These 3D scanner apps for Android and Apple products are great for learning how to work with photogrammetry-based modeling or for practicing making 3D printed models from real-life objects.
The ability to scan 3D objects has long been relegated to high-tech, specialized scanners. Now, there is an increasing number of applications available for consumer 3D scanning to develop models for 3D printing.
This article covers five smartphone apps that can be used to generate 3D models from real life objects. All listed apps do not require extra hardware, but you can generate higher quality scans with some auxiliary scanning tools.
Because you are not working with high-quality, specialized tech, there are going to be some notable limitations you are likely to face when working with smartphone scanner applications.
Ease of use
These applications typically require quite a bit of time and effort to obtain good results. Moreover, many makers use a secondary software to clean up scans to ensure higher resolution prints.
Because smartphone cameras are not designed for 3D model development, the resulting scans can be somewhat poor quality. With some post-processing, many of these scans are perfectly usable, but they may be lacking in some of the detail you want.
Photogrammetry, a technique in which 360° models are developed by taking photos at various angles of a single object, is the foundation upon which many of these apps generate 3D models. A photogrammetry algorithm processes the photos, whether within the app itself or through a cloud service, and a 3D model is generated by “stitching” these elements together.
Apple and its community are somewhat more conducive to 3D scanning than existing Android solutions. More recent Apple equipment is outfitted with high-quality 3D scanning hardware, making their use with iPhone scanning apps useful for easily obtaining high quality prints.
Top 3D scanning smartphone applications
Cost: ~ 5 USD
Platform: iOS (11.3 or later)
Rating: 3.4 stars
Number of ratings: 31
User level: Novices
Trnio is a super-simple app with a beginner-friendly scan process. Users simply hold the camera button on-screen and move around the object. An augmented reality marker is placed each time a picture is captured, and once enough photos have been taken, the user touches the middle of the screen to stitch the photos together. This app works best for those with a steady hand that are working with objects that are highly textured.
Because the camera will pick up background objects as well, users should clean up their scans before exporting.
Trnio also includes a social platform on which users can follow and friend others as well as view their scans. The app has an “export to Sketchfab” feature, which allows users to easily download their scans from Sketchfab’s website.
Platforms: iOS (12.0 or later)
Rating: 4.4 stars
Number of ratings: 550+
User level: Novice to professional
Scandy Pro is a robust 3D scanning app that utilizes the TrueDepth feature on newer iOS devices. The app is commonly used for facial and figure scanning, but it is also capable of scanning smaller objects and furniture.
If you have an iPhone X or later or the newer iPad Pro, the front-facing camera can be used to scan objects. Full-color output meshes are generated in real time.
The app is very forgiving for beginners and includes additional features such as augmented reality viewing, Sketchfab integration, and a built-in editor to refine point clouds and meshes after scanning.
The major limitation to using this app is that you can only export a scan once per 24 hours, with a $0.99 in-app transaction required to export more. To unlock advanced features and unlimited file saving, a subscription-type service starting at $1.99 per week is required.
Sony 3D Creator
Platform: Android (8.0 and up)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Number of ratings: 2,600+
User level: Novice
3D Creator is a great option for Android users trying to develop high-resolution 3D models. This app comes with different scanning modes, including food, head, face, selfie, and freedom modes for various types of scan subjects.
The app offers users the ability to use “Post-scan cloud processing” tools, which render 3D models with 4K resolution, allowing for better detail and realism. The scanner also has augmented reality effects that enable you to bring your scans to life as 3D avatars. Cropping and photo adjustment tools allow for easy fine-tuning, and scans can be further improved by uploading them to Sony’s servers.
Platform: iOS (12.0 or later)
Rating: 4.2 stars
Number of ratings: 137
User level: Novice to professional
Capture can be used to generate 3D scans and share them with friends or download them for auxiliary use. This app requires the TrueDepth camera, which is currently only available on the iPhone X series. Scans can be sent to others by iMessage, WhatsApp, Slack, and other messaging apps, with any receiving iPhone being able to view the whole scan.
Capture scans can be taken similar to panoramic photos. After scanning with the front-facing camera, a preview is shown in the app’s model environment, and users can simulate the model in their environment using the augmented reality feature. A free account can be set up to save scans from as well.
Like higher-tech photogrammetry applications, Capture uses the iPhone sensors and cameras to create a “point cloud,” which enables it to determine the depth characteristics of the scanned object to generate an accurate 3D model.
Platform: iOS, Android, any device supporting Google ARCore
Rating: 4.4 stars (Apple); 4.1 stars (Google Play)
Number of ratings: 151 (Apple); 1,300+ (Google Play)
User level: Novice to professional
Display.land is a novel 3D scanning and modeling app built using Google’s ARCore augmented reality technology. This app is fully free to use and allows for easy scanning, modification, and export of 3D objects.
A unique feature of this app is its VR integration. Generated scans can be viewed using a headset within the web browser companion; URLs are assigned to each scan for easy viewing and scan sharing.
Meshes can be downloaded in a few common file formats. Users can also save and edit their scans within the app. The developers are quite responsive and release semi-frequent updates to address user concerns.
Accessibility and 3D modeling
3D modeling is notoriously difficult to master, and beginners have a specifically hard time trying to model real-life objects from scratch. The greater accessibility of 3D scanner apps has allowed more people to dive into the world of modeling, with such consumer applications also slowly getting better in quality.
As 3D printing becomes more common, 3D scanning is likely to continue to improve. While these apps are not perfect, they allow those without a solid background in design and modeling to try working with an entirely novel technology with some major implications for future tech.
The source for the header image can be found here. The 3D model of The Sitting Woman statue, created by Václav Bejček, was designed by Mikolas Zuza.