3D scanning what is it good for?

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Ever wondered what 3D scanning and the resulting 3D models are used for? We take a look at why photographs and traditional methods of capturing data are being superseded by 3D scans. When it comes to 3D scanning, there is more to it than printing out 3D models and producing CAD files, which is what we normally associate 3D scanning with. So why are more businesses and industries and individuals requesting 3D scans?

In a nutshell

3D scans are a time-efficient and accurate way of capturing physical objects. Quite simply, you can digitise reality.

Hollywood to the V&A

Everyone, from Hollywood studios to museums are having their props and artefacts scanned for archiving purposes. Architects use 3D scans to capture data for remodelling, and the construction industry is quickly realising that 3D scans not only save time and money, they can be infinitely safer too when accessing areas of restricted access or hazards.

What are the benefits that everyone is going wild about?

The benefits, of which there are several present themselves like this. From the point of view of ‘time = money’. 3D scanning makes it possible to capture data quickly and accurately from the physical world, far quicker than traditional methods. Once your object has been scanned, that is it for posterity, you have essentially “digitized reality”. Your digital data can now be used for measuring, reproduction, comparisons, prototypes or simply stored safely for future references.

How 3D scans work

When you must get things right and there is a need to capture, preserve, or precisely measure, any object, ‘big or small’, then a 3D scan comes into its own. Our 3D scanners use light to measure, which means they are highly accurate and really- useful for measuring places with difficult access. In addition, the scans are non-destructive, which means your object is unaffected. 3D scans are used in many industries, from AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction), creative professionals to homeowners. A 3D scan accurately captures a physical object or environmental feature by analysing the shape, appearance, and colour of the object, which it then turned it into a digital file.

Here we take look at the fascinating ways that 3D scans are used across a mixture of industries, and and by Joan and Bob from the farm on the fell and Carrie, who owns the local art studio.

Environmental Agriculture

Climate change it is on all our minds, increasingly in the news we hear that, yet another country is facing an environmental disaster. Once hailed as 100-year events, it feels like these events are happening every 5 years. The resulting flooding, droughts and famines are leading to issues with food supply, and difficulties when planning harvests around the world. Three dimensional scans work to improve yields by producing precision 3D data. The data taken from topographic scans is used for crop analysis, land use and drainage. Scan data helps farmers to understand how their crops are growing, identifies weeded areas, drainage problems, and improves the application of pesticides and fertilisers.

AEC professionals

The use of 3D scanning in architecture, engineering and construction is well documented. 3D data helps to perform measurements quickly and inspect constructions in real-time. The data ensures the adherence to buildings standards and allows for the monitoring of positions and shifts in position. Due to the speed of scanning, compared to traditional diagnostic methods, the scan data enables real-time analysis, which improves companies cost management and operational efficiencies.


Shrewd investigators are increasingly finding that using 3D scans to capture crime scenes and accidents in their forensic casework, has become a necessity. When time ‘is not on your side’, and roads must be re-opened quickly, then it is time to ‘freeze the scene in 3D’. Captured 3D data delivers a non-invasive recording of the forensic information, which helps the police force to capture and accurately analyse accident and crime scenes.

Film industry

Glorious visual feasts like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, the fabulous Mr Fox, Iron Man, Harry Potter, all used 3D scans of physical objects to enhance and add effects. Whether it is working on prototypes of robots, or parts for Iron Mans suit, or adding majestic castles and amazing terrains, without 3D scanning films would be a little less exciting and awesome.

Film Props

3D scanning is perfect for preserving film props, from objects to buildings and terrains. Safe and dry, film props can become damaged or worse; having objects 3D scanned means they can be reused repeatedly and remain in perfect condition, which keeps the continuity.

Stop motion animation

Take a team of sculptors painstakingly making every expression of the face to illustrate speech and emotions. Each model can take months to make, add more models and the price and time scale grows exponentially. Here’s where 3D scanning steps in. Maintaining consistency is one of the biggest nightmares in the animation industry. With 3D scanning and printing, modelling time is reduced, and consistency is preserved. Scanned props and models are frozen forever in glorious full-colour 3D, and will never get lost in transit, accidentally damaged, or destroyed.

Wildlife conservation

LiDAR scanning quickly assesses the quality of habitats over large areas which a view to helping to improve areas affected by flooding and drought which affect endangered animals. The 3D scan illustrates the habitat of various species and identifies quality areas and areas for, assisting with conservation management planning around the globe.

Costal assessments – environmental

Using both topographical and bathymetric measurements, 3D scans, are used to produce coastal surveys. The detailed digital scans allow for assessments and analysis of our coastal environments.


When it comes accurately mapped terrain models, 3D scanning with a terrestrial LiDAR scanner is as good as it gets. Digital elevation models (DEMs) are produced by capturing 3D elevation of terrain, buildings, and surfaces through scanning. The high-resolution contour maps and resulting DEM models are used to inspect, modify, plan and measure in a variety of industries from highway construction, archaeology to engineering, and more. When it comes to measuring elevation LiDAR scanning delivers the data quicker than traditional methods.

Climate change and flooding

Climate change is resulting in severe flooding across many areas in the world. To understand how we can improve our cities and urban districts, 3D scan data provides civil engineering and planning departments with topographical digital information which is used to inform policies and to improve future construction.

Space exploration

No, we have not purchased a rocket from Elon Musk, we are talking about NASA. NASA been using 3D scans to inform for many years and released a 3D scan of the moon. For those interested in looking at the captured data, here is the download link of the model from NASA: , for anyone interested in 3D modelling, here are the elevation maps from NASA’s Ernie Wright .

Air quality

3D LiDAR scans are used to measure ozone and water vapour by using different UV wavelengths to measure each gas. Measuring the ratio of the UV signals returning from the atmosphere allows calculation of a detailed gas profile. LiDAR scans are great detectors of dangerous pollutants that cause health and environmental issues like sulphur dioxide, methane, and carbon dioxide.

Oceans & Coral reefs

It is frequently said that ‘we know more about outer space than we do about our oceans’. Fortunately, 3D scanning is helping us conserve and save our oceans by assisting with printed underwater structures, used to prevent coral from extinctions and help reefs rehabilitate. In areas of conservation and the measurement of coastal erosion, 3D scanning is helping scientists around the world to understand, and conserve. Of course, it is not just about the preservation of the coral reefs, the printed 3D structures protect the ocean by giving sanctuary and breeding grounds to marine life. Count us in, we love the planet.


You can of course produce a design from scratch, but when it comes to improving a product or design, it is often quicker to have the object scanned and work on the 3D data in a digital format. Once happy with the design the data is saved as an STL file and the prototype is ready for printing. Briefly, 3D scanning brings accuracy, speed, and a competitive advantage. Bonus.

Reverse engineering

When a vital component is broken and or has become obsolete, reverse engineering is the way forward and solves the problem. Here is how it is done. Scan the object in question, be that an obsolete part or critical piece which requires modification. Once scanned, the 3D point-cloud data is translated into a polygon file. This file allows you to visualise the scanned object in your industry specific 3D software package. Now you have your scan you can reverse engineer and re-model the object in your CAD software. When all adjustments are made, your object is ready for 3D printing, or CNC machining.

Quality Assurance

Everyone working in the QA industry knows that specified tolerances and accuracy are critical to your projects success. QA is the area where most of the 3D scanning takes place. Our 3D Scans are used to improve the speed and quality of inspections in manufacturing and building industries.


Lidar 3D scans are used to carry out earthquake damage investigations and earthquake damage assessments. The advantages of using a 3D scan in an earthquake zone is based on the scans ability to capture accurate data, both safely and quickly. Assessments scans are carried out using drones. Drones are faster, and none destructive, and offer the bonus of being able to access hazardous terrain and situations. After scanning, the 3D scan data provides ‘stress-engineering’ information that illustrates the condition of structures such as buildings, costal paths, roads, walls, dams, and bridges. When it comes to hazardous environments and situations, speed is often a vital factor, which is where 3D laser scanning provides a valuable service when capturing perishable information digitally. 3D scans provide speedy data acquisition, and processing compared to traditional means. The power and advantages of 3D scans is obvious when faced with critical structural and forensic investigations.

Preservation of artefacts, art, and valuable objects

Environmental destruction, war, tourism, an important object, or structure which needs to be preserved and protected, consider having the object digitised to ensure its longevity. A 3D model is a useful way of creating an accurate ‘map’ which details the condition and detail of your objects surface geometry in full colour. Once the scan has been produced the object, area, prop,  building etc, is preserved for life exactly as it was, and if you ever need it to view, print or add the object to film or media, it’s there waiting to be brought to life once more.

Aerial scanning

Surveying huge areas takes time, and when you are faced with large swathes of terrain or areas which need to be captured both quickly and accurately, then the preferred choice is to “have the area 3D scanned”. Terrestrial LiDAR scans lend themselves to AEC industries as well as agriculture, heritage, forestry, conservation studies and forensics.

Rivers and streams

When it comes to water, the use of Bathymetric 3D LiDAR is used to capture waterway data. The scanned data illustrates the length, depth, and the flow of rivers and outlets. This bathymetric 3D data captured by the scanned is used to make environmental assessments, to monitor, and investigate rivers. Captured 3D data assists with planning, conservation, construction, and flood management projects.

Building planning and surveying

When it comes to illustrating something in an immersive way when planning building projects and renovation. Terrestrial 3D LiDAR scans data is used to obtain digital topographical models of the earth’s surface. These models help visualise proposed building schemes and are used in land planning to create detailed maps of streets, houses, and cities. Using 3D data models is the preferred way of creating models more quickly than previous traditional techniques.

Building restoration

With the ability to scan and keep a valuable record of the present condition of the building. The care and restoration of buildings greatly benefits from 3D LiDAR scans, from the capturing of the finest details on building façades to capturing office blocks and associated structures a 3D scan provides accuracy and non-evasive measurements.

Home and landowners

Of course, 3D scanning is not all about professional industries, we often have requests for scans on residential homes and land. Varied requests arrive from people who need a scan of their roof in accurate detail, without having to use ladders or scaffolding. Often, we hear from frustrated house owners who cannot get a roof inspection when obtaining a mortgage and having a building survey carried out. Sometimes it helps, to have more than a 2D plan, when it comes to visualising the placement of a new extension, shed or landscaping idea. 3D allows you to fully experience space and how things are really going to look. If you are anxious about movement of your building or land, a 3D scan will accurately plot any movement over a period of time, either confirming your worry of movement or reassuring you that the area is static. Local flooding problems and poor drainage means farmers use our services to help plan drainage systems. Meanwhile those embarrassing arguments with neighbours have been sorted out by 3D scanning boundaries of walls and fences, because no one can argue when faced with the accurate facts.

Everyday 3D scanning requests

Sometimes people want a scan of a special object, or a special place as a memory to keep forever or share online. From pet scans, to guitars and houses to gravestones we have received some brilliant requests from across the UK. Obviously, we would fly out to scan your budgie in Australia, but being environmentally aware, we would recommend someone more local for your 3D scan of pretty Peter, we scanned Paul last month in Grimsby.


Nuclear and waste, hazardous areas

Accessing areas that are notoriously hazardous, such as the nuclear or gas/oil chemical industry, or areas presenting difficult access, is not a problem for 3D scanners. Where areas are found to be unsafe for personnel, remote vehicle 3D scanners or drones are employed to carry out the survey, allowing AEC professionals to extract the desired 2D/ 3D information quickly, accurately, and safely.


Preservation and cataloguing artefacts through 3D scanning, offers an intrusive safe and accurate way to digitally store and conserve fragile and rare objects. In addition to conservation, museums are using 3D scanned objects to entice and educate visitors, through 3D interactive Virtual Reality and Augmented reality games and exploration. Valuable artefacts which are too fragile to handle, or exhibit, can now be viewed and investigated in 3D, both online and in-house while the original remains preserved.

Heritage – Capturing the worlds natural wonders

War, and environmental crisis results in the loss of heritage buildings and sites. As the world and its leaders wake up to these ever-increasing threats, many are seeking to protect their sites and objects using data taken from 3D scans. Although nothing can ever replace the loss of fine buildings, or historical sites, by 3D scanning the areas and structures, the resulting data is readily available to be used for analysis and reconstruction.


Here at Commendium we have captured mountain ranges, and hundreds of thousands of miles of terrain from across the world. Therefore, it was a wonderful surprise to find, whilst scanning one area in China, we accidentally discovered the world’s biggest cave. The cave had been visited many times before and mapped, however, due to lack of visibility, and inability to fully explore the vast cave structure, its total volume had never been accurately realised. Using terrestrial LiDAR scans, we discovered areas that were previously undetected or simply miscalculated. This led to the discovery of a new world record, without 3D scanning the world’s biggest cave would have remained a secret; and our Roo Walters, 3D scan expert and friend to the stars, would not have been slapped over the front local papers grinning with pride.

 Estate Agents

Digitized reality is here, with accurate measurements of your building or land plot, you never need to use a tape measure again. First it was 360-degree panoramic views which helped showcase quality homes and rentals. However, with a 3D scan view the potential client can visualise space for the first time in a 3D environment. The scan of the property is placed online using a 3D web-based widget, the prospective buyer can check out the building from every angle, see the garden, parking places and get a real sense of space. The scanned property 3D model can also be used to illustrate proposed new extensions or further building works or renovations.

There are many more uses for 3D scans, but if you got this far, we think you have probably got the measure of it by now. Capture reality by digitising it, keep it safe & perfect forever. Call us about your scanning fantasies, and no we don’t really scan budgies, but we will. 

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