Affordable 3D Scanning From Structure Sensor

Structure Sensor

What is a 3D Scanner?

Not to long ago I was asked what is a 3D Scanner?  Well to my understanding a 3D scanner is a device that is used to scan real world 3-dimensional objects.  It collects data on the object’s shape, size, contour, and in some cases color.  The file that is created from the scan is used to create a 3 dimensional model of the scanned object.  The file can be read by a 3D printer that can reproduce the model. Common file formats for 3D scanning/printing are STL and VRML as well as OBJ and PLY.  Many 3D printer manufacturers have their own proprietary format.  There are a lot of applications for 3D scanning. Medical, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, but these are expensive machines.  I thought I would look for one geared towards the consumer, hobbyist or artist and this is what I came up with.

Structure Sensor from Occipital


This Q&A got me started on a journey to discover exactly what was available out there in the world of 3D scanning so I thought I’d share what I learned here.  I found a number of services  that will 3D scan for you. There are also a number of hardware/software choices for DYI out there for 3D scanning. Most options I came across were pretty expensive so I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Structure Sensor from Occipital. The Structure Sensor has been available for some time now but it is new to me. This is a fairly complete solution that won’t require a ton of money.


Made For iPad

The Structure sensor is made for iPad. It clamps to the iPad and provides visual feedback during the scan. This eliminates the need for turntables. It also removes size limitations of the objects being scanned. Their clamping system is available for every size iPad, including the iPad Pro. It is the most cost effective option I found and will scan objects and people as well as create 3D maps of interior spaces. With depth sensing, you can measure an entire room all at once in real time. It captures everything in view, all at once. 


Occipital’s Bridge Engine makes it possible to create mixed reality experiences. With your iPad, Structure Sensor, and the Bridge Engine, you have the ability to capture dense 3D meshes of scenes, allowing you to create magical experiences where it’s impossible to tell the virtual from the real.  Check out this video.

To sum it up, the Structure Sensor from Occipital does 3D scanning and texturing, indoor mapping, positional tracking, and augmented reality. There is an SDK complete with a series of APIs for the Structure Sensor. This opens it up to developers for even more innovation. This is an impressive yet affordable combination of hardware/software. The Structure Sensor sells for $399 and includes the iPad bracket. There is a bundle for $499 that includes the bracket, cable, and Skanect 3D scanning software. The app sells for $129.00 separately.  Amazon is selling the iPad 2 version for $379.00.

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Carmine Delligatti-Drummer, former Support Manager for Deneba Software, ACD Systems, Mareware, Inc. and Swiss Made Marketing. Avid technology blogger and Managing Editor of