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Handheld Versus Tripod: Which 3D Scanner Do You Need?

Handheld versus Tripod - Which 3D scanner do you need?

With both handheld and tripod mounted scanners available, which type of scanner will provide you with the functionality you need in order to create 3D models of your MEP installations?

Tripod-mounted and handheld scanners have slightly different capabilities. The Trimble TX8 tripod-mounted 3D scanner excels at capturing a vast number of data points in a small amount of time. It is ideal for quickly scanning medium and large spaces, creating 3D point clouds. Measuring at speeds of up to 976,000 pts/sec and at a distance of up to 130 meters, it is a solution designed to capture large environments in high levels of detail. It handles complexity well and delivers high-quality point-cloud information.

However, it does have some natural limitations and it is here that the handheld scanner comes into its own.  

  • In small spaces - In small spaces or spaces with limited access it can be easier to hold the hand held scanner up to the item that needs to be modeled
  • Working at height - Scanning areas at height may be easier with a handheld device as often perspective means a ground-positioned scanner can’t see required pipework etc
  • Scanning Complex installations - When installation complexity means that the equipment you want to scan is obscured from line of sight by other equipment.
  • Just starting out – those new to 3D scanning, or wanting members of staff who are new to scanning to start creating 3D models may find the handheld scanner easier to get to grips with initially.

Whilst the Trimble TX8 Laser Scanner is lightweight and portable, it must be mounted on a tripod on solid ground for use. The handheld scanner is highly portable and can be used in almost any location, if the user has a free hand available to hold it.


Which do I need?

It will depend very much on the type of 3D model you need to build and how you intend to use it. You may indeed find that the perfect solution is to use a combination of handheld and tripod mounted scanners.

If you are working exclusively in large spaces, wanting to quickly and effectively create a 3D model of the habitable space on a site, including detailed MEP installations, then you may well find that the tripod mounted solution is enough on its own to provide the point cloud output you require.

If you are only wanting to model small parts of a building, perhaps the plant room, or other complex parts of the MEP installation, you will probably find that the Handheld Scanner will provide you with the functionality you need – you can easily access and model small, hard to access areas.

Are you looking for an easy way to get started with 3D modeling? Again, the handheld scanner may be what you are looking for.

However, for a great number of applications, where you are modeling both large spaces and complex installations with space constraints, or with areas at height, you will find that a combination of a Handheld and tripod mounted scanner will give you the best result. The tripod mounted scanner will quickly and effectively capture the vast bulk of data you require, whilst the handheld scanner can be used to capture the data in the hard to reach areas.


Trimble offers both 3D Scanning and point cloud processing software to support you and your team as you begin to use BIM methodologies on renovation and refit projects.

  • Trimble RealWorks is specifically designed for point cloud processing and analysis. It provides a complete solution to efficiently register, analyze, model and create deliverables using data from virtually any point cloud source.
  • The Trimble TX8 Laser Scanner is an efficient 3D scanner that captures high-resolution data.
  • The DPI-8 Handheld Scanner is a lightweight handheld scanner that allows you to capture and process 3D spatial data directly on the connected tablet.
  • Trimble also offers a 3D Modeling from Point Cloud Service will create a 3D model of your projects mechanical or electrical systems based on the specificity required.