Why are 3D Scanners So Expensive?

Have you ever wondered why 3D scanners are so expensive? After all, they are just a camera, right? Well, it turns out that there is a lot more to it than that. In fact, 3D scanners are quite complex pieces of technology, and the high price tag reflects the extensive research and development that goes into them.

scanning a hand

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what makes a 3D scanner this expensive and the different types so you can buy the one that isn’t bank-breaking for you. Let’s begin!

What are 3D Scanners, and what do they do?

A 3D scanner is a device that is used to make a virtual 3D object out of a real-world object. 

3D scanners can be used to create accurate models of just about any type of object, from small consumer products to large industrial parts. They are also mostly used in manufacturing, engineering, and industrial designs. In medicine they can be used to scan objects to be used in animation, surgery simulation, or product development.

There are a number of different applications for 3D scanning technology. One common use is for quality control and inspection, where scanned objects can be compared to digital models to look for defects.

3D scans can also be used to create rapid prototypes of new products or parts, which can be invaluable for testing and development.

Additionally, many heritage sites and cultural institutions use 3D scanning to create digital records of valuable artifacts and environments. By capturing the intricate details of these objects and spaces, 3d scanning can help preserve them for future generations.

In biology, medicine and science, 3D scanners are used for anything from replicating accessories in the lab, to scanning bones in order to make a virtual database, to preparing prostheses.

Why are 3D Scanners Expensive?

3D scanners can be pretty expensive, ranging from a few hundred dollars to $100,000 dollars. There can be a few reasons for this.

First, 3D scanners are expensive because of their machinery, working complexity, and time to put them all together. Also, the software that makes it all work is also very expensive to develop and maintain.

Second, manufacturers of 3D scanners do not get paid the total amount as they produce in a more extensive network. So different people from different areas selling the scanner might also set the rates higher to gain profit. 

Thirdly,  there are some hidden costs built into the price of the 3D scanner, which causes it to appear costly. Some 3D scanners are also designed to scan and produce a model of larger objects like an aircraft, which doesn’t come any cheaper.

Finally, the technology, parts, and materials used in 3D scanners are also why they cost more as the 3D scanner produces a real 3D object into a virtual one, and the working, and machinery involved cause it to be quite expensive. 

How Do 3D Scanners Work?

The working of the 3D scanner depends on the type of scanner; usually, the main functioning of the scanner is almost the same. Basically the 3D scanner first takes multiple snaps of an object, and then those shots are fused into a model, which is the exact 3D copy of the object. 

The model can be rotated, and it can be viewed from various angles on the computer. 

Can You Scan Something and then 3D print it?

The 3D scanners scan the object that is to be made into a 3D model. It can be any object as long as the scanner can read it. A 3D printer can take the scanned files and (after some cleaning)  print it in a 3D form to be analyzed further. It is a thorough process that leads up to a perfect 3D object.

Which Types of 3D Scanners are Most Expensive?

Depending on the technology used in a 3D scanner, it can vary in price, each having its advantages and limitations. The size of the 3D scanner is one of the reasons; the bigger the scanner is, the higher the price will be. 

The scanner’s quality is also essential in this matter; the home 3D scanner ought to be cheaper than the 3D scanners used in industrial, manufacturing, or medical settings. 

There are also some types of scanners that include more than one feature, such as full color texture acquisition; those will probably cost more than a simple 3D scanner that only does one task at one time. 

The accuracy and speed of the 3D scanner can also be taken into account; the high-end scanners will provide more accuracy and do the work faster than any cheaper 3D scanner. 

Some of the expensive 3D scanners are as follows:

Industrial 3D Scanners

These 3D scanners are usually a little expensive; their average price can go up to $40,000. Some of these 3D scanners might also come cheaper.

Projected or Structured Light 3D Scanners

These 3D scanners project light to make patterns onto an object; they have high resolution and fast speed. Their price can vary from low cost to expensive depending on the accuracy and resolution.

Arm-based 3D Scanners

Arm-based 3D scanners use a mechanical arm to produce a 3D object. These can be pretty expensive; the average cost can be $50,000.

Laser-based 3D Scanners

These are the most expensive scanners on the market but they can also be found at a lower price. Laser-based 3D scanners use trigonometric triangulation, which captures a 3D shape and then makes the model by reflection; it projects multiple laser lines to make an exact copy of the 3D object.

This scanner is easy to use, but it can cost between $20,000 to $100,000. The laser-based 3D scanners used for larger purposes are usually up to $200,000 or even more.

Does the Price Make 3D Scanners Less Popular?

3D scanners usually being used by experienced users in professional settings makes it possible for them to be less accessible. Although the popularity of the 3D scanner is not as much affected. The demand for 3D scanners might be only in business settings, but it is enough to make it popular in different specialty areas. In the business field, 3D scanners can be found everywhere. 

From Forensic labs to Engineering industries, 3D scanners are also used in many manufacturing industries. Some 3D scanners are also used at larger corporations to make 3D copies of large objects, but people can use some at home 3D scanners outside of industries and businesses. 

So, we can say that 3D scanners are popular at both professional and nonprofessional levels.

Are Low-cost 3D Scanners Worth it?

When it comes to the price of 3D scanners, the most expensive ones don’t always stand out. Some low-cost 3D scanners also have a decent performance (depending on your specific application). 

There are a lot of 3D scanners that are of low cost. Although the 3D scanner is designed to give a perfect result and accuracy, the low-cost scanners might not live up to those expectations because of the low price factor.

Low-cost 3D scanners may fall under $1,000. These scanners might not be durable, and the result will not be as perfect as an excellent 3D scanner makes. However, you can use these scanners for fun. 

These scanners are also used by budget-conscious people who don’t regularly use a 3D scanner to spend a lot of money on a bank-breaking scanner.

The Revopoint is a popular one. You can learn more about it here.

Are Medium Cost 3D Scanners Better?

If you want to get a better 3D scanner with better and more precise results, you might invest in a medium-cost scanner. 

The medium-cost 3D scanners usually give a satisfactory result. Their prices range from $1,000 to $10,000. But the quality and size of the scanner can cause variation in its price. 

These types of 3D scanners include medium-range and long-range 3D scanners. 

These 3D scanners have good resolution and accuracy; they are also much faster than low-cost 3D scanners. Overall they produce a good result.

Laser-based portable 3D scanners or handheld 3D scanners also fall in this category. They are for those people who like to travel with their equipment. These 3D scanners have a simple design, and they are effortless to use. Some of the medium-cost scanners can also be used in professional settings.

Best 3D Scanners Under $10,000

Matter and Form 3D Scanner

This is a low-cost laser 3D scanner, which comes at around $1,000. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac. One problem that can be found in this is that it has a vague calibration. Other than that, the overall performance is acceptable.


Creality CR-T 3D Scanner

It is one of the best 3D scanners that are also affordable. It costs only around $2,000. It is a tablet with a built-in scanner; the speed and accuracy of this 3D scanner are also quite good.


Artec Eva Lite 3D Scanner

This is a medium-cost 3D scanner that costs $9,800. It can also be used in a professional setting. Artec Eva Lite is a valuable portable scanner for small objects, and the results are also up to the expectations.


Best Higher-end 3D Scanners


Artec Ray 3D Scanner

This 3D is a well-known higher-end 3D scanner; its price is $60,000. It is a handy scanner for professional settings; it is also small and portable.


Solutionix Rexcan 4

This is also a professional 3D scanner, and it provides much better quality and fast speed. Its price is $79,900. This 3D scanner can be used to scan larger objects as well.


MetraScan 750

Creaform MetraScan 750 provides professional and accurate 3D scanning. It can cost between $50,000-$100,000. It is precise and fast, and the accuracy and resolution are also remarkable.


Here is a video on which scanners are used for prosthetics:



Final Thoughts

To sum it up, yes, 3D scanners are expensive, and unless you are not using them in a professional setting, you can go for medium-cost 3D scanners. 

Although medium-cost scanners can also work in a few professional settings, their performance is quite up to mark. In comparison, low-cost scanners might not be a good choice if you actually want to have top-notch results. 

The use of a 3D scanner also matters in this case; always go for the 3D scanner that is appropriate according to your use, not just price. We hope this article helped you out with this question of why “3D scanners are so expensive,” and now that you have the idea of different 3D scanners with the varying tag of prices, you can surely pick one that’s best for you. Thanks for reading!

Click here to learn how long a 3D printer lasts

Doc J

Dr. J has worked in biology all his life and holds several advanced degrees and certificates in biology, anatomy, scientific illustration, 3d animation and motion graphics. He has always had an interest in teaching others the wonders of biology using the latest advances in graphics, including visualization, digital microscopy, animation, illustration, VR and interactive media.

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