Can I Use My iPhone as a 3D Scanner? (Explained for Beginners)

3D scanning with a smartphone:

Have you ever wondered if you could use your iPhone as a 3D scanner? With advancements in technology, it is now possible to transform your everyday iPhone into a powerful tool for 3D scanning. So, how do you do it? Don’t worry, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to 3D scan using your iPhone.1

Additionally, we will share some valuable tips for successful 3D scanning and highlight the various applications and benefits of using an iPhone as a 3D scanner.

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How does 3D scanning work?

3D scanning is a technology that allows you to capture the physical world and convert it into a digital model.

The process involves capturing multiple images of an object or scene from different angles. The iPhone’s camera captures these images, and specialized 3D scanning apps process them to create a 3D model.

There are two main methods of 3D scanning with an iPhone: photogrammetry and LiDAR scanning.

Photogrammetry works by taking a series of photographs of an object or scene from different angles. The app then analyzes these images and uses algorithms to calculate the position and shape of the object in 3D space. By stitching together these images, a detailed 3D model is created.

LiDAR scanning, on the other hand, uses a laser sensor to measure distances and capture depth information. The LiDAR sensor emits laser pulses and measures the time it takes for the pulses to bounce back.

This data is then used to create a point cloud, which is a collection of points in 3D space that represent the object or scene being scanned. The point cloud is then converted into a 3D model.

Both photogrammetry and LiDAR scanning have their advantages and limitations. Photogrammetry is more accessible as it can be done with any iPhone model, while LiDAR scanning requires an iPhone with a LiDAR sensor, such as the iPhone 12 Pro or later models. LiDAR scanning generally produces more accurate and detailed 3D models, especially for larger objects or scenes.

Popular 3D Scanning Apps for iPhone

If you’re looking to use your iPhone as a 3D scanner, there are several popular apps available that can help you capture and create detailed 3D models. These apps leverage the advanced camera capabilities of newer iPhone models and utilize photogrammetry techniques to capture multiple images and convert them into a 3D model.


One of the top choices among 3D printing enthusiasts is the Polycam app.

It offers both photogrammetry and LiDAR scanning options, making it compatible with a wide range of iPhone models. With Polycam, you can capture high-quality 3D scans of objects, whether they are small items like jewelry or larger objects like furniture.

The app also provides various editing tools to customize and refine your 3D models before exporting them for 3D printing or other applications.


Another popular app for 3D scanning on the iPhone is Qlone. This app uses a combination of your iPhone’s camera and a printed mat to create accurate 3D models. By placing the object on the mat and capturing images from different angles, Qlone processes the images to generate a detailed 3D model. It also offers options for AR viewing and customization of the models.

Scandy Pro

For those with access to the LiDAR sensor on newer iPhone models, the Scandy Pro app is a great choice. It utilizes the LiDAR sensor to capture precise depth information, resulting in highly accurate and detailed 3D scans.

Scandy Pro allows you to capture 3D models of objects and even environments, making it a versatile tool for various applications.


Heges is another app that makes use of the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera or LiDAR sensor for 3D scanning. It offers advanced scanning capabilities, allowing you to capture detailed 3D models of small objects like jewelry or larger items like cars.

Heges provides options for exporting your models in different file formats, making it compatible with various 3D printing and design software.


EM3D is an app specifically designed for TrueDepth camera-enabled iPhones. It allows you to capture 3D scans and create full-color models with ease. EM3D supports Bluetooth shutter buttons, making it convenient for hands-free scanning, and offers options for sharing and exporting your models.

These are just a few examples of the popular 3D scanning apps available for iPhones. Each app has its own unique features and capabilities, so it’s worth exploring and experimenting with different apps to find the one that best suits your needs.

Step-by-Step Guide to 3D Scanning with an iPhone

With the right app and a few simple steps, you can capture everyday objects and bring them to life in the digital world. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through the process of 3D scanning using your iPhone.

Step 1: Install a 3D Scanning App

The first thing you’ll need to do is download and install a reliable 3D scanning app from the App Store.

Some popular choices among the 3D printing community include Polycam, Qlone, Scandy Pro, and Trnio Plus; see the apps mentioned above. Choose the app that best suits your needs, and follow the installation instructions.

Step 2: Set up Your Object

Once you have the scanning app installed, it’s time to set up the object you want to scan. Find a well-lit environment or a space with ample natural or artificial light. Good lighting is crucial for capturing accurate details. Avoid direct light, as it can create shadows and glare that may affect the quality of your scan.

Place your object on a stable, flat surface to ensure it remains steady during scanning. If your object has reflective surfaces, consider covering them or using spray paint to enhance the details.

Step 3: Capture the Scans

With your object set up, it’s time to start capturing the scans. Launch the 3D scanning app and follow the instructions provided to start the scanning process. Depending on the app you’re using, you may need to take photos from different angles or move around the object while capturing the scans.

Maintain a steady distance from the object, and make sure to capture it from all sides and angles for a complete scan. Some apps may guide you through the process and indicate areas you haven’t scanned yet.

Step 4: Process the Scans and Export

Once you’ve captured the scans, the app will process the images and create a 3D model. The processing time may vary depending on the complexity of the scan and the number of images captured. After the processing is complete, you’ll have the option to preview the 3D model and make any necessary adjustments.

Once you’re satisfied with the result, export the model in a compatible file format, such as STL or OBJ. These formats are widely used in 3D printing software.

Step 5: Clean Up Your 3D Scan

After capturing the 3D scan, it’s common to encounter imperfections or unwanted elements in the model. To ensure a high-quality print, you’ll need to clean up the scan. Some 3D scanning apps have built-in tools for refining and editing the model.

Alternatively, you can export the scan to a 3D modeling software like Meshmixer or Blender for further cleanup.

Use tools like the “Fill” feature to fill holes and the smooth filter to eliminate rough edges. Once you’re satisfied with the cleaned-up scan, save it in STL or OBJ format.

Step 6: Prepare for Printing

The final step is to prepare your 3D model for printing. Import the cleaned-up scan into a slicing software like Cura or PrusaSlicer. Adjust the print settings according to your preferences, and slice the model.

Preview the sliced model to ensure each layer will print correctly. Save the G-Code file on your computer or export it to an SD card for printing. Now you’re ready to bring your 3D scan to life through 3D printing!

Tips for Successful 3D Scanning

Congratulations! With the right techniques and a little practice, you’ll be creating stunning 3D models in no time. Here are some tips to help you achieve successful 3D scans with your iPhone:

Lighting is Key: When it comes to 3D scanning, lighting plays a crucial role in capturing accurate details. Make sure your object is well-lit, but avoid harsh or uneven lighting, as it can create shadows and affect the quality of your scan. Natural light or diffused artificial light works best. Consider using a lightbox or setting up your scan near a window for optimal lighting conditions.

Position and Stability: Properly positioning and stabilizing your object is essential for a successful 3D scan. Place your object on a stable and flat surface to prevent any movement during the scanning process. This will ensure that your scans are aligned correctly and minimize any blurriness or distortion.

Multiple Angles: To capture all the details of your object, it’s important to take scans from multiple angles. Move around the object slowly, maintaining a consistent distance, and capture it from different viewpoints. This will provide a more comprehensive and accurate representation of your object in the final 3D model.

Use a Turntable or Tripod: While not necessary, using a turntable or tripod can greatly improve the quality of your scans. A turntable allows you to rotate your object smoothly, ensuring consistent angles and reducing the chance of missing any areas. A tripod helps stabilize your iPhone, minimizing camera shake and resulting in sharper images.

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Take Plenty of Photos: The more photos you take, the better the quality of your 3D model. Aim to capture at least 20 photos, but don’t be afraid to take more. This will provide more data points for the scanning app to work with, resulting in a more detailed and accurate 3D model.

Avoid Overlapping: While it’s important to capture your object from multiple angles, be mindful not to overlap your scans too much. Overlapping can confuse the scanning app and lead to errors in the final model. Plan your scanning path to ensure that you cover all areas of the object without unnecessary duplication.

Check for Imperfections: After capturing your scans, review them to check for any imperfections or missing areas. Some scanning apps have built-in tools for cleaning up your 3D model, but if not, you can export the scan to a 3D modeling software for further refinement. Remove any holes or unwanted elements to ensure a clean and polished final model.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be discouraged if your first scans aren’t perfect. With time and experience, you’ll become more adept at capturing stunning 3D models.

Applications and Benefits of Using an iPhone as a 3D Scanner

Using an iPhone as a 3D scanner opens up a world of possibilities and offers numerous benefits across various industries. Let’s explore some of the applications and advantages of utilizing your iPhone for 3D scanning:

1. Design and Prototyping

One of the most significant applications of using an iPhone as a 3D scanner is in design and prototyping. Designers and engineers can quickly capture real-world objects and convert them into digital models, allowing for efficient product development and rapid prototyping.

This streamlines the design process and enables designers to iterate and refine their concepts with ease.

2. 3D Printing

The ability to create accurate 3D models using an iPhone opens up exciting opportunities in the field of 3D printing. By scanning objects with your iPhone, you can generate digital files compatible with 3D printers, allowing you to bring your creations to life.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, using your iPhone as a 3D scanner simplifies the process of creating custom objects and prototypes.

3. Virtual and Augmented Reality

With the increasing popularity of virtual and augmented reality technologies, using an iPhone as a 3D scanner becomes even more valuable. By scanning real-world objects, you can create 3D models that can be integrated into virtual or augmented reality experiences. This enhances the realism and immersion of these technologies, opening up new possibilities for gaming, education, training, and visualization.

4. Cultural Heritage Preservation

Preserving cultural heritage is another area where using an iPhone as a 3D scanner can make a significant impact. By scanning historical artifacts, sculptures, or architectural structures, you can create accurate digital replicas that can be archived, studied, and shared with future generations.

This technology enables museums, cultural institutions, and researchers to preserve and document our collective heritage in a more accessible and interactive manner.

5. Education and Research

The accessibility and ease of use of iPhone 3D scanning apps make them valuable tools for education and research. Students and researchers can scan objects for scientific analysis, anatomical study, archaeological research, and more.

This hands-on approach to learning enhances understanding and allows for in-depth exploration of complex subjects.

6. E-commerce and Marketing

For businesses in the e-commerce and marketing sectors, using an iPhone as a 3D scanner offers exciting opportunities. By creating 3D models of products, companies can provide customers with a more interactive and immersive shopping experience.

Customers can view products from all angles, examine details, and make more informed purchasing decisions.

7. DIY and Personal Projects

Using an iPhone as a 3D scanner is not limited to professionals or businesses. It also caters to DIY enthusiasts and individuals working on personal projects. Whether you want to scan and recreate a cherished item, customize objects, or experiment with 3D modeling, your iPhone can serve as a versatile tool for creative endeavors.

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Now just grab your iPhone, download a 3D scanning app, and start scanning your way to a world of endless possibilities.


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