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Why is 3D Scanning Expensive?

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3D scanners, essential in modern engineering and design, come with a hefty price tag. This cost reflects the intricate technology and premium components embedded in their construction. With a niche market appeal, these devices bear the brunt of substantial manufacturing, research, and development expenses. Such investment ensures high precision instruments, but it also leads to elevated prices. In this post, we’ll explore why 3D scanners, particularly those above £30,000, command such a cost.

Research & Development

The journey to launch a new 3D scanner spans 9-12 months but can take longer if required or for that extra special development and Involves multiple stages from concept to market readiness. After conception, the process includes patenting, creating prototypes, field-testing, design finalisation, and obtaining certifications like CE, FCC and UKCA. This extensive R&D cycle necessitates significant investment, reflecting in the scanner’s final cost.

Creating the unit itself is only one part of the process. The software must be designed concurrently to ensure the relationship between hardware and software is as integral as can be. If the new products features some never before seen features, the software development quickly become an enormous project.

Hardware Costs

High-Quality Sensors and Cameras

3D scanners rely on top-tier sensors and cameras for capturing intricate details. These components must be of exceptional quality to ensure precise data capture and consistent scanning results. High-resolution sensors and costly camera modules are integral, directly influencing the scanner’s price due to their precision and complexity.

Economies of Scale

Unlike widely-used consumer electronics, the demand for 3D scanners is comparatively limited. This scarcity in demand impacts pricing. Take the injection moulded outer casings of a handheld scanner for example. The design must be done making sure the product feels great in the hand. Then injection moulding tools must be developed and created. T1, T2, T3, etc. trails all have to be undertaken and then product must be shipped around the world.

Since the volumes are very low (for such manufacturing processes) and manufacturers need to balance their revenue goals, this economic principle plays a pivotal role in the pricing structure of 3D scanners.

Calibration and Maintenance

3D scanners require regular calibration for accurate measurements. This process involves aligning sensors, cameras, and lasers, often necessitating specialised equipment and skilled technicians. Additionally, ongoing maintenance ensures the scanner’s longevity, adding to the total cost of ownership over time.

Software Development

Scanning Algorithm

Sophisticated scanning algorithms are essential for processing the raw data collected. It’s a vitally important step which gives the 3D scanner its accuracy and ability to read laser line deformation of fringe patterns on structured light 3D scanners.

Since these algorithms contribute significantly to the scanner’s accuracy and detail, they represent a crucial component in the higher cost bracket.

Software Coding

The software behind 3D scanners is equally as important as the hardware. To be considered a success, the software must handle:

  • Complex Data Processing: The software must handle vast data volumes, reconstructing detailed 3D models through complex calculations.
  • Real-time Analysis: For applications like industrial inspection, real-time data processing is vital, adding complexity to the software development.
  • User-friendly Interfaces: Accessible, intuitive interfaces require substantial investment, enhancing user experience but also adding to costs.
  • Compatibility and Integration: Ensuring the software works seamlessly with various systems and standards necessitates ongoing development efforts.

3D Scanning Services

Using a scanning service like Formeon shields design teams and businesses from the high capital expenditure that 3D scanners command. Formeon offers a professional, industrial-grade 3D scanning service using equipment that falls in the above category at a fraction of the cost. The cost we charge is based on some factors that include (but are not limited to):

  • Part Size: Smaller parts incur lower costs due to simpler setup and faster scanning. Larger parts require more extensive preparation and longer processing times, increasing costs.
  • Part Complexity: Simple parts are cheaper to scan than complex ones with multiple features and angles, which demand more time and expertise.
  • Part Surface Finish or Material: Different materials and finishes affect scanning efficiency. Matte surfaces are quicker to scan than shiny ones, influencing the cost.

We have another blog post that goes into depth on this topic and gives some great insights to where costs originate and why the value still overcomes the cost.


A number of factors shape the cost of 3D scanning and 3D scanners. From the extensive R&D journey, high-quality components, and economies of scale to the intricate calibration, maintenance requirements, and advanced software development, each aspect contributes to the overall expense.

Understanding these elements provides insight into why 3D scanners, especially the high-end models, carries a significant price, reflecting the advanced technology and expertise involved in bringing such precision tools to the market.

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