Which 3D Scanner is Best for Scanning Small Objects?

Published on December 18, 2018. Written by: Mackenzie Crary

Overview

For this demonstration an organic object with a complicated surface topology was scanned in order to show the differences in quality of various structured-light 3D scanners. The best way to judge the data quality of a 3D scanner is to take a single 3D scan and evaluate the raw scan quality, one that hasn’t undergone any post-processing.

The reasons why the strawberry was chosen for this test:

strawberry graphic
  • It’s an organic object with a freeform shape which can be challenging to scan.
  • It would test the 3D scanners in terms how it would perform when scanning a small-sized object.
  • The fine details of a strawberry (ie. crevices, seeds) pushes the capabilities of what these 3D scanners can scan to the max.

The 3D scanners that stepped up to the plate in this strawberry challenge include:

Scanner Type 3D Scanner
Affordable Professional 3D Scanners 1) Metron E
2) Metron E-HD
Performance-based Professional 3D Scanners 3) HDI Advance R1x
4) HDI Advance R5x
Macro 3D Scanner 5) Metron Macro
  1. Metron E 3D Scanner

    Figure 1: Metron E 3D scan of a strawberry

    The first contender is the Metron E 3D scanner. At the most affordable price point this scanner packs a punch and is highly versatile for many different uses. The strawberry geometry surface detail is acceptable but not quite exceptional. Although it captures the shape and size perfectly well, seed detail starts to get lost. Objects the size of a grapefruit up to a car crankshaft are more well suited for this 3D scanner setup.

  2. Metron E-HD 3D Scanner

    Figure 2: Metron E-HD 3D scan of a strawberry

    The Metron E also offers a high definition edition called the E-HD with higher resolution cameras. The quality difference is noticeable with improved surface definition on the strawberry. Pores are better defined even though the general limitations of the Metron E are still prevalent.

    Keeping in mind that the Metron E and E-HD are entry-level professional 3D scanner, these systems do the job. If you want better quality scan data, the HDI Advance 3D scanning systems provide the next level of quality.

  3. HDI Advance R1x

    Figure 3: HDI Advance R1x 3D scan of a strawberry

    The 3D scanner that really shines in this challenge is the HDI Advance. The R1x model does a great job at capturing the seed and skin detail of the strawberry’s surface.

    The HDI Advance has a flexible field of view. Most 3D scanners in the market have a fixed field of view, meaning that those type of scanners are restricted to the size of the objects they can scan without losing detail and accuracy. What’s special about the HDI Advance is that it can scan a variety of objects in different sizes. Each system comes with three preset camera slots that allow you to quickly modify the field of view for scanning large and small objects. With a flexible field of view, the HDI Advance empowers users to pull the scanning volume in tighter so the details are better captured, even at a small field of view.

    All HDI Advance 3D Scanners
    Have a Flexible Field of View
    Field of View (FOV)

    Observable area that a 3D scanner can capture a 3D scan at a certain distance.

    Smaller Field of View

    Scan small objects using inner camera slots

    Wider Field of View

    Scan large objects using outer camera slots

    To get an even better scan, I also used a pair of 25mm lenses you can purchase along with the HDI Advance instead of the standard 12mm lenses that comes with the scanner. Using the 25mm lenses maximized the R1x’s potential for capturing details of small objects compared to using the standard 12mm lenses.

  4. HDI Advance R5x

    Figure 4: HDI Advance R5x 3D scan of a strawberry

    Details of the strawberry really start to shine when I used the HDI Advance R5x to capture the scan. The upgraded 5 megapixel cameras bring out the surface topography nicely compared to the HDI Advance R1x which uses 1 megapixel cameras. The definition of the seeds and the surrounding bumps and crevices showed up really clearly. The cameras, the 25mm lenses, and the adjustability of the field of view truly captured the data quality the HDI Advance series of 3D scanners are capable of producing.

  5. Metron Macro 3D Scanner

    Figure 5: Metron Macro 3D scan of a strawberry

    The highest performing 3D scanner for scanning small objects was the Metron Macro 3D scanner. That’s no surprise as this scanner was designed specifically to scan small objects like the strawberry. The surface details really show here with incredible detail. All minute hairs, seed outlines, and surface detects are visible and well-defined.

Takeaway

Here is a summary of the results from the test ranked by scan quality from moderate to best (from left to right):

Quality For Scanning Small objects
Entry-level
Professional 3D Scanners
Mid-Tier
Professional 3D Scanners
Macro
3D Scanner
Affordable Performance (good value) Designed specifically for scanning small objects
Metron E Metron E-HD HDI Advance R1x HDI Advance R5x Metron Macro

Results from the test demonstrated that if you want to capture the best scans for small objects, your best option would be to go with a macro 3D scanner like the Metron Macro 3D scanner. This type of 3D scanner is designed and engineered to capture the fine details of extremely small objects with high resolution and accuracy.

To obtain a small field of view that captures optimal scan quality, a higher focal length lenses (25mm) and a projector that can create a focus image is required to match the desired field of view. That’s why the Macro 3D scanner is the best at scanning out of all these 3D scanners that were tested. It’s important to get the right hardware equipment for the size of the object you are scanning to ensure that you get the best scan results.


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