3D Systems’ Sense 3D Scanner: Hands On

Sense 3D Scanner

Last weekend I had the opportunity to try out 3D Systems’ new product, the Sense 3D Scanner. It’s a handheld 3D scanner that allows you to scan just about anything from small objects to buildings. My pal Eugene from Tinkerine Studios brought it over shortly after purchasing it.


I’ve been using a Microsoft Kinect and ReconstructMe and Autodesk’s free 123D Catch for experiments in 3D scanning so I was curious to see how this $400 device compared. Kinect’s can be had for next to nothing on Craigslist these days and the Reconstructme app is free for non-commercial use.


The Sense was actually smaller than I was expecting. One thing I don’t like about the Kinect setup is that it’s a bit bulky and awkward to use (granted it was meant for installation on top of your tv). The Sense is very lightweight and comfortable to hold. It’s covered in a nice rubberized coating that is nice and grippy.


I had the chance to try scanning a few different things. First up was my ceramic cactus that is a favorite object I got in a market in Mexico about 20 years ago. I’ve already scanned it using 123D Catch so I had a reference model to compare it against.


The main thing the Sense comes with is some solid scanning software. It includes some nice features for cleaning up your model post-scan including a Solidify option as well as a number of repair tools. I scanned the cactus rather quickly and there was a gap on the back of the model.

Apologies for the 'screenshots' of the screen

The repair tool easily patched the hole and made the bottom a nice flat and level surface, perfect for 3D printing. The smooth function really worked well too. Here’s what it looked like in MakerWare:


I printed a much smaller model to see how it compared and it turned out very well.

Next up was scanning me as scanning humans is always fun. I sat on an office chair and just rotated myself as Eugene held the scanner at varying positions to complete the scan.


As with the cactus, we scanned me pretty quickly and there was a few holes. My hair looked a little funky and there was a weird glitch on my chin from the scan, but still, it was a pretty good scan considering we were still learning how to use it.


I haven’t tried printing my head yet but don’t see why it wouldn’t print fine. It was kind of freaky to peer inside my head before we sealed the bottom of the model:


Overall I was impressed with the Sense although it’s basically a more polished experience to a Kinect/Reconstructme workflow, with about the same level of resolution. The USB cable could be a little longer but that can be solved with an extension cable. The software is really the star here as it seems to include many of the features you’d want to have to clean up a scan, without needing to be a CAD artist so it’s great for those that are new to the technology. Currently the Sense only works with Windows but even on a 5 year old laptop, it worked pretty well. I’m hoping to try it again on some bigger objects like buildings and public art structures.

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