3D Laser Scanning Services FAQ

3D Laser Scanning: Your Questions Answered

Whether you are interested in 3D laser scanning services, need information to win your next trivia game, or are just curious about the vast and varied world of 3D technology, we at Arrival 3D want to be your one-stop destination for information on 3D laser scanning technology.  

Here’s a no-nonsense list of frequently asked questions about 3D scanning services. 

The Basics

  1. Data Acquired via Laser Scanning – We conduct the 3d scan on site, capturing as many scans as necessary to fully cover the object(s) of interest.

  2. Resulting Point Clouds Registered – Each scan appears as millions of points called a “point cloud”. These point clouds are “registered’ or stitched together to create a total 3D representation of the object(s).

  3. Useful Information Extracted – Using various software tools, the point cloud data is converted into the desired deliverable format. This could be 3D CAD models, animations, 2D CAD drawings, or a print-to-3D ready model.

  4. Result Delivered to Customer – The final result, whether it be a CAD model or animation, is delivered to the customer in a timely manner.

3D laser scanning can be used for any object – from vast power plants and office buildings to machinery and small parts – that needs to be measured or defined in a CAD Model, 3D Digital Twin, or other 3D visual or technical representation. Some examples include:

Structures & Very Large Objects

  • Map out structure, piping and conduit to accurately plan changes to your facility
  • Building scanning for real estate sales, remodels, and facility management.
  • Create a BIM model for building renovation
  • 3D Models for facility or building animations, fly-throughs, and augmented reality/virtual reality represntations
  • Engineer new product prototypes


  • Perform first article inspection, verifying that the part was built as designed
  • Create a 3D CAD model complete with 2D drawings having only the part for reference
  • Make digital modifications to parts by changing their size or adding/removing features
  • Closely analyze parts for subtle flaws and fitment issues
  • Speed – We can scan up to 50,000 points per seccond, vastly reducing survey and inspection time compared to alternative methods. As a result, you achieve faster project planning due to accurate as-build records and rapid turnaround of deliverable 3D models.

  • Accuracy – For buildings and facilities, scan resolution is typically 0.125″ depending on the purpose of the scan. For parts, accuracy ranges from 0.0005″ to 0.040″ depending on part size, but is typically in the 0.005″ range.

  • Safety – 3D scanning reduces on-site time, which can reduce exposure to hazardous environments. Scanning can be performed from adjacent areas and because of the scanner’s range, can reduce the need for scaffolding. Drone 3D scanning can completely remove you from the scan environment.

  • Portability – 3D Scanners have a small footprint, are non-invasive, unobtrusive, and easy to trasport. They can be taken to remote sites and used to scan from a distance.

  • Flexibility – Many 3D Scanners have a wide operating range – up to 150 meters. They collect an enormous amount of data and can capture complex environments with ease. The data recorded can be used for anything from generating 2D and 3D CAD Models to future projects.

  • Cost Savings – 3D scanning is substantially faster than manual mathods, reducing labor hours and service costs. The result can reduce future rework and crew downtime, project cost, and even complex brownfield development costs. The schedule compression and generated model can bring you considerable savings.

  • Risk Mitigation – Accurate 3D models reduce engineering errors, surprises during the building process, and schedule upsets. Often, smaller crews can be used. It also means fewer repeat trips and less on-site time
There are many situations where 3D scanning is the ultimate solution. Here are just a few of the countless examples uses for 3D Laser Scanning:
  • You are developing an apartment complex by re-purposing an old school
  • You are adding a new product line to your factory and need find space for new piping
  • You have a mold that you have been using for 30 years and have no drawings for it
  • You need a quick way to produce plan drawings of an old house
  • Power Plant engineers
  • Oil & Gas Engineers & Operators
  • Green Energy Suppliers
  • Builders, Developers & AEC Companies
  • Facility Managers
  • BIM Managers and Architects
  • Aerospace Engineers (ie: NASA)
  • Maritime Companies
  • Machinists and Mold Makers
  • Inventors, Entrepreneurs & Product Designers
  • Quality Managers
  • Forensic Engineers & insurance Companies
  • Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Artists & Sculptors
  • Archaeologists
  • Scientists & Researchers
  • Dental and Orthopedic Doctors
  • Game Designers
  • Virtual World Creators
  • Marketing Directors
  • Many More
LiDAR scanners transmit pulses of laser light through a spinning mirror. This 3D laser scanning equipment, used to scan buildings and large objects, is be a tripod mounted instrument. Scanners used for parts usually project a light pattern or laser line and have cameras that observe the projected light to acquire the 3D shapes.

The Concerns

Our on-site laser scanning processes uses eye-safe instruments for most cases. For flammable environments, we use an explosion-proof scanner. 3D scanning promotes safety because it permits you to take measurements from a safe distance from facility hazards.
No. 3D Laser scanning is a non-contact technique. For highly reflective parts, we may coat the part with a light talcum powder which is easliy removed.
Depending on the type of scanning, accuracy can range from 1/8″ for building scanning and .0005″ for industrial CT scanning. The typical accuracy for an average part is about .005″. The question of expected accuracy is best answered once we have a clear understanding of the project.
There is almost no limit to how large an item we can scan. We are often asked, “Can you scan something as large as a power plant, a container ship, an office building (the list goes on)?” The answer is nearly always YES! We have different types of scanners that can capture a wide range of sizes. We can scan objects from about the size of a kernel of corn to the size of a very large industrial facility. For example, a mile-long assembly line would be no problem. For one California customer, we scanned five miles of conveyor belts.
While we would all like instant results, the reality is that multiple scans must be aligned to produce a single unified scan file. This process takes time, whether it is for a building, interior, or an object. Typically it may take a week or more after the scan date. Large areas and/or lots of rooms require more scans and require additional time to generate the results. Any requirement for deliverables in addition to a point cloud will also require more time. In the case of object scanning, watertight results that are typically required for 3D printing may also require additional time for processing and quality control.
Scanning collects millions of points of 3D data, which must then be interpreted to generate the CAD file. The CAD file is produced in a secondary process, after the scans have been aligned. This is a manual process requiring a skilled technician to generate the 3D models and/or 2D drawings. There are some automated methods to convert scans to CAD; however, the usefulness is typically limited and 99% of the time it is a human that produces the CAD files.

While 3D scanning has numerous advantages that make it far superior to other methods, there are some caveats that must be considered. 3D scanning captures millions of data points, but it is possible that desired detail can be missed in the scanning for a the following reasons.

  1. 3D Scanners must have line of sight. If you can’t see the subject from a specific location, the scanner can’t see it either. This can often be mitigated by planning scan location and a site walkthrough.

  2. Because 3D Laser Scanning (LiDAR) uses laser light, highly reflective surfaces (e.g. mirrors, polished metal) or transparent surfaces can be challenging.

  3. It’s possible to be too far from the object. This can often be mitigated with proper planning, but may also require special access or use of a scanner mounted on a drone.

  4. It’s possible to be too close to an object. This can also often be mitigated by thoughtful planning.

  5. Physical interference of the scanner with the item (object scanning).

It’s possible to address some or all of these issues in advance of your scan. Therefore, presenting complete information, accurate site conditions, and clear scope in advance of the scanning can help to minimize areas that cannot be captured.

The Logistics

Popular output formats include Autodesk Revit, DWG, STP, IGES, Solidworks SLDPRT, STL for 3D printing, AutoCAD, XYZ, ReCap point clouds and many more. Here is a more extensive list of the file formats you can get from 3D scanning services.
The shortest turnaround for a small scanning project is usually about 1 week, but every project is different so we would need to review your requirements. If CAD modeling is involved, the turnaround time varies according to complexity.
There are many factors influencing the cost of 3D scanning so costs are often unique to each project. Small long range scanning projects can start in the $3,000 range, and part scanning typically starts in the $500 range. Here’s a complete list of reasons why costs vary so much. The cost is usually broken into two parts; the cost of the scan capture itself and the cost of turning the scan into your desired delivery format. CAD file creation can vary substantially from project to project depending on complexity, even if are both the same type of object.

Arrival 3D Services

We use some of the best 3D scanners available. And if we don’t have it, we know where to get it.
We use a variety of software tools including Geomagic, GOM, Leica Cyclone, Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Civil 3D, Pix4d and other tools for 3D scan processing.
We do not rent 3D laser scanners; we only provide the service. However, a good way to get started with scanning is to hire us first. Our field engineers are more than happy to explain the process and let you watch.
Check out our Learning Center to find a plethora of information on 3d scanning, CAD modeling, and other subjects related to 3D technology.
Arrival 3D offers high accuracy, quick turnaround, professional quality results, and world-class customer service. We maintain an array of 3D scanning equipment and select the best 3D scanning technology for your application. Our technicians are well-versed in most CAD technology and 3D model generation, allowing us to skillfully generate a variety of output formats to satisfy your deliverable requirements.
Just fill out the form below! We typically respond within one business day and are always happy to discuss new and interesting scan projects.

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