What is 3D metrology?

3D metrology is the process of acquiring highly accurate physical 3D measurements of an object. The result is a digital 3D model that can be analyzed or retro-engineered.

In the case of quality inspection, for example, the 3D scan can be compared to a reference CAD model to make sure the object respects established norms and standards. 3D metrology helps ensure product quality while saving time and, thus, lowering costs.

CMMs– coordinate measuring machines– have traditionally been the most common type of hardware used for precision measurement. However, advances in 3D scanning technology are making 3D scanners increasingly popular for metrology as well, as they are faster and more cost-effective.

In this guide, we offer a comprehensive overview of some of the best metrology 3D scanners available on the market, covering different types of hardware (stationary, handheld) and price points. We also provide basic insight into 3D metrology software, which is as equally important as the hardware side of things.

Note: Not sure if you need an industrial metrology-grade performance? Take a step back and learn about other types of 3D capture solutions (jewelry 3D scanners, dental solutions, SLAM, …) in our all-round 3D scanner buyer’s guide.

The best metrology 3D scanners in 2022

The table below recaps our selection of some of the best metrology-grade 3D scanning options. The goal is to provide a quick, visual overview of the market; there are of course numerous other factors to consider beyond tech specs (certifications, software, customer service, …) to get the full picture for each solution and eventually make the right choice.

BrandProductAccuracyCountryPrice
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
Shining 3D
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
FreeScan UE Pro
This product has been reviewed by our team.
0.02 mmChina$ 24,000Contact
MeditSolutionix C500 0.01 mmSouth Korea$ 40,000Quote
Creaform
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
HandySCAN BLACK Elite
This product has been reviewed by our team.
0.025 mmCanada$ 65,000Quote
GOMGOM Scan 1
This product has been reviewed by our team.
Germany upon requestQuote
GOMATOS Q
This product has been reviewed by our team.
Germany upon requestQuote
SCANTECH (HANGZHOU) CO., LTD
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
SIMSCAN
This product has been reviewed by our team.
0.02 mmChina upon requestQuote
SCANTECH (HANGZHOU) CO., LTD
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
TrackScan-P42 0.025 mmChina upon requestQuote

The products in the table are ranked by price (low to high).

TITRE:
BrandProductCategoryAccuracyMax resolutionPrice
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
Shining 3D
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
FreeScan UE Pro
This product has been reviewed by our team.
Mobile > Handheld0.02 mm$ 24,000Contact manufacturer
MeditSolutionix C500Stationary > Desktop0.01 mm0.028 mm$ 40,000Get a quote
Creaform
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
HandySCAN BLACK Elite
This product has been reviewed by our team.
Mobile > Handheld0.025 mm0.1 mm$ 65,000Get a quote
GOMGOM Scan 1
This product has been reviewed by our team.
Stationary > Desktop0.037 mm upon requestGet a quote
GOMATOS Q
This product has been reviewed by our team.
Stationary > Industrial0.03 mm upon requestGet a quote
SCANTECH (HANGZHOU) CO., LTD
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
SIMSCAN
This product has been reviewed by our team.
Mobile > Handheld0.02 mm0.02 mm upon requestGet a quote
SCANTECH (HANGZHOU) CO., LTD
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
TrackScan-P42Mobile > Handheld0.025 mm0.02 mm upon requestGet a quote

Overview of the best 3D scanners for metrology in 2022

In this section, we give some more context and information about each 3D scanner from our selection.

http://Shining%203D%20Freescan%20UE%20Pro%20laser%203D%20scanner
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
Tested This product has been reviewed by our team.
By Shining 3D
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
CountryChina
Max resolution
Accuracy0.02 mm
Volumetric accuracy0.02 mm + 0.015 mm/m
Acquisition speed1,850,000 points/s
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 24,000

The FreeScan UE is a recent upgrade to the FreeScan X, boasting a faster acquisition rate, larger scanning range, lighter weight, and more competitive pricing.

This blue laser 3D scanner offers metrology-grade precision and repeatability, all while being able to scan difficult surfaces in a wide range of environments and industries. Common industries and applications for this type of 3D scanner include the automotive industry, transportation, mould inspection, energy manufacturing, aerospace, and machine manufacturing, among others.

The FreeScan UE is available in two versions: (1) the UE7 features 14 laser lines + 1 extra laser line, and an acquisition speed of 650,000 points per second, while (2) the UE11 features 22 laser lines + 1 extra laser line, and an acquisition speed of 1,020,000 points per second.

http://SCANTECH%20SIMSCAN%20portable%20laser%203D%20scanner
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
Tested This product has been reviewed by our team.
By SCANTECH (HANGZHOU) CO., LTD
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
CountryChina
Max resolution0.02 mm
Accuracy0.02 mm
Volumetric accuracy0.020 mm + 0.035 mm/m
Acquisition speed2,800,000 points/s
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
upon request

Weighing only 570 grams, the SIMSCAN is extremely lightweight for a handheld 3D scanner. It’s also very compact with dimensions of 203 x 80 x 44 millimeters. Scantech earned a Red Dot Design Award in 2021 for the SIMSCAN’s disruptive design.

After using the SIMSCAN to 3D scan various types of parts, we can confirm it’s an excellent product that feels, looks, and works great. With a price of around €25,000, the SIMSCAN’s price-to-performance is outstanding. The only blemish lies in the software, but it receives updates regularly and you can export your scans to your preferred suite.

Read the full review: Scantech SIMSCAN review

http://Creaform%20HandySCAN
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
Tested This product has been reviewed by our team.
By Creaform
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
CountryCanada
Max resolution0.1 mm
Accuracy0.03 mm
Volumetric accuracy
Acquisition speed1,300,000 points/s
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 65,000

The BLACK Elite tops out Creaform’s flagship HandySCAN range, which we have reviewed several times over the years. It delivers a powerful performance that reminds us of the Metrascan 750, but without all the hurdles (complex setup, number of parts and accessories, and large footprint).

It boasts a clean, robust finish, and everything exudes quality and rigor. The attention to detail is similar to the feeling that Apple products give off; it’s no wonder Creaform received a Red Dot Design Award (2019) for it.

The HandySCAN BLACK Elite comes with Creaform’s VXelements software, which includes dimensional inspection modules (VX Inspect). It can also be used with third-party suites from Autodesk, 3D Systems, Dassault, etc. Users may opt for the Creaform MaxSHOT CMM add-on to complement the HandySCAN’s performance.

Read the full review: Creaform HandySCAN BLACK Elite review

http://SCANTECH%20TrackScan%20portable%20metrology
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By SCANTECH (HANGZHOU) CO., LTD
This brand is a certified partner from our network.
CountryChina
Max resolution0.02 mm
Accuracy0.03 mm
Volumetric accuracy0.025 mm + 0.078 mm/m
Acquisition speed1,900,000 points/s
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
upon request

The TrackScan-P42 is a high-end, optical tracking system for highly demanding industrial metrology applications.

Scantech’s TrackScan works with 17 blue laser crosses for ultra-fast 3D scanning (up to 1.9M points per second), and features a single-laser-line mode to capture deep holes and dead angles. It can be paired with Scantech’s T-Probe, a portable and wireless CMM designed to easily capture holes and hidden details with a single point repeatability of 0.030mm.

http://GOM%20Scan%201%20scanner%20in%20use
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
Tested This product has been reviewed by our team.
By GOM
CountryGermany
Max resolution0.037 mm
Accuracy
Volumetric accuracy
Acquisition speed
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
upon request

With a starting price of around €20,000, the GOM Scan 1 is GOM’s most entry-level, metrology-grade solution. We visited GOM’s Benelux HQ to review the scanner in early 2022, and were not disappointed.

The offer? GOM quality and performance at an affordable price. It is on par with high-end metrology 3D scanners and is quite fast at 6,000,000 points per scan. The GOM Scan 1 also benefits from the same, powerful GOM Inspect software as its more premium counterparts.

It is a small, lightweight, and precise machine packed with very serious capabilities.

Read the full review: GOM Scan 1 review

http://Medit%20Solutionix%20C500
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By Medit
CountrySouth Korea
Max resolution0.028 mm
Accuracy0.01 mm
Volumetric accuracy
Acquisition speed
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 40,000

Solutionix is part of the larger, South-Korean Medit group, and is known for its high-precision dental 3D scanners. Their C500 is able to scan larger objects while benefitting from the same, excellent precision and resolution. Its automatic turntable not only turns but also tilts, providing very thorough scans.

While the Solutionix C500 is sensitive to dark and shiny surfaces, it offers very clean data and high resolution when such surfaces are matted with special spray (like AESUB). The C500 comes with four different sets of lenses for varying fields of view, resolution, and accuracy. Its smallest lens set gives an accuracy of 10 microns and a resolution of just 28 microns (point-to-point distance).

The C500 is particularly adapted to small parts, but can be mounted onto a tripod for the occasional large scan.

http://GOM%20ATOS%20Q%208M%2012M
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
Tested This product has been reviewed by our team.
By GOM
CountryGermany
CategoryStationary > Industrial
Accuracy
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
upon request

The GOM ATOS Q is GOM’s mid-level metrology 3D scanner. It uses blue structured light and benefits from GOM’s latest optical sensors and technology, providing industrial-grade results in a compact device. According to GOM, the scanner is able to capture difficult textures such as shiny, reflective surfaces.

Five different lenses are provided in order to adapt the scanner to objects of different sizes.

This 3D scanner comes with the GOM Inspect Suite for metrological applications and can be operated on a tripod or mounted onto a robotic arm for full 3D scan automation.

Read the full review: GOM ATOS Q review

Types of metrology 3D scanners

Handheld metrology 3D scanners

Handheld 3D scanners are convenient, versatile systems that grant access to hard-to-reach places (e.g. car interiors). They often feature several modes for users to adapt to small, medium, or large-sized parts.

Using a handheld 3D scanner is comparable to recording a video or painting with a brush; the subject must be captured from all angles.

Pierre-Antoine using a handheld 3D scanner. Source: Aniwaa (Scantech SIMSCAN review)

Stationary metrology 3D scanners

A stationary 3D scanner is similar to a camera on a tripod. For small or medium-sized objects, these scanners are usually paired with an automatic turntable for smoother workflows.

They can also be mounted onto an automated station. Such systems generally move the scanner up and down along the Z-axis while the object to be scanned sits onto an attached turntable.

An automated desktop 3D scanning station. Source: Aniwaa (GOM Scan 1 review)

Stationary scanners are often more accurate solutions due to their fixed setup but are impractical for large objects or infrastructures. That said, some are robot-mountable.

Automation in metrology with robotic arms

Many metrology 3D scanners, mostly in the stationary category, are designed to be mounted onto an industrial, robotic arm depending on specific needs.

Here is an example from Scantech:

These 5-axis or 6-axis arms eliminate human errors and speed up the scanning process. Robotic 3D scanning arms are often used in assembly lines.

High-end industrial 3D metrology systems

For our main selection, we didn’t include high-end systems that are destined for heavy industrial applications. They can’t be compared on the same level as the scanners from our main list, whether it’s in terms of accuracy, pricing, software, or automation.

Several leading brands like Hexagon and GOM (which is now part of ZEISS) provide extremely accurate, automated 3D scanning solutions for industrial assembly lines.

Contact us for more information.

3D scanner vs CMM

CMM stands for coordinate measuring machine. This type of device uses a probe- either a physical, surface-touching probe or a light/laser source–to measure an object’s geometry. CMMs can be operated manually or computer-controlled.

These machines are highly accurate but are relatively slow at capturing data and only acquire a certain amount of points. A standard CMM captures several hundred points, in contrast to 3D scanners which acquire hundreds of thousands or millions of points.

Hence, CMMs are mostly used for targeted inspection rather than for providing full 3D models of objects, in which case 3D scanners are the best option.

The main advantages of 3D scanners over CMMs are:

  • Speed: A 3D scan can be processed in a matter of minutes, while CMMs require more time.
  • Automation: 3D scanning systems are much more compatible with industrial environments such as assembly lines.
  • Scope: 3D scanners capture exponentially more information. This can allow engineers and designers to understand what the root cause of a potential part deformation is rather than simply identifying its existence. They can also scan much larger parts than CMMs, which have a fixed frame/volume.
  • Flexibility: It is easier to relocate a 3D scanner and use it at several workstations to adapt to different production needs. CMM machines generally stay in one place and take up a large amount of space.
  • Non-intrusive: While coordinate measuring machines don’t necessarily all need to physically touch the object, they do get close to the object, which can be a problem in some cases. 3D scanners can capture data at a safe distance.
  • Price: 3D scanners are generally less costly acquisitions than CMM machines.

All of this being said, CMMs and 3D scanners can be complementary. CMMs are hard to beat when it comes to measuring holes and complex, intricate details.

By using both a CMM (such as a handheld probe) and a 3D scanner, it is possible to reach a high level of accuracy.

Which industries use metrology and why?

Integrating 3D metrology directly in the value chain of any industry ensures high part quality without interrupting the production line.

These are some of the many industries that take advantage of 3D metrology:

  • Aerospace and automobile
  • Electronics
  • Power and energy
  • General manufacturing
  • Medical
  • Tooling

The top application for 3D metrology is part inspection within general quality control processes. It is essential for any business to oversee that their manufactured goods are up to standard.

This is true whether these goods are simple household objects, like a microwave knob, or crucial airplane parts that must be 100% standard and safe.

Accurate 3D measurement data also provides the option to reverse-engineer replacement parts and make quick repairs.

Overall, using 3D metrology ensures fewer errors in production, saving both time and money.

Metrology software for inspection

A 3D scanner is only as good as the software it works with. For clarity, we can distinguish two kinds of software:

  • Base software to operate the scanner: This is typically proprietary software (e.g. Artec Studio) that is included with the scanner to convert the data points and clouds into a 3D mesh of the scanned object. It offers basic functionalities such as mesh alignment and hole filling, but usually won’t be enough to perform advanced inspection and quality control operations.

This can be sufficient depending on the end-use of the scan, but when it comes to metrology, additional software is often needed.

  • Software for inspection: For 3D metrology, engineers and designers use specific inspection software or modules with additional functionalities and power. Indeed, the primary goal (among others) is to compare the 3D scan to a reference CAD file. The software must be able to do that in order to find potential discrepancies and deliver deviation maps or reports.
Metrology 3D scanners cover image
A snapshot from GOM Inspect software, which both operates the scanner and offers inspection functionalities. Source: Aniwaa/GOM (GOM Scan 1 review)

3D inspection software: what’s available?

In most cases, manufacturers either provide their own software or recommend third-party suites.

  • Proprietary software: The manufacturer can develop their own separate inspection software, like GOM with GOM Inspect, which is a reference in the industry. Other proprietary inspection software suites for 3D scanners include:
    • Creaform VXelements and VXinspect module
    • FARO CAM2 2020
    • ScanTech ScanViewer
    • PolyWorks Inspector
  • Third-party software: Manufacturers can recommend or bundle in a particular third-party software. Some of the most renowned, “universal” metrology 3D scanning software suites include:
    • 3D Systems Geomagic Control X
    • Verisurf Inspect
    • Siemens NX
    • GOM Inspect (comes with GOM scanners but is also recommended by other manufacturers)

Of course, there are exceptions to this distinction. Some manufacturers directly include inspection-type functionalities within their base software, like ScanTech with ScanViewer or GOM with GOM Inspect.

Conversely, sometimes inspection software is capable of serving as base software by importing and processing raw 3D scanning data, too.

3D scanning software pricing

Metrology and inspection software prices are quite high, sometimes even higher than the hardware itself. They can cost anywhere from several thousand dollars to over $30,000 and are not always included in the 3D scanner’s price, so it is something to watch out for when choosing a scanner.

If you already have a license for a specific inspection software suite, you can also check which scanners are compatible with it.

What specifications to look for in a 3D scanner?

There are several specifications to look into before purchasing a 3D scanning solution for metrology.

Accuracy

Accuracy defines how close a measurement is to its true value. This is of utmost importance for metrology applications. Often, manufacturers provide two different kinds of accuracy specifications: single scan accuracy and volumetric accuracy.

Light source

3D scanners use different kinds of light sources to capture 3D images: laser lines and crosses, which are typically red or blue; or LED light patterns, which are usually white or blue.

Generally, the more lines or lasers a 3D scanner has, the faster it will be at 3D scanning.

Resolution

Resolution is typically measured in point-to-point distance, and sometimes in points per scan.

As is the case with images, the higher a scan’s resolution is, the more details will be visible and the crisper the results will be.

There are two different kinds of resolutions: measurement resolution and mesh resolution. Mesh resolution is the most important kind to consider, as it will be the resolution of your final 3D model.

It may at times be unclear which resolution manufacturers are referring to in their product specifications.

Speed

Data acquisition speed can be expressed in point measurements per second, frames per second, or seconds per scan.

Software

Some 3D scanner manufacturers develop their own software, while others have partnerships with existing, leading 3D scanning software brands.

It is also important to keep in mind that 3D scanning software always requires powerful laptops in terms of RAM, graphics cards, etc. If you are not well equipped, you may need to allocate several thousand dollars of your budget to a new PC.

Range and field of view

Evidently, it is inefficient to 3D scan a large object with a 3D scanner that has a small range or field of view. Hence it is mandatory to see if a scanner’s range is compatible with what you are planning on 3D scanning.

Some 3D scanners offer multiple 3D scanning modes to adapt to different object sizes.

Marker placement

Markers are small, adhesive “targets” that aid 3D scanners in positioning the data that they have acquired. In other words, they help the scanner align the different captured frames together, relatively to each other and in space, to form the 3D model.

In order to enhance their global accuracy, a number of structured light or laser 3D scanners integrate marker acquisition with photogrammetry technology, through dedicated cameras.

They are in a way “hybrid” 3D scanners, explaining why some metrology 3D scanners require the user to place markers on the object to be scanned or its environment, especially for large-sized objects (over 1 meter).

Metrology 3D scanner price

The price for a metrology 3D scanner largely depends on its accuracy, software, and other factors. For heavy industrial applications, the price for an appropriately accurate scanner and software can go well over $100,000.

For less demanding use cases, the price for an entry-level metrology 3D scanner can start at around $15,000.

FAQ

How much is a metrology 3D scanner?

Metrology-grade 3D scanners generally cost between $20,000 and $50,000. Industrial, robotic automated systems can cost over $100,000.

How accurate is 3D scanning?

Currently, accuracy can get all the way down to 0.004 mm- 16 times thinner than an average human hair.

What is the maximum size of objects you can 3D scan?

The maximum scanning area depends on the scanner itself. Keep in mind that the bigger the scan, the less accurate the result will be (linearly).

Can I do metrology with a handheld scanner?

It is possible to do metrology with a handheld 3D scanner. For repeated industrial applications, however, stationary or automated scanners are preferable.

How much time does it take to 3D scan an object?

Depending on the 3D scanner’s speed and the object’s complexity and size, it can take anywhere from less than a minute to several dozen minutes. Software processing adds a bit of time to the total.

Can I scan shiny objects? Can I scan dark objects?

Shiny and dark objects are hard to 3D scan, regardless of the 3D scanner’s quality. Special sprays and techniques exist to overcome this obstacle.