3D Printing and 3D Scanning

Glossary of Terms

123D Catch

An app that allows you to upload photos of an object and then turn them into a 3D scan.

3D Coat

3D modeling software that facilitates easy edits of a 3D model geometry.

3D Figurines

The 3D prints of people. Also, widely used in the industry as 3D print, print, figurine and 3D portrait.

3D Model / Model

Sometimes referred to as simply “model” or “3D printed figurine,”  a 3D model is a digital file created through the 3D scanning process. It is made up of geometry (shape) information and texture (color) information.Color information can either be saved on the point cloud or in a separate texture file. 3D Models can be represented in many different formats including: .obj, .ply, .wrl, .stl. Each file format varies slightly from one another, and it is a simple process to convert one file format to the other.

3D Photography

The 3D scanning and 3D printing of people for keepsake purposes.

3D Preview

Also called the “preview model.” A 3D preview is a 3D model processed with a minimum viable amount of data to provide a customer with a 3D model they can “preview” within a few minutes of their scan. Since preview models use less data than full-resolution models, they have significantly degraded quality. 3D previews are necessary because a full-resolution 3D model can take up to 24 hours to process from a raw data set.

3D Printing

An additive manufacturing process by which objects are built ground up, layer by layer.

3D Scanning

The process of digitizing physical things, or converting real life objects into a digital 3D model. There are many different technological approaches to 3D scanning based on the costs and benefits. Three conventional 3D scanning technologies are laser line scanning, structured light scanning, and photogrammetry.

3D Systems

A publicly traded 3D printing company and the maker of the Projet 660. Currently, they are the only acceptable full-color 3D printer in the market for printing 3D figurines.

3DS Max

A 3D modeling program similar to Autodesk Maya.


The company that makes ContextCapture.


A photogrammetry software package.

Autodesk Maya

A 3D modeling software, originally designed for animators. It is expensive but has a wide range of eminent tools.

Autodesk Meshmixer

A 3D modeling software, designed for editing models that have high numbers of polygons.

Autodesk Mudbox

A 3D modeling software used in the post production process of 3D scanning. It is commonly used to edit the texture of a 3D model.

Binder (3D Printing)

The glue and color combinations used by the Projet 660 to glue the layers of powder together and color them.


An Open source 3D modeling software that is similar to Autodesk Maya.

Build (3D Printing)

Refers to all of the 3D models loaded into the 3D printer to be printed at the same time. A single build on the Projet 660 can have multiple 3D figurines in it.

Capturing Reality

It is a photogrammetry software package.

ContextCapture A photogrammetry software package.

Geometry / Mesh The shape of a 3D model as opposed to the color of a 3D model. The 3D model geometry is typically made up of hundreds of thousands of points in a space connected to form small triangles or rectangles. Low geometry detail makes 3D models looked smoothed over, whereas high geometry detail shows every fold in a person’s clothing and shape.


The process of adding internal geometries to a 3D model to make the interior of the model hollow. Hollowing is used to save on powder costs.

Hybrid, Photogrammetry and structured light

The process of capturing both a regular set of images and a set of images where a pattern is projected on the subject. The pictures with the pattern are used to construct the geometry with more detail than is possible with regular images alone. The regular images are used to create the texture for.


Manufacturer of the Iris and Arke is a paper-based full-color 3D printer. The printers are not well suited for smaller prints with lots of geometry detail and are much slower than the Projet 660. Hence, making them not well suited for figurine printing. Though comparable quality can be achieved with large, colored busts. These printers are best suited for full color architectural and product models.

Netfabb A

3D modeling software used to repair 3D models when submitting them to a 3D printer.


The process of using many 2D photographs to calculate distances of common points to create a 3D model of an object. Photogrammetry works similar to how your eyes work to infer depth. If you have 2 or more images from different angles, you can triangulate the distance of common points within those images. Photogrammetry inherently captures textures (color detail). It is the technology of choice by most in the 3D photography industry.

Point Cloud

The raw depth data created by a 3D scanner. Just as the name implies, a point cloud is simply a series of points made up of x, y and z coordinates.


These are the basic building blocks of a 3D scan. Each polygon is made up of 3 or 4 points (vertices) connected. 3D scanners capture point clouds then a meshing process takes places that turn the point cloud into polygons. Meshes can have 100,000s to millions of polygons.

Powder (3D Printing)

The most significant raw material used by the Projet 660 concerning volume and price. The powder is gypsum based.

Projet 660

Made by 3D Systems, the only acceptable full-color 3D printer on the market today for printing 3D figurines. The Projet 660 retails approximately at $70,000 and above.


A publicly traded 3D printer manufacturer.

Structured Light

The process of projecting known light patterns onto an object and recording how the pattern deforms around the object to calculate the depth at various points. Structured light does not inherently capture textures (color detail).


The image that is wrapped around the geometry of a 3D model to give it a color. The texture image can be saved in numerous photo formats including .jpg and .png. Lower resolution textures make the 3D model look blurry like a low-resolution image.

Time of flight

The process of emitting a wave and calculating how long it takes for the wave to return to calculate depth. Time of flight scanning technologies does not inherently capture textures (color detail). Laser line scanners are a category of time of flight scanners that use a laser as a wave source. Touch-ups All 3D scanners produce sub standard raw data for a variety of reasons. This data needs to be cleaned up or “touched-up” to correct the imperfections or to add details that were not captured by the 3D scanning process before the 3D model is printed.

Visual SFM

An open source photogrammetry package.


3D modeling software that allows you to edit the geometry and texture of a 3D scan. It is quite expensive but has many great tools.