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Katie from Marketing March 1, 2022, 10:42 AM

What's a 3D scanner, anyway?

Guess what?! RPL now has a 3D scanner in our Digital Media Studio! I jumped at the opportunity to sit down with Digital Media Specialist, Rhys Pugh, to find out: what is this thing?

Q: What does a 3D scanner actually do?

A: A 3D scanner maps out the 3-dimensional space that an object takes up. Then the fun begins! Now, you can use that information for a zillion different things. 

Q: How does it work?

A: A 3D scanner shines light on the object, and the way the light bounces off the object tells the scanner the dimensions and even colour of the object. The scanner then creates a 3D file of the object – called an “.stl” – that can be used in all kinds of graphics programs.

Q: For the tech crowd, what hardware and software does the Digital Media Studio use?

A: Here is what we have available:

  • EinScan Pro HD Handheld 3D Scanner
  • ExScan Pro scanning software
  • Media Workstations are loaded with editing software like Adobe Dimension and Blender  
  • Ultimaker S5 3D Printer 

We also have a ton of other cool audio/visual equipment available!

Q: What is 3D scanning being used for in the world these days?

A: There’s no limit to what people are using this for! Off the top of my head, I’d name:

  • Virtual reality, gaming, animation: scanning real life objects or people to place in the virtual world or to use as drawing reference
  • Art history, archiving, paleontology: Replicating artifacts and fossils for study or display to preserve the originals; reconstructing missing pieces to restore items
  • Medical fields: detailed study of the body for students and surgeons; creating specialized prosthetics 
  • Art and design: sourcing natural patterns and living elements; detailed sculpture; custom-fitted clothing
  • Surveying, architecture…reverse engineering, rapid prototyping – the list goes on and on!

Q: What kinds of things can you scan and print at the library?

A: The scanner is handheld and free to move, so if you can safely get an object into the Digital Media Studio, we can scan it! If you want to carry your project though to printing, note that our 3D printer has a maximum build volume of 330 mm (W) x 240 mm (D) x 300 mm (H). 

Q: What’s the neatest thing anyone’s scanned so far?

A: So far, the most interesting project was to scan a custom bench so that miniature benches could be printed for multiple Christmas Villages. A very cool way to incorporate a family keepsake into the Christmas tradition. 

Q: Can anyone use the 3D scanner?

A: You bet – anyone is welcome to use this equipment, for free! All you need is your library card and something you’d like to scan. The tools are easy to use: perfect for beginners but excellent for pros. And we'll be there to help!

Q: How can I give it a try?

A: Head to the Digital Media Studio with the object you’d like to scan. A staff member will be there to walk you through the process, from scanning to editing to printing! 

Drop in, or book a time to make sure it's available when you are. Make a reservation online, in person, or by calling our hotline at 306-777-6000. The Digital Media Studio is located on the main floor of Central Library, tucked under the up escalator. Check open hours before you come.


After the interview, Rhys helped me scan my kid’s favourite toy sword, which has been damaged from many epic 5-year-old battles. We scanned the original and then used the 3D printer to recreate it. Now, when the original inevitably breaks, we have a spare sword ready and waiting to slay a dragon.

What will you scan?!

About Author

Katie from Marketing

Natural habitat: Upside down on a yoga mat, with a fantasy book in one hand, rooibos tea in the other, and a kindergartener climbing her like a mountain. Biggest challenge: Anger management regarding prairie winters. Secret identity: Professional actor, singer, dancer.

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