6 Reasons Why Your 3D Printer Needs 3D Scanners
3D scanners have really come into their own these days. With a small handheld scanner, you can convert almost anything to a 3D model.
By itself, a scanner is not that remarkable. But when used alongside a 3D printer, it becomes amazingly useful. You can scan an object, hook the model with a slicing app, and start printing it.
You must be wondering: What is the point of reprinting something you already have? Why does my 3D printer need a 3D scanner?
Because your printer cannot print anything by itself. It needs digital blueprints, and there are only so many available for free online. Ultimately, you must find a way to get accurate 3D models for your printer. And 3D scanners are the easiest way to do so.
How? Let’s find out.
#1: To create copies
How many times have wished that you could duplicate an item that you already own? Maybe you want to fill your house with that cute panda statue. Or perhaps your friends want that cool phone cover you are using.
But you have a 3D printer! It should be easy to print something like that, right?
A 3D printer can only print from a digital blueprint, not a photograph or an object. You need to create a 3D model of anything you would like to print.
Which is easier said than done, considering the steep learning curve to use a 3D modeling application. Paying a 3D artist to do the same for you isn’t cheap either.
This is where a scanner comes in handy. 3D scanners can digitize any physical object, giving you a 3D model. You can use this file to print the object as many times as you want.
#2: To create larger replicas
In many cases, you don’t want to create an exact copy of an object. Sometimes, you want to upscale it to a larger size. Normally, this wouldn’t be possible. When using a scanner though, doing so is easy.
Simply scan the object you want to recreate, and then resize the model. Or, select a scaling factor at print time in the Slicer of your choice. With this method, you can create upscaled versions of toys or decorative items like chess pieces or small figurines.
#3: To create smaller replicas
On the subject of replicas of a different size, what about downscaling objects?
There are many large objects around you that would look good as a decorative replica. Your car, a life-size statue, etc. The problem is, your printer cannot exactly print objects at that size.
Fortunately, scaling goes both ways. You can use a scanner to scan much larger objects and then reduce their size at the print time. This is a great way to obtain collectible replicas of large attractions. Or creating tiny versions of real-world objects for an art installation.
#4: To replace items
A 3D scanner can be a fine insurance policy for small plastic items. Just scan them when they are brand new, and you can replace them whenever you want.
Lost a few crucial pieces of your favorite board game? Reprint them. Broke the delicate miniature on your nightstand? Print it again. Kids wrecked their toys? You got it in hand.
Without a scanner, each of these situations would be a nerve-wracking affair. You would have to run from shop to shop looking for the same items. Or apply your 3D modeling skills to recreate them digitally.
#5: To print with a different material
Often the goal with reprinting an object is to change its material. You might have a glass piece that you think would look better in PETG. Or a low-quality decoration that could use a stronger material like ABS.
A 3D scanner allows you to convert such objects into digital blueprints, independent of their material. When you print, you can use the filament of your choice. You are not limited to just plastics either, as there are plenty of hybrid filaments with wood or metal.
#6: To sculpt 3D models
3D modeling is hard. And the biggest reason for this difficulty is the complexity of the tools that are used. It can take years to master a 3D modeling application. What if you want to create some simple models for printing right now?
Scanners can help a lot in that regard. You can create a model with real-world materials like clay or paper-mache. Scan them in, and you are ready to print.
You can modify the model or change its size for printing too. This is particularly useful for detailed miniatures. Such models tend to be even harder to realize on software, but are more manageable with craft materials.
Addendum: How does a 3D Scanner work?
There are two types of 3D scanners. Platform scanners and handheld scanners.
Platform scanners feature a rotating platform with the actual scanning lens fixed at one end. You place the object to be scanned on the platform, and the device rotates it to capture its shape at every angle.
These days, most scanners though are handheld. They use laser triangulation to determine the contours of the object being scanned, ensuring the best precision.
To use a handheld, you turn it on and slowly move the scanner around the object. Keep it facing inward and the scanner will automatically scan it multiple times a second to get an accurate read on it. Using the background as the reference, it will construct a virtual model that you can then use for printing.
An advantage of choosing a handheld scanner is that it can be used to scan even large objects that would not fit on a platform scanner.
3D scanners and 3D printers have the exact opposite functions. Where a scanner takes a physical object and outputs a digital model, a printer takes that digital blueprint and prints it into a real object.
Unsurprisingly, you can use them in tandem, giving you some options that you never had before. You can modify sizes, play around with different materials, or just print items in bulk. You can even use scanners to create an entry point for 3D modeling, letting you make your own designs and print them.
So what are you waiting for? Get a good 3D scanner to take your printer to the next level.