What is a 3D scan ?

A 3D scan is the digital representation of an object or a person, obtained in real time using a 3D scanner. During the scanning process, you capture the shape of an element (object, face or body of a puppet) using a 3D scanning application on your phone or tablet, or via a real 3D scanner. The sensors of these devices collect all the information relating to the shape, depth, color of the element you are scanning, to make a 3D file. Once the 3D scan is converted into a 3D file, you can edit the result using a modeling application. 3D modeling will give you the ability to edit and use your 3D scan to 3D print. This is how objects pass from a physical form to a digital representation.

How to do a 3D scan with a phone?

If you already have a smartphone, you can download many existing applications for 3D scanning. All applications work the same and the steps to follow are generally similar.

First, you place the puppet you want to scan in a location where you can walk around it. Then you can start scanning as instructed on the app. Your phone’s camera sensors will pick up all the necessary data. Once your 3D scan is complete and the data is collected, the app will turn it into a 3D model. After that, you can save the result and create the .STL file which will be used by the others puppeteers to print it.

Make a 3D scan with a smartphone: main advices

Even if the applications are already easy to use and help you with the procedures to follow, it is important to follow some basic steps for a successful 3D scan with your phone. Here are some tips on what to do and what to avoid when you want to 3D scan your puppet.


Pay close attention to the brightness when you want to scan an object, whether indoors or outdoors. It is recommended to have a well distributed light all around the object, especially when scanning in 3D at night. For objects with complex geometry, hollow or with many edges, care must be taken that the light does not create shadows which could alter the 3D scan.

Same distance:

Also, try to keep the same distance when scanning all around the puppet, in order to get an uniform result. Your model should also appear full on your screen, so feel free to adjust your position so that you’re not too far away or too close.

To avoid:

We recommend that you avoid scanning moving or too thin objects. Also, try to avoid objects that are too flat, their lack of geometry can cause reflections, which cannot be captured correctly.

On top of all this, when you 3D scan an object, be careful that it stands out correctly from the background, so that the volume captured is the correct one. Transparent objects cannot properly differentiate from the background, which is why they cannot be scanned.

Tips for 3D scanning a “human” puppet’s face

The procedure for scanning puppet’s face is quite simple and is the same than for someone’s face. In order to get an uniform 3D scan, just scan the puppet’s face from ear to ear, circling the puppet. Make sure you have captured all parts of the face. It is important to keep an equal distance during the whole scanning process. Since filiform objects are difficult to scan, the hair of the puppet you are trying to scan may not be represented very well. For best results we recommend that you scan the puppet against a single colored and fairly light background. In this way the sensors will be able to easily differentiate the head from the bottom.

Examples of softwares to perform a 3D scan with a smartphone

If your phone does not automatically have 3D scanning software installed, then you will need to download one. The 3 applications listed below are based on photogrammetry methods. Photogrammetry is a 3D scanning technology used to create 3D models from 2D photos. It works by taking burst photos of the object you are scanning from different angles. Then the software generates your 3D model by combining all of these images together. Since high definition cameras are now installed on smartphones, more and more 3D scanning softwares using this technique are appearing.


Trnio is one of the best mobile phone apps out there. This application is only available on iPhone and offers two modes: object mode or scene mode. Whichever mode you use, the app will guide you. For object mode, the user must walk around the object and the application captures the moment the user walks around the object. Scene mode is useful for any other scan, which means you can use it to 3D scan outdoor scenes or large items.


If you are looking for an app for 3D scanning with an Android phone, Scann3d might be right for you. The key to the success of this software is the design of its interface. Even if you are a beginner, it is very easy to use, and creating a 3D model is almost instantaneous. This app works by taking 20-30 photos in bursts around the object you scan in 3D, and the rendering automatically appears on your phone. The result is available in just a few minutes, depending on the number of photos you have taken. Then you can create a 3D model that can be shared on Sketchfab (https://sketchfab.com/)


Qlone is a mobile application for 3D scanning. To use Qlone, users must print a black and white background (similar to a QR code) and place the object to be scanned on this card. The user can print different cards depending on the size of the object to be scanned. The key feature of this app is its fusion capability. Qlone is able to merge two different poses for a better final rendering. Users can also share their 3D captures on social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp, and others. Qlone is a free application, but exporting 3D scans – available in .OBJ, .STL, .PLY, and .X3D formats costs $ 0.99 each.

These 3 applications are just a suggestion and you can find others 3D scanning softwares!

#2 THE .STL FILE – view, repair and modify

Once you will have created your .STL file from your 3D scan, you will have to correct it, the goal is to make it useful and mostly usable for the others puppeteers. If you don’t, your file could’nt be 3D printed.

The .STL file is the file format that we need you to download in your puppet’s contribution.

Examples of softwares that we can suggest you to view, repair or modify an STL file


Meshmixer has a simple and clean interface, and is specifically designed for modifying and repairing .STL files, which makes it easy to learn without complicated menus filled with tools you don’t need to this task. And it’s free!

3D Builder

3D Builder is CAD software officially developed by Microsoft that allows you to design, model and 3D print all your artistic creation projects.

It’s really easy to use and to modify your STL files with this software.


MeshMagic is simple, easy and free 3D design software.

With this software you can edit existing STL files created and prepare them for 3D printing.


Meshlab is a 3D viewer and also a mesh editor.

With this powerful software, you will be able to read and especially modify an STL file with simplicity.

MeshLab is free and comprehensive open source software for editing your STL files. It is particularly used by professionals, who appreciate its many functions for processing meshes and point clouds. It is ideally suited for editing very large files.

It also has an extensive set of processing tools such as mesh analysis, error cleaning, reshaping, surface reconstruction, automatic smoothing, and visual inspection. It is therefore extremely powerful to edit your STL files.

These 4 softwares are just a suggestion and you can find others 3D design softwares!

Once you will have a correct STL file, please download it in your puppet’s technical documents in your contribution!

Sources : www.sculpteo.com / www.ibarakel.com / https://cults3d.com/