Three-dimensional (3D) imaging systems are now widely available, but standards, best practices and comparative data
have started to appear only in the last 10 years or so. The need for standards is mainly driven by users and product
developers who are concerned with 1) the applicability of a given system to the task at hand (fit-for-purpose), 2) the
ability to fairly compare across instruments, 3) instrument warranty issues, 4) costs savings through 3D imaging. The
evaluation and characterization of 3D imaging sensors and algorithms require the definition of metric performance. The
performance of a system is usually evaluated using quality parameters such as spatial resolution/uncertainty/accuracy
and complexity. These are quality parameters that most people in the field can agree upon. The difficulty arises from
defining a common terminology and procedures to quantitatively evaluate them though metrology and standards
definitions. This paper reviews the basic principles of 3D imaging systems. Optical triangulation and time delay (timeof-
flight) measurement systems were selected to explain the theoretical and experimental strands adopted in this paper.
The intrinsic uncertainty of optical distance measurement techniques, the parameterization of a 3D surface and
systematic errors are covered. Experimental results on a number of scanners (Surphaser®, HDS6000®, Callidus CPW
8000®, ShapeGrabber® 102) support the theoretical descriptions.