WORKSHOP #2: 3D Scanning

In this workshop we will look at 3D scanning technology and use it to capture forms within our neighborhood. First, what is 3D scanning?

A 3D scanner creates a digital representation of a physical object. This includes x,y,z coordinates that map the contours of the object. So, a human head will translate into a mesh of points that look like this:

This data can then be used to create a 3D print:

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. How do 3D scanners work? There are many types of 3D scanners that use a variety of techniques such as lasers, infrared, sonar, light and photographs. In this workshop we will demonstrate infrared scanners and cell phone apps that use photography to construct 3D models.

IR Scanners

We will demonstrate two types of IR scanners that use a combination of infrared and video to capture objects as 3D models, the iSense and the Sense. The Sense connects to your computer via USB cable and you circle objects while pointing the scanner at the object. The iSense connects to your cell phone or tablet, using the video camera in combination with an IR scanner. You also circle objects to capture them. The advantage of this newer scanner is that it has image recognition software that makes it easier to hone in on the object.

To download the software for the SENSE scanner to your computers go here:

These are links to the two scanners with more information on each:

The cell phone app for the iSense is called iSense and is free in the App Store. 

Cell Phone Apps

While these scanners are useful, they are also expensive. You can capture 3D scans for free by using an app for your cell phone called 123D Catch.

This type of scanning is called photogrammetry, which is the use of photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects. Essentially you will take 25-45 photographs around the object you wish to scan and they will be uploaded to a website. They are then stitched together and after about an hour or two you can download the 3D model!

Follow these steps:

Once you download the 123D Catch App, open it and click the Plus sign in the upper right corner to start a new capture.

Point your camera at the object to be scanned and make sure that it is entirely in the frame (if it extends beyond where the camera can see the scan won't work. Also, images need to be clear and nothing should be moving in backdrop.

You need to take two 360 sets of images, one around the bottom and one around the top. You will see a blue pie piece when you have taken an image from that viewpoint.


By the end you should have between 20-40 photographs. Do not take more than 50. Click the check mark in the upper right corner when you are done. Review your photos to make sure none are blurry or cut off. When you are done click Submit in the upper right corner.

It may take more than an hour or two to process the photographs. In the end you should either get a successful message or a failure. If it fails you can try again or email us and we can try to scan the object with our higher end scanners.

If it is successful you can then go to Log in, and go to Models.

Find your model and click on the image.

Now click the Embed button.

Copy the link, and email it to us: or