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How to scan objects in 3D with your iPhone

How to scan objects in 3D with your iPhone

With Apple rolling out Object Capture on MacOS and including advanced LiDAR sensors on the current generation of iPhone, it’s clear that the company is taking 3D scanning seriously.

If you’ve never made a 3D scan before it might seem like a daunting process, but this guide will get you up and scanning with your iPhone in no time.

You’re going to need a few things to create a 3D model using your iPhone. There are a variety of scanning apps available for iOS, and they all have various strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the Qlone app captures models for AR, but it requires a printed calibration mat for use. The Scandy Pro app can capture models very quickly using the LiDAR sensor on newer iPhone models, so anyone with an iPhone X or earlier is unable to take advantage of this feature. The Polycam app is one of the best (and easiest) scanning apps currently on the market: it works with either LiDAR (iPhone 12 Pro and up) or the rear-facing camera by stitching together photos (a process known as photogrammetry). With all that in mind, here’s what you need to get started:

This guide uses the photogrammetry mode of Polycam, as opposed to LiDAR. Apple originally included a LiDAR sensor on the iPad Pro in 2020, and has since included the sensor on their iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max phones, as well as the upcoming iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. LiDAR works by quickly creating a 3D model using pulsed light to measure distances and capture geometry. LiDAR technology can quickly capture room-sized areas and other large objects, but photogrammetry is ideal for capturing small objects with lots of color and texture detail.

Making a 3D model with only an iPhone is probably easier than you think, and the Polycam workflow only requires a few steps. When setting up your model for scanning, try to avoid harsh, uneven, or directional lighting. The more crisply your object pops out from the background, the better the quality of the 3D model will be.

Once the photo set is complete and the pictures have been uploaded, it’s time to create a 3D model. Let’s walk through the settings used in making a 3D model.

How to scan objects in 3D with your iPhone

The next step is to process the photos. This processing is done remotely, so once the photos have fully uploaded you just need to check back after a few minutes to check the status of your model. Once the processing is complete, you can examine the model in Polycam to determine if it scanned correctly. Using the built-in camera controls, scroll around the model and check to make sure all hidden features were captured and the texture is satisfactory.

Once you’ve made a 3D model, you’re probably going to want to share it online. There are a few different ways to do this, so let’s cover some popular ones.


Sketchfab is a popular repository for sharing 3D models, and Polycam supports a direct export functionality for posting your models online. For ease-of-use, there are few options as simple and straight-forward as Sketchfab. In addition, the built-in 3D view on Sketchfab can be embedded and you can add post-processing effects easily using their editor.


Polycam also features a direct export function to Instagram, which will generate a 360-degree video flyaround of your model and allows you to select between sharing it to your feed or as a story. If you’re interested in sharing your model on Twitter or other social media apps, the same video can be exported and saved to your camera roll for uploading.

OBJ / STL Export

If you’re interested in 3D printing your models, the OBJ and STL export functionality will allow you to export a mesh of your model. This mesh can be processed or edited using software like the mesh-editing software Meshmixer, or just directly sent to a 3D printer slicer app.