After a decade of theoretical approaches, laboratory setups and prototypes it was end of the eighties that the first 3D scanning systems, based on imaging triangulation, were installed for industrial applications, mainly for surface inspection, comparative measurements or deformation analysis. It took another decade to establish 3D scanning in cultural heritage. Nowadays, high definition 3D scanning is state of the art in archaeology and palaeontology, for a wide range of items, from small artefacts like coins, teeth and bones, fragments and scripts up to large figures, statues and small buildings.
The paper will start with a short overview on the history of 3D scanning technologies and will discuss in more detail the state of the art of 3D scanners, incl. its current limitations and restrictions. It also will point out the importance of verification and acceptance tests for the data quality of high definition 3D scanners, not only for industrial metrologies but also for most of the applications in arts and cultural heritage. After presenting some extraordinary and challenging projects it will close with an outlook on upcoming and/or expected future developments.