3D Scanner vs CMM

Measuring tools are constantly evolving. Evenly spaced knots on yarn and the vernier scale ruler have given way to camera-based vision machines and profilometers that work at the microscopic level. There are many ways to capture data in the 3D space. Today, we’ll cover two machines that do this at the volumetric level: The 3D Scanner and the venerable CMM.

When do you need 3d Scanning?

3D scanning is the newer kid on the block. Often used in archaeology and sculpture, the 3D Scanner is good at picking up more “organic” shapes like rounds, sweeps, and crevices. The ability to cover most surface types and shapes has strong applications for manufacturing and design, particularly in the subset field of Reverse Engineering. Scan a broken component and you’ll capture its original design intent from the intact side. Also, gather enough info from the cracks on the broken end to reconstruct its function.

We use a NextEngine 3D Scanner. Here’s a video on how Jay Leno uses the machine:

NextEngine's 3D Scanner - Jay Leno's Garage

When do you need a CMM?

The Coordinate Measuring Machine has been around for a long time, and nothing shows its staying power more than the standard Bridge CMM. While not being able to capture data as densely as a Scanner (at least, not without a lot of tedious micro-adjusting), the CMM’s advantage is in its accuracy. A well maintained CMM can reach repeatability specs of up to two ten-thousandths (.0002”) of an inch. You can increase repeatability by investing in an automated, programmable CMM, such as the one seen in this video.

And you won’t even need a temperature controlled clean room to achieve that level of volumetric accuracy.

Mitutoyo CMM B231

So, CMM of 3D Scanner? Where's the smackdown?

cmm vs 3d scanner

While either device has been used in lieu of the other, we developed, at AML, a process that utilizes the strengths of both machines. For example, where the 3D scanner can take, say a loaf-shaped titanium electrode, and scan the fine contours of the edges, a CMM can then measure the threaded holes on the bottom and identify their precise location for assembly.
This customized inspection methodology is a pillar of AML’s inspection/reverse engineering services. If you want to learn how we can help you with your quality or design needs, please explore our website or request a quote .

Share this Image On Your Site

Tags: ,


Jonar has worked in the QC inspection industry for 12 years. In that time, he had developed an unusual interest in metrology equipment and practices. Jonar has learned not to take his work to dinner parties.