’ve been distributing THOR3D’s more affordable Calibry for some time as well.
This handheld 3D scanner can also be mounted on a tripod to be used in stationary mode, offering a simplified workflow for small objects when paired with an automatic turntable.
Portable and handheld 3D scanner buying guide
Before choosing a portable 3D scanner, it’s important to take certain elements into account.
Purpose: what do you need your 3D scanner for?
Today’s handheld 3D scanners are very versatile and can be used for multiple use cases in various industries. Nevertheless, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help make the right choice.
- How big or small are the parts you’re going to scan? This will determine your field of view. Some 3D scanners have multiple modes or fields of view to handle small, medium, and large parts, while some are specially designed for small pieces.
- Are you already familiar with 3D scanning? If you’re new to 3D scanning, you may want to look out for streamlined workflows. Some brands have several product generations of experience and provide more intuitive software.
- Do you need to acquire colors? Many recent handheld 3D scanners feature built-in photogrammetry to capture textures, but this feature isn’t standard yet.
- Will you be 3D scanning everyday? Perhaps you’d prefer a 3D scanner that’s easy and quick to set up and put away.
3D scanning can serve an amazing amount of purposes– determine yours before you proceed to choosing a handheld 3D scanner.
A 3D scanner’s accuracy is its ability to obtain exact measurements. In certain industries, like quality inspection, high accuracy is of utmost importance. Entry-level handheld 3D scanners generally boast accuracies around 2 millimeters, while more premium products can go down to 4 or 5 microns.
Just like with photos or screens, the level of 3D scanning resolution counts depending on the amount of detail you need. 3D scanning resolution can be measured either in points per scan or in point-to-point distance, the latter often being the easiest to assess.
Large objects take a while to scan, and some 3D scanners require you to stand still for a few seconds before moving on to the next perspective. Keep in mind that you’ll be “pointing and shooting” with your handheld 3D scanner in your hand; the longer you carry it, the heavier it feels.
Last but not least, and as is the case for so many other products, budget is definitely something to take into account. There are cheap handheld 3D scanner options for under $1,000 if you’re willing to sacrifice accuracy and performance.
Industrial 3D scanners are the most expensive, with advanced 3D scanning technologies and prices around $100K. Unless you need a 3D scanner for 24/7 automated quality inspection or other very specific use cases, an entry or mid-level 3D scanner will suit you.