The affordable CR-Scan Ferret 3D scanner comes from the renowned manufacturer Creality, which emerges as a well-known Chinese producer. Creality has become famous not only for its low-cost, but also highly efficient 3D printers. Over time, the company has expanded its product line to include 3D printers as well as 3D scanners and laser engraving machines.
It was my pleasure to try out the CR-Ferret laser scanner. In the following post, I will explain the scanner in more detail and give my sincere opinion about it.
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Technical data of the CR-Scan Ferret
According to the manufacturer’s specifications, the CR-Scan Ferret should have a resolution of 0.1 mm. Since I did not want to believe this, I decided to check it directly. To do this, I scanned my cordless screwdriver and took the measurement of the diameter of the chuck on the 3D model. The result left me with an extremely astonishing impression. The fact that the determined measurement exactly matched the scanned 3D model exceeded my expectations for a scanner in this price range.
To use the full 1080p resolution of the color camera, it is recommended to connect the scanner via a USB 3.0 Type-C port. This opens up the possibility of scanning 3D models with their original texture. I find the color reproduction to be solid, even if it cannot be compared to the quality of an iPhone photo. Since I personally don’t put much emphasis on the colors of my 3D models, this plays a minor role for me.
Scanning is done at a speed of 30 frames per second. This allows for a speedy scanning process, which I can confirm from my own experience. Even scanning outdoors in light sunshine didn’t cause me any difficulties. In this respect, I can also confirm the manufacturer’s specifications.
Operation of the CR-Scan Ferret
Different methods exist for how 3D scanners work. One technique used in higher-quality scanners is the structured light principle. Here, the scanner casts a pattern onto the object to be scanned. A camera then detects the changes in the pattern on the surface and interprets this visual data. This approach makes it possible to generate a 3D model.
The CR-Scan Ferret has a different mode of operation:
There is limited information available on the Internet about how the CR-Scan Ferret works. Therefore, I contacted Creality to get more insight into the technology of the scanner. Unfortunately, no answer is available yet, which possibly indicates that Creality does not want to reveal detailed information. This is quite understandable.
Being curious by nature, I did some research on my own. The device’s spec sheet mentions the use of a NIR light source, where NIR stands for near-infrared light. Furthermore, the information „Binocular Dual Camera Infrared Light“ is given, indicating that the system uses two cameras.
From these two details, I assume that the scanner works like this: The two cameras are arranged like our human eyes. This makes it possible to get a spatial perspective. Infrared light (orange) is emitted and reflected by an object (black). This reflected light hits the two camera sensors (green) at a certain angle. The angle can be determined because the light hits the camera sensor through an opening, the so-called aperture. Since the distance of the emitted light and the point on the sensor are known, the angle can be calculated. From the calculated angle, the distance of the object can now be calculated using trigonometry. This process is repeated hundreds of thousands of times and a 3 dimensional point cloud is generated.
For me, this is the only logical mode of operation of the 3D scanner.
From this point cloud, the software can calculate a 3D model. This process is called meshing.
Creality specifies the following technical data:
-Resolution/dot pitch: 0.16mm
-Single detection range: 560*820mm@700mm
-Working distance: 150~700mm
-Minimum scanning: 50*50*50mm
-Frame rate/scan speed: Up to 30 fps
-Light source: IR-A: 780nm – 1450nm (NIR)
-Outdoor scanning: Support scanning in bright sunlight
-Tracking mode: Visual tracking
-Color texture: Support
-Alignment: Feature / Marker / Color
-Output format: OBJ / STL / PLY
-Weight of the device: 105g
-Size of the device: 120*30*26mm
After opening the cardboard box, a noble case made of hard plastic, covered with gray fabric, looks at me. The zipper is quickly opened. Inside are all the components that are needed for the scanner, neatly placed in precisely fitting recesses.
The package contents consists of the following components:
-User manual in English
-Cell phone holder
-Handle with tripod function and integrated power bank (4500 mAh)
-Allen key (for the contra-angle handpiece)
-2m USB cable for PC connection
-Y-USB cable for smartphone operation
Connection and the Software
The CR Scan Ferret is relatively dumb without a computing unit using a computer or smartphone. It generates a considerable amount of data, which requires a fast USB 3.0 connection. Due to the fact that I am an Apple user and did not have a suitable smartphone available, I was regrettably unable to test the scanner with it. This is a point of criticism that I would like to highlight here. Creality specifies certain smartphones as compatible:
All my tests were performed on a Windows notebook with USB 3.0. After downloading and installing the app, I was able to get started right away. There are several settings to be made in the app:
–Object: this selects the object to be scanned.
–Normal: All objects except faces and bodies.
–Face: This mode is specifically focused on faces.
–Body: This mode focuses on the detection of bodies.
The algorithm is optimized for just these specific applications in Face and Body modes. I have to say, the scanner performance on faces and bodies was really impressive. It worked great virtually every time.
–Size: The object size is specified here.
–Large: 500x500x500 – 2000x2000x2000 [mm]
–Medium: 250x250x250 – 500x500x500 [mm]
–Small: 150x150x150 – 250x250x250 [mm]
From these specifications, it can be seen that the CR-Scan Ferret is more suitable for larger objects or bodies. The smallest object is 5x5x5cm.
–Feature: This is the mode the scanner will use for orientation.
–Geometry: This mode is intended for objects with irregular surfaces, as the scanner requires geometrically unique surfaces to orient itself.
–Texture: Round objects like vases have the same geometry all around. Here the scanner will not find any points to orient itself on. For such objects, the Texture mode is used. With the color camera, it can recognize these and orient itself accordingly.
Over time, you get a feel for which mode to use for which object.
–Fast: For large objects the Fast mode is selected because otherwise a lot of points are created.
–High-Quality: For smaller objects and face scans, this mode is used.
This point should be self-explanatory. If you want a fast scan for a large object, choose Fast mode.
–Color Mapping: Do you want to scan your scans with orignal texture?
–Color: Yes I would like to.
–No Color: No I do not want.
–Turntable: When using a turntable, the scanner stops and the object is rotated.
I recommend using a turntable that you can rotate by hand. This way you have full control over the scan and can also rotate the object again in the other direction if tracking is lost.
These are the basic settings that must be made before scanning. Here you have to try, test and play around a bit. With time, you will get a feeling for each obect and the setting will run all by itself.
The scanning process
During the scanning process, the screen is displayed in the image. The following information is displayed here:
–Color Camera: This is the 1080p camera. Everything that is displayed in the red grid is scanned. The automatic brightness setting does a very good job here. If you scan under artificial light, i.e. constant lighting, you can adjust the brightness manually using the slider. Outdoors, in variable lighting conditions, you should leave the automatic mode activated.
–Infrared Camera: Here you can see the image captured by the infrared camera. Here, too, you can manually adjust the brightness under constant light conditions. The slider should be set so that neither red areas (overexposure) nor blue areas (underexposure) are displayed.
–Distance indicator: The scanner constantly measures the distance to the object during the scanning process. With this slider you can see if you need to get closer or further away from your object. The optimal distance should always be kept to avoid tracking losses as much as possible.
–Exclude flat Base: This is a very useful function. If you scan an object that is standing on a table, the table top will be scanned as well. To avoid this you can set a check mark here. This works very well and only the object is scanned.
–Scanned Points Cloud: Here you can see the live preview of the scanned points. It is very fascinating to watch this. You can see very nicely how the point cloud is formed and the 3 dimensional digital object is created.
–Pause button: This is a very important button. When scanning an object, it may be necessary to flip it during the scanning process to capture the backside. Pressing this button stops the scanner, allowing you to reposition the object. When you resume scanning, it’s crucial to continue from a position recognized by the scanner. Otherwise, it will understandably lose its reference points and won’t know how to proceed.
To get clean scans, good hand control of the scanner is critical. It takes some practice to get a feel for it. It is important to understand how the scanner works. Start with noticeable geometric features so that the software can identify relevant points from the beginning. Then try to work from those points. Rotate and move the scanner to gradually capture the object. This requires some dexterity and motor skills. Try to keep your eyes on the screen and guide the scanner „blind“, so to speak. It can be a bit challenging at first.
It happens from time to time that the scanner loses its tracking points. This can happen if the distance is not maintained correctly or if scanning is done too quickly. It can also occur when, for example, a hand is scanned and the transition is from the palm to the back of the hand. On the narrow side of the hand, the scanner has difficulty because it cannot find any prominent points to orient itself on. When this happens, it is advisable to carefully move the scanner back until it has reacquired the tracking points. The retrieval of the points works smoothly. Even if you continue in a completely different location after losing the tracking points, the scanner will find the points again.
Print scanned 3D objects
Scanning an object is one thing, but preparing it for 3D printing is another. Most of the time, raw scanned models are not directly ready for 3D printing. It therefore requires some post-processing to achieve printable results.
The easiest way to do this is with Autodesk’s free „Mesh Mixer“ software. This software is extremely user-friendly and easy to learn. You can find countless tutorials about it on YouTube. For my first 3D printing project, I only needed 3-4 different commands.
The main work is to remove excess scanned objects, such as the tabletop or objects that were in the environment during the scanning process.
Another step is to remove and cut out irregularities in the scan. The resulting holes must then be refilled. This can occasionally be tricky, but with practice it is easily accomplished.
The scanner software generates .ply or .obj files. However, these are surface models only and are hollow on the inside. So it is necessary to convert the 3D models into solids models. Mesh Mixer provides a function to do this with one mouse click.
Furthermore, the surface must be smoothed. For this purpose, Mesh Mixer offers a tool similar to a brush. This tool is used to stroke over the entire model to smooth out small irregularities.
That is all. From Mesh Mixer, you can then export an .stl file to import into your printer slicing program.
And that’s it – nothing more is needed to print your objects.
My honest conclusion
Since I have not had the opportunity to test a more expensive 3D scanner before, it is difficult for me to make a direct comparison. Therefore, I cannot draw a comparison to other scanners. The CR-Scan Ferret from Creality was my first entry into the world of 3D scanning.
The scanner is extremely user-friendly. It’s a simple plug-and-play process: unpack, assemble, install the software, and off you go. After a few tries, I had learned how to use it fairly quickly and was able to get acceptable results. However, scanning complex objects can be quite tedious at times. You scan for a few minutes, move the scanner very gently without jerking, and suddenly a tracking loss occurs. For objects without distinct geometry, the scanner may detect incorrect tracking points and continue scanning at a completely different location. While this can be annoying, it is due to the physical properties of triangulation technology.
The quality of the scan depends largely on the software. The better the software, the better results you can expect. The scanner, the device itself, works flawlessly in my opinion. In terms of software, there is certainly room for improvement, and we can certainly expect more in the future.
All in all, I was very impressed with the scanner. One must not forget that this device is much cheaper than comparable models. Since I work with 3D models on a daily basis due to my job and have only now really become aware of the possibilities of a 3D scanner, I recommend it especially for people who want to venture into the world of 3D models.