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How to Create Interactive 3D Models for ThingLink with your Phone

Louise Jones

3D models are gaining popularity as the process of creating them has become more user-friendly. A few years ago you needed dedicated 3D modelling software, and a lot of time to create a 3D model. Today, everything is just so much easier with your phone, thanks to a technique called photogrammetry. All you have to do is scan the environment, or take photos, and an app will automatically create a 3D model for you. 

What can you do with your 3D models?

With ThingLink’s 3D editor included in our Premium and Enterprise plans, you can take your 3D models to a whole new level by making them interactive. You can add text, pictures, audio, video, and links to your 3D models, and embed them to your website or LMS. This way you can create replicas of the physical environment, add value to staff training, onboarding, sales, maintenance, customer engagement, and product marketing.

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If you’d like to learn more about what ThingLink can offer to your organization, you can schedule an online meeting with one of our product experts below.

ThingLink Interactive 3D Model with Added Tags of a Turbofan Jet Engine Explore in ThingLink Here

In this blog post we cover:

  1. How to get started 
  2. How to create 3D models with LiDAR
  3. How to create 3D models with normal photos
  4. Tips for successful 3D modeling

How to get started with creating 3D models

All you need is ThingLink, a mobile device, and a 3D scanner app. Bad news first. While there are some Android apps for 3D scanning, the vast majority of apps are designed for iOS, especially if you’re looking into using LiDAR technology. New iPhones and iPads are compatible with LiDAR, but you can also use older phones to create 3D models by using photo mode within an app. Happily, the photo mode is often the best approach. 

There are many 3D scanner apps available but we have found Polycam to be the best option both for Lidar and photo-based 3D scanning. With Polycam you can also easily save your 3D model to the GLB format that ThingLink supports. Other similar apps are Scaniverse, 3D Scanner App, and ScandyPro, all iOS apps.

LiDAR for capturing physical spaces

LiDAR modeling uses an iPhone’s Lidar scanner to measure the environment with laser pulses. It works best in capturing larger spaces like rooms. LiDAR pings the objects at high speed and records where they are and how they look in a physical space. Finally, a 3D model of the recorded space is created by combining LiDAR and camera data.

How to use LiDAR? 

  1. Open the Polycam app, and select LiDAR
  2. Start recording and freely move around the space you want to capture
  3. Move slowly and point your device at the back of the objects too
  4. Tap Process
  5. Tap Share, and select GLTF (same as GLB)
  6. Save and upload to ThingLink 
  7. Tag away!
  • Quick and easy
  • Allows you to capture physical spaces fast
  • Doesn’t produce very accurate 3D models with iPhones yet
  • Doesn’t work well with reflective surfaces
  • Doesn’t work well for modeling smaller objects

Photo mode for capturing smaller objects

Another method of creating a 3D model is to take photos – lots of them. It might sound tedious, but Poycam has made it easy by allowing you to go around the object while the app is automatically taking pictures. Having said this, we still recommend you use manual photo mode. This way you can keep your device still while taking pictures, thus ensuring the best photo quality. 

You can test photo mode free with Polycam but need a paid account to fully take advantage of it.

Explore this wonderful example! Artwork by Riina Sorvali. The full 360 Exhibition from Savonlinna Senior Secondary School of Arts.

How to use the photo mode on your phone to create 3D models 

  1. Place the object in a well-lit place (avoid shadows), and ensure you can move around it
  2. Open Polycam app, and select “PHOTO”
  3. Select the camera icon (manually take photos)
  4. Move slowly around the object while taking 70+ photos
  5. Keep the distance same between the device and object while taking photos 
  6. Tap Done
  7. Select Medium quality and tap “UPLOAD AND PROCESS”  
  8. Wait a few minutes and Polycam will send you the 3D model once the processing is finished.
  9. Tap Share, and select GLTF (same as GLB)
  10. Save and upload to ThingIink
  11. Tag away!


  • Very accurate 3D models 
  • Simple and quick


  • Not very good at modeling physical spaces
  • Requires a paid plan

Tips for successful 3D modeling 

  • Scan in a well-lit environment, avoid shadows
  • Reflective surfaces are sometimes tricky to 3D model
  • Try to keep the size of the 3D model under 15MB so it loads faster 
  • You can play with different 3D model qualities, but “medium” is often a good choice for ThingLink
  • You can crop and measure your 3D model in Polycam
  • If you do a lot of 3D scans, you can consider buying a rotating plate and tripod for the device to create more accurate models

More ways to create immersive content using your mobile device: Pano to 360

NEW! Creating virtual tours, exhibitions, escape rooms and other immersive content just got even easier! ThingLink has now launched Pano to 360 by ThingLink: an easy way to create a 360 photosphere from a panoramic image using any smartphone. For more information, including step-by-step instructions see this helpful support article. 

Try the free Pano to 360 converter

The Pano to 360 photosphere converter is free to use for anyone, no ThingLink account required! Upload a panoramic image to see it in action.

Ideas and support

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