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Top 3D scanning software: photogrammetry, laser and light scanning, and scanning apps for your phone

Introduction

3D scanning is becoming more and more popular. From the medical industry, historical reconstructions to automotive applications, 3D scanning has many uses. But which software is the best for your project? Did you know that in some cases all you need is a phone? Let’s see which option will suit you best!

How does 3D scanning work?

We already wrote an article about how 3D scanning works, so dig into it if you would like to know all the details! In a nutshell, 3D scanning allows you to produce a 3D model of a physical object. 3D scanning is a technology that’s now available for everyone. Doctors and other professionals use 3D scanners at work, but they are also widely used by commercial companies and amateurs.

3D scanning can be as easy as using your own smartphone or setting up a bunch of cameras. There are 3 methods to use 3D scanning technology: laser 3D scanning, photogrammetry, and structured light scanning. We prepared a guide to help you choose the best 3D scanner for your project. Since there are different devices used for 3D scanning, we organized our list of the top 20 3D scanning software by type: photogrammetry software, 3D scanning software used for 3D scanners and 3D scanning apps for your phone.

Photogrammetry software

Photogrammetry software is a technology based on photos to produce your 3D models. It uses photographs to calculate measurements and turn them into 3D data. To 3D scan with a phone, drone or a camera, you need photogrammetry software. We already dedicated a blog post to the best photogrammetry software, but now we will enrich this list.

3DF Zephyr

3DF Zephyr is one of the leaders on the market thanks to its UI. It is very intuitive and user-friendly. Inexperienced users will be guided through the 3D scanning process, however, 3DF Zephyr is not only for amateurs. Professionals from different fields will use a lot of helpful tools, such as the ability to transform the model into CAD software. There are also plenty of options to tweak the 3D model and adjust it.

Agisoft Metashape

This professional 3D scanning software is popular for GIS applications (Geographic Information System), but also for visual effects production, historical documentation and game development. The software is capable of working with both close-range and aerial photogrammetry. An interesting feature of Agisoft Metashape is that the user can make 4D models as the software allows to save whole scenes as editable 3D objects

Autodesk ReCap

Autodesk ReCap

https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/recap/learn-explore/caas/CloudHelp/cloudhelp/2018/ENU/Reality-Capture/files/GUID-AF55A2EB-FCE8-4982-B3D6-CEAD5732DF03-htm.html

Autodesk ReCap stands for Reality Capture. It uses photos, but can also apply laser scans to produce 3D models. It can be used for aerial scans and close-range. The 3D objects can be used with CAD and BIM software. With this 3D scanning software, you will be able to achieve high-quality models, which can be edited thanks to specialized tools.

Bentley ContextCapture

This is a very powerful professional photogrammetry software, capable of producing whole infrastructure landscapes. It will give you a lot of advanced tools to organize and edit the 3D models. This software is popular for construction projects, it can create highly detailed street views This software can be with aerial photogrammetry and laser scanning in order to achieve the best 3D models. With Bentley ContextCapture you can even produce 3D animations and fly-throughs.

Colmap

Colmap allows for the production of 3D mesh from one camera or from a set up of cameras. It is free and easy to use. There are more advanced options available, especially to improve quality. However, you can’t edit the 3D model in this software. It is great for quick and easy 3D scanning.

DroneDeploy

As the name suggests, this 3D scanning software was designed for drones. It consists of two apps. One controls the path of the drone and will guide it from take-off to landing. A second program gathers the photos and creates a 3D model. It provides you with tools to measure areas, volumes, and distances. Additionally, you can add more personalized features.

IMAGINE Photogrammetry

IMAGINE is a professional photogrammetry software. It is important for you to consider if you’re planning to work with mapping 3D scans. It is very well known in the industry and used by the department of transportation, commercial mapping companies, and national and regional mapping authorities. It provides users with plenty of professional tools such as different point cloud views, to help transform the photos and manage large data.

Meshroom

Meshroom stands out for an easy learning curve. The 3D scanning process is very intuitive, and based on nodes and creates a 3D model for you. You also have the option to edit the nodes later and adjust the 3D scan according to your needs. 

MicMac

This professional photogrammetry software was created by the French National Geographic Insitute and the French National School of Geographic Sciences. It provides you with highly professional tools, especially for academic and industrial applications. It can be used for small and large scale scans.

OpenMVG

Yet another 3D scanning software for professionals. It is trusted by computer-vision scientists and the Multiple View Geometry (MVG) industry. OpenMVG operates with Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry technology.

Photomodeler

Photomodeller allows you to create 3D objects thanks to 3 different methods. You can manually fit common characteristics, automatically produce a 3D model from coded targets or match point clouds from overlapping images. It is an easy to use and affordable 3D scanning software.

Pix4D

This 3D scanning software covers all the tools from flying a drone to generating a 3D model. It will assure your drone path is correct and then allows you to create orthomosaics, index maps, elevation models or point clouds to produce an accurate 3D model. You also have access to different analytic tools so the model can be edited.

3D scanning software for 3D scanners

Other than producing 3D models from pictures, it is also possible to use laser and structured light projections to generate a model. When it comes to this type of 3D scanning software, it often comes with 3D scanning hardware, such as a 3D laser scanner, as with these technologies you can’t just use your phone to make a 3D model.

Artec Studio

Certainly one of the leaders in the 3D scanning software industry. It offers a professional set of tools and innovative algorithms to calculate the gathered 3D data and provide you with the best results. Another great feature of Artec is its user-friendliness and intuitive UI.

PolyWorks

Used by ShapeGrabber 3D Scanners and developed by Innovmetric, PolyWorks analyzes the 3D model for quality and accuracy. It is used by professionals in the aerospace, medical, automotive and other industries. It allows you to check the generated model by processing the point cloud.

Volume Graphics

Widely trusted in the automotive and electronics industries 3D scanning software. It allows you to analyze and visualize 3D data for metrology purposes, quality control, product development, and damage analysis.

3D scanning apps

This cutting-edge technology of 3D scanning has gone so far that you can even use your phone to both make a 3D scan and then a 3D model. There are dedicated apps that will allow you to turn a real object into a 3D model in just a few clicks. Learn how to 3D scan with a smartphone

Qlone

This is all-in-one mobile 3D scanning software. Qlone will allow you to 3D scan and produce a 3D model with just your smartphone. It’s easy and fast to use. The 3D model can be exported into several 3D formats and sent for 3D printing.

Trnio

Trnio can be considered as photogrammetry software but can be used on a smartphone. It turns pictures into 3D objects, but you can also actually 3D scan the object. It offers two quality options: high and low texturing resolution.

Sony 3D Creator

If you need to get high resolution models using a 3D scan app on your smartphone, this Sony 3D Creator app could totally fit your needs. This free app is perfectly adapted to beginners, allowing you to render your 3D model in 4K for a better resolution.


Heges

Heges is a scanning app for iPhone, targeting professional users. This program has many interesting features: it performs 360° rotation, it includes “Infinity scanning” for large spaces. You can also make the most of its dark mode allowing you to scan in dark environment!


Scann3D

Yet another photogrammetry software. It has a very simple UI and is user-friendly. Take 20-40 pictures in order to generate a 3D model. It can work with small objects as well as bigger objects (such as a tree). You can export your model as an STL file, one of the most popular formats for 3D printing.

3D Creator

This mobile app was developed by Sony and will provide you with high-quality 3D scans, it’s especially popular for portraits. The models can be used within different apps such as messages, but also to 3D print models in full color.

Scandy Pro 3D Scanner

This intuitive 3D scanning software makes it so easy to generate high-quality models. It prides itself in light files without losing quality, built-in support for STL, OBJ, GLB, USDZ and PLY formats, and moreover, fully-featured editing tools.

Software comparison

Let’s have a quick recap of all these software. We will list the most important technical parameters which hopefully will let you decide which 3D scanning software is the best for your project.

NameSystemTypeOutput filesPrice
3DF ZephyrWindowsAerialClose-rangePly, obj, fbx, pdf 3D, u3d, dae, pts, ptx, xyz, txt, las, e57Free standard versionPaid Premium 149- 3 900 
Agisoft MetashapeWindowsMacOSLinuxAerialClose-rangefbx179- 3 500$Educational license available
Autodesk ReCapWindowsAerialClose-rangeAsc, cl3, clr, e57, fls, fws, isproj, las, pcg, ptg, pts, rds, txt, xyb, xyz, zfs, zfprj310$ / year
Bentley ContectCaptureWindowsAerialClose-range3ms, 3sm, kml, dae, fbx, obj, dae, stlOn request
COLMAPWindowsMacOSLinuxAerialClose-rangePly, vrmlFree
DroneDeploy WindowsMacOSAndroidiOSAerialDxf, GeoTIFF, las, obj, xyz149$/ month
IMAGINE PhotogrammetryWindowsAerialImg, las, ascii igg, boaa, rpf, ddf, dem, til, dt2, ecrg, hdr, url (…)On request
MeshroomWindowsLinuxAerialClose-rangeAbc, obj Free
MicMacWindowsMacOSLinuxAerialClose-rangeGeoriff, ply, xmlFree
OpenMVGWindowsMacOSLinuxAerialClose-rangeGis, geotiff, Free
PhotomodelerWindowsAerialClose-range3ds, 3dm, dxf, igs, kml, kmz, las, ma, ms, obj, pts, byu, facet, iv, ply, stl, txt, wrl995$ per licence or 49$ per month
Pix4DWindowsMacOSAndroidiOSAerialObj, fix, dxf, las, kml, tif, ocgb, slpk, shp 3 990 per licence or260 per month
Artec StudioWindowsMaxOS Close-rangeObj, ply, wrl, stl, btx, ptx, aop, asc, Disney ptex, e57, xyzrgb800- 2000€ 
PolyWorksWindowsClose-rangeMany CAD file formats, and also obj, ply, stl, dxf, jt, nastran, pol, vrml 2.0On request
Volume graphicsWindowsMacOSLinuxClose-rangeMany CAD file formats, vglOn request
QloneAndroidiOSClose-rangeObj, stl, ply, x3dFree
Trnio iOS Close-range 0.99$
Scann3DAndroidClose-rangeObj, stl, plyFree
3D CreatorAndroidClose-range Free
Scandy Pro 3D ScanneriOSClose-range Ply, obj, stl, usdz, glb FreeFees for unlimited saves:1.99$ per week5.99$ per month49.99$ per year

Let's 3D scan today!

As you can see the list of Top 3D scanning software is long and for sure one of them will fit your needs. From professional landscape mapping to medical 3D scanning, this technology amazes us. But it can also be used at your home, all you need is a phone. 

3D printing can be just as easy. All you need to do is to upload your 3D objects to our online Additive Manufacturing service. 3D printing has never been more simple! 

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