If 3D printing is the finalization of the digital manufacturing process, the act of 3D capturing physical objects and turning them into digital 3D models is a key starting point. This category of the 3D Printing Business Directory includes all 3D scanner manufacturers and distributors as well as companies that produce and market virtual reality and augmented reality hardware products. 3D scanning is used in additive manufacturing for reverse engineering and to accelerate product development.
3D Scanners create point clouds, that is a collection of digital points in a 3D space which define a shape. These points can then be analyzed to create a polygon mesh and the relative 3D printable file. The way 3D scanners create these point clouds change according to the different 3D scanning technologies: These include blue-light, white-light, laser scanners and time-of-flight scanners, as well as rotational and robotic arm 3D scanners. They can be handheld or industrial grade systems. High-end 3D scanners also include tomography and X-ray systems for non-destructive analysis of additively manufactured products with complex geometries.