4 of the best free 3D scan editing software tools
Congratulations! You are clearly on the vanguard of the 3D revolution - those intrepid creators that are breaking out of the 2 dimensional construct defined by the screens that permeate our modern interactions. Don’t get us wrong - we love our Netflix on the big screen and Snapchat on our phones. But we think you’ll agree that there are more layers to communication than what the market is providing us now.
3D platforms are just arriving to the market in quantities that, well, make a market interesting. The Oculus Quest is a watershed device that introduced easy Virtual Reality to more than the hard-core gamer market. Microsoft’s Hololens is enterprise-ready. Apple is going to launch AR glasses at some point in the next 24 months. We are about to see an explosion in ways to consume 3D content. So where is that 3D content going to come from?
From you! That is why you are here, right? We believe the individuals who make the investment now, in learning how to create great 3D content, are going to be the influencers of the AR/VR space. This is a blank canvas, and we are here to provide tools and other resources to those individuals.
The Scandy team is all about making everyone a 3D creator. We launched Scandy Pro for just that reason. And STL Maker. And Cappy. And coming soon - hoxel, to allow everyone to capture volumetric video (think a moving 3D scan). We realize that not everyone will use Scandy Pro or one of our other apps, but we are happy to help everyone jump into the 3D space however they get here.
Regardless of how you captured or created the scan, almost every scan will need some post-processing or editing before it is ready for its end-use application. You may just want to clean up some noise that was captured but isn’t integral to the scanned object. Some scans may have holes in the mesh that need filling. Decimating a scan can make the file size smaller for certain applications that need a low-poly scan. Or you may want to make the scan watertight so you can 3D print it.
While these steps can seem like a lot of work or a daunting challenge, the good news is that there are plenty of apps that can tackle the job. The better news is that there are some great ones that are totally free. With plenty of on-line resources to get you started, acquiring skills in these applications is totally do-able for those willing to put in a little effort.
Meshlab is our go-to tool for viewing and editing meshes (aka 3D scans) on the desktop. It has more tools than you need (certainly more than we need!) and the main menu is stacked with helpful icons so you don’t have to remember what menu that tool you wanted was under. Tons of tools for automatic mesh repair with so many customization options you can get lost. This is a solid product, and is worth the time investment to get up and running.
Meshmixer shows off a high production quality and professional interface that one would expect from Autodesk. A helpful sidebar allows you navigate to the tools you need, and there is even an option to 3D print directly from the application. It is very impressive that this tool is available for free from a vendor that you know is going to support a quality product.
Blender probably has the steepest learning curve of all of the applications listed, but it really packs some power. Blender is for WAY more than editing mesh files, so it can certainly be daunting to find what you want in the application. The good news is the Blender community is a passionate one, and there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to get you started or even make you an expert. For casual users, Meshlab or Meshmixer is probably a better choice. If you are going to commit yourself to learning a 3D application, then Blender is worth the investment of time.
OK - We know we are talking our own book here, but Scandy Pro does offer a basic editing suite. From within the app you can find crop, decimate, and smooth tools to tidy up your scans and make them prettier before sharing or uploading to your laptop. Most of us find it useful to plane crop scans to get rid of the noise on the phone before sharing. It is easier to do in on the phone, in most cases - especially with smaller file sizes, than on a laptop or desktop machine. We are looking to add additional editing features to the app - so stay tuned!
Scan on, my friends