10 ways 3D Scanning can go wrong

avoid 3d scanning companies that make these mistakes!

From challenging terrain to equipment malfunctions, there are many things that can go wrong when undertaking the task of performing a 3D scan. Here we list several things that can go awry when performing 3D scanning services.  The insidious nature of some of these is that it may not be immediately apparent whether these problems have occurred or not.

1. the double take

Am I seeing double vision here? No, you have not had too much to drink – we are talking about “doubling”, something that happens when scans are not aligned right. Frequently with 3D scanning, in order to get full coverage of something, you need to scan it twice from different angles, or even multiple times. To do that, you often end up with scans that are completely separate that need to be aligned together. If for whatever reason the software you are using doesn’t align the separate scans together perfectly, you end up with a double layer we call “doubling”. When you see doubling, it is a red flag that this scan is not accurate. When you see it, sometimes it can be fixed with better alignment, but you end up having to start all over again. 

2. the spiral

When performing long range 3D laser scanning services, it is usually done using a tripod scanner with spiked feet and a heavy 3D scanning instrument on top of the tripod. Let’s say you’ve got the tripod set up on asphalt, a good hard surface. What could go wrong,? Well, In the heat of the summer, asphalt can get very hot and sometimes it can get soft. If the tripod is on a slope, then one leg may have more weight on it than the others and the spike can start to sink during the 3D scan. Since long range scans can take several minutes, the sinking causes the scanner to slowly tilt while it is scanning. The long range scans work by doing a 360 degree sweep, ending where it started. But a sinking tripod scans in a spiral rather than a circle. Even if it only sinks a fraction of an inch, this will cause big problems when you go to assemble the scans in software. The “sinking” scan will not align correctly.

3. The Crack

Let’s say you are doing a 3D scanning service project to scan a large parking lot. You may notice in the scan a crack or break in the point cloud, as if the earth opened up. The break starts at the scan position and gets wider the farther you go from the scanner. This is a dead giveaway that the scanner needs to go back to the manufacturer for repair and calibration.

4. can't stand the heat

In a perfect world, every scan would be at 70 degrees F. But we often find ourselves operating 3D laser scanners in hot weather during the summer. If the on-board fan of the scanner can’t keep up with cooling the scanner, you end up with a 3D scanner that overheats. A refrigerator or an air conditioned car is a quick remedy to cool down a smoking scanner.

5. out of juice

A dead or dying batter is good way to kill a 3d laser scan. If you don’t have extra batteries, or your charger doesn’t charge fast enough, it can result in a major scan fail.

6. memory problems

Most 3D scanners nowadays can use USB drives or SD cards to store 3D scanning data during scanning. But one needs to be careful about when you remove these memory devices. If you remove it while the scanner is writing to it, the information on it can be corrupted. This can cause you to really have a bad day and lose everything.

7. Lens Hygiene

Dirty and/or dusty lenses and mirrors degrade the quality of the scans. It can cause strange effects, waves, and dispersion in the data that you don’t want. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” when it comes to 3D scanning.

8. forklift attack

Legend has it, some forklift drivers can pick up a nickel and flip it over. However, if your scanner is in an inconspicuous location, a hot dogging forklift driver may come around a corner and not see it. Next thing you know, you have a scanner on the ground. That may be a very expensive day if you don’t have insurance to help you out.

9. slippery feet

If you are scanning on a concrete floor, metal spiked feet have a tendency to slide, especially if the floor is wet. There is a triangular device that can rectify this problem. Below is an image of a tripod stabilizer by Laser Scanning America. Typically they’re about $60.

10. wrong resolution

If you scan at a resolution that is too low, the points in the scan will be too far apart to make out the detail needed. This is the most fundamental of scanning failures. The flip side of that is scanning at too high a resolution. When the resolution is much higher than required for the project, you end up wasting time with long scans and not covering the area that you could have in that time period.


When you’re interviewing and receiving quotes from different companies, don’t feel apologetic about asking questions about equipment and methods before hiring a 3D scanning company. Any experienced company will be prepared to give you honest, professional responses of how they avoid these scanning mistakes. You want to make sure the company you hire has the experience and expertise to handle your project accurately and professionally. 

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