Should I use Canvas with a LiDAR-enabled iPad or a Structure Sensor?

The Short Answer

For the typical user using Scan To CAD, you likely won’t notice a huge difference, and using Canvas with a LiDAR-enabled iPad will offer a faster, easier setup. There is no hardware to assemble or calibrate — you simply download the Canvas app and start scanning. 

For those who intend to work with the 3D scan itself, you may appreciate the higher-detailed meshes generated by Structure Sensor. Structure Sensor’s resolution is an order of magnitude higher than the embedded LiDAR sensor, which will make it easier to measure and annotate in-app or in the 3D Web Viewer. You will have to assemble and calibrate your sensor, but this is a quick and one-time process. 

You can see the examples below to determine for yourself which option will best suit your needs:

Room scanned with iPad and Structure Sensor: https://canvas.io/viewer/nFc24p0t

Room scanned with a LiDAR-enabled iPad alone: https://canvas.io/viewer/gGbWWFTV

We recommend looking at “Original” to really see the difference, as that is what you would see on-device after you finish scanning. 

The Long Answer

Your biggest trade-off is going to be mesh detail vs. ease of onboarding and convenience. However, we wanted to call out a few other metrics of comparison we know our customers may be interested in: 

Compatibility with Scan To CAD: Both sensors will yield data that is completely compatible with Scan To CAD.

Accuracy: The underlying accuracy of the data is fairly comparable, and both sensors will yield a similar level of accuracy in both the 3D scan itself as well as a Scan To CAD result. Measuring the 3D scan in-app or in the 3D Web Viewer may be easier, but the underlying accuracy is similar.

(Note: It is theoretically possible that the higher resolution from Structure Sensor may yield slightly more accurate Scan To CAD results when it comes to small details of a room, like electrical fixtures, but this has so far not been observed in initial testing.) 

Cost: If you’re buying an iPad specifically to use with Canvas, the cost of buying the baseline 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro ($799) will be comparable to our Total Set-Up for Canvas package ($899, but includes 3 free Scan To CADs). If you already have an iPad, it will be cheaper to purchase a Structure Sensor to enable it for 3D scanning ($499, also includes 3 free Scan To CADs). 

Range: Structure Sensor’s range is 3.5m, vs. the iPad’s integrated LiDAR sensor’s range is 5m.

Outdoor use: Both sensors are likely to struggle in direct sunlight outdoors, but the iPad’s integrated LiDAR sensor may be less sensitive due to the nature of the hardware. You can learn more about using Canvas outdoors here

Scanning speed: The real-time mesh updates during your scan will be quite a bit faster with Structure Sensor than with the iPad’s integrated LiDAR sensor. This doesn’t mean you will be able to capture spaces faster, per se, but it will likely feel like a “smoother” scanning experience.

Ease of training: Both sensors are meant to be used in largely the same way to get the best results. However, getting started with Canvas using a LiDAR-enabled iPad sensor will require less steps, and have less potential for a user forgetting to bing the sensor (or associated accessories) with them to a job site.  

If you are looking to use a LiDAR-enabled iPad with a Structure Sensor, please email support@canvas.io

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