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The Pros and Cons of Using a 3D Scanning Service

What do you do if you have a project that requires 3D scanning, but you don’t have a 3D scanner? Buy? Rent? Outsource? How do you decide?

Factors to Consider for Outsourcing 3D Scanning

We sell 3D scanners and also provide 3D scanning services, so we’re in a unique position to know what factors drive the decision. Here are the factors of outsourcing 3D scanning services and the pros and cons that come with each.

  1. Cost
  2. Volume of work
  3. Flexibility
  4. Quality Control
  5. Application Knowledge
  6. Expertise


Let’s face it—first and foremost with nearly every business decision you make, the cost plays a big part. Of course, the cost is often more than just how much you pay for the equipment. There’s also the cost of your employees’ time to learn how to use the equipment, and then to actually perform the 3D scanning for your project. Consider, also, the cost of the time required to manipulate the file once the scanning is completed.

Do you have the internal expertise and the time to take the job to its completion?  Are you measuring, inspecting, modeling, reverse engineering?  What’s the end result and are you able to do it in-house without taking resources from other important projects?

3D Scanning Service

Volume of Work

Is this a one-off project?  Or will you be doing a lot of 3D scanning in the future?

One-off projects are probably better off outsourced. However, even if you think this project will lead to other similar projects, sometimes it’s best to outsource in the beginning until you build up sufficient 3D scanning volume to warrant an investment in equipment and resources.  Renting equipment may be a good intermediate step.

While the cost of using a 3D scanning service outsource seems to add-up if you have many projects, oftentimes using an outsource is actually less expensive — when you consider the cost and maintenance of equipment plus employee salaries and benefits packages.  This is especially true if you’re building an entirely new service in your company.

An outsourced 3D scanning department can be a real cost-saver.


While having 3D scanning in-house lets you use the scanner whenever you need it, partnering with an outsourcing service can give you nearly the same amount of flexibility, with none of the hassles.  Parts can be shipped directly to the scanning site.  This way, the outsource service becomes an extension of your company.   In fact, many of our customers use our services exactly like this.  They have 24/7 access to our services and technicians, oftentimes getting the jobs done more seamlessly and quickly than if they did them in-house.

Quality Control

While it may seem as though quality control may be harder to maintain with outsourced projects, a little bit of due diligence goes a long way.  Use the same care in searching for a 3D scanning outsource as you would if you were hiring an in-house employee.

Use an established outsource firm that has a proven track record. Ensure that your scanned data will be secured and maintained appropriately. If you use a service bureau that is approved for DOD work you can be assured that proper procedures are in place.

Outline ahead of time, and agree, in writing, to the procedures that need to be followed.

Application Knowledge

What software format do you need for the scanned files?   What industry knowledge does your outsource service need to have?  These are all easy facts to ascertain and confirm.  Prior planning before embarking on the project ensures outsourced success.

What type of 3D scanner(s) does the service have available?  Do they have what is needed for scanning the types and sizes of objects you need scanning?  If you take on other types of projects, do they have a wide enough range of scanners to cover your needs?


Many service companies have a long history of CAD scanning, starting with large format scanning and advancing as technology has advanced into 3D scanning. When you have a demanding 3D scanning project that requires a high level of skill and expertise, it’s best to use technicians who have a lot of experience. In this regard, an outsource service may be a far better option than trying to do it yourself.

In Closing:

Regardless of how you start out, if the time comes to buy a scanner, relying on the same company who has provided your outsource services ensures that you will get the 3D scanner that will do the job. While buying a scanner can empower your staff, maintaining an ongoing relationship with a knowledgeable outsource company that provides 3D scanning services can empower your business.

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