Hello tinkerers and DIY enthusiasts! Been looking for a 3D scanner that you can put together by yourself at a fraction of the cost? We hear you! 3D scanners can be pricey, and who wouldn’t want to save rather than splurge?
But be warned that not every Instructable or online DIY guide is a project worth taking on. Some projects are doomed to fail and end up wasting your time, money, and energy. And there are few things as frustrating as a DIY fail — trust us, we’ve been there.
And sometimes, taking on an intermediate-level project at the beginner level can be the most hair-pulling thing imaginable. So it’s essential you do projects according to your DIY capabilities.
Not to fret. In this article, we’ll go over the best DIY 3D scanners — we will discuss the difficulty level, required supplies, and pros and cons of each scanner. Let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
- Best DIY 3D Scanner At A Glance
- 1. FabScan Pi (Best Choice)
- 2. BQ Ciclop (Best Value)
- 3. OpenScan Classic & Mini (Premium Choice)
- 4. DIY Standalone 3D Scanner (Best Photogrammetry DIY 3D Scanner)
- 5. Murobo Atlas 3D Scanner (All-Around DIY 3D Scanner)
- 6. Arduino Controlled Photogrammetry 3D Scanner (Best Smartphone-Based Scanner)
- 7. DIY Desktop 3D Scanner (Best Affordable Photogrammetry Scanner)
- What is a DIY 3D Scanner?
- How Do DIY 3D Scanners Work?
- Is DIY 3D Scanner Cheaper?
- So Which Is the Best DIY 3D Scanner?
Best DIY 3D Scanner At A Glance
1. FabScan Pi (Best Choice)
2. BQ Ciclop (Best Value)
3. OpenScan Classic & Mini (Premium Choice)
4. DIY Standalone 3D Scanner (Best Photogrammetry DIY 3D Scanner)
5. Murobo Atlas 3D Scanner (All-Around DIY 3D Scanner)
6. Arduino Controlled Photogrammetry 3D Scanner (Best Smartphone-Based Scanner)
7. DIY Desktop 3D Scanner (Best Affordable Photogrammetry Scanner)
Technology: Laser Triangulation | Assembly Level: Beginner-Intermediate | Developer: Mario Lukas (Since 2014)
If you have a Raspberry Pi 2, this DIY scanner is for you! And no, blueberry pie won’t work.
This project is ideal for beginner DIYers.
The FabScan Pi uses laser triangulation to give a high-quality 3D model of a real object.
The Pi is an updated version of the original FabScan 3D scanner. Here you can control the scanner with a web browser on your Pi. The Raspberry Pi’s camera module gives you a superior scan quality compared to the first FabScan model.
You have the option to build the FabScan Pi by yourself or purchase a DIY kit for a higher cost.
To make it entirely from scratch, you’ll need, as we mentioned, a Raspberry Pi 2 with a camera — as well as a line laser and stepper motor. Other necessary components can be found in this Instructable, as well as detailed instructions on how to put it together. If you purchase the kit, all the necessary parts will be included.
How does the FabScan Pi work?
A round plate is mounted on the stepper motor to rotate the object in front of the Pi camera and laser. You place an object on the round plate mounted on the stepper motor.
The plate rotates — kind of like a vinyl disc on a record player. This process occurs in front of the Pi camera and the laser, continuously pointing at the object. The camera monitors the laser’s movement and records data points, which are then turned into a 3D model of your object. Neat!
This scanner can export models directly to STL, which saves a whole lot of time and allows you to 3D print your model immediately after scanning.
A feature that sets this scanner apart is that it’s wireless — unlike many other scanners that can only connect via USB.
The BQ Ciclop 3D scanner — what’s not to love? If you’re on a tight budget and already own a 3D printer, this is probably one of the most inexpensive scanners you can build… short of whacking together some pebbles, leaves, and branches. But be warned, newbies — this project best suits intermediate/advanced DIYers.
Like the FabScan Pi, the Ciclop works through laser triangulation. And similarly, it can be bought as a kit, or you can make it yourself. Here are the instructions on Thingiverse.
Making it yourself is the most affordable option if you’ve already got a 3D printer… which, chances are, you probably do. This scanner is a bit pricier in kit form.
The BQ Ciclop 3D scanner works by scanning rotating objects against a plain background. This helps it capture more precise scans.
It can connect via USB and Bluetooth (no wireless capability, sadly) and has a scanning resolution of between 0.30 to 0.50 mm.
The Ciclop uses the Horus 3D scanner firmware (also developed by BQ), which is easy to use and allows you to avoid any compatibility issues.
In terms of difficulty, this scanner will take a good few hours to put together — like we said, if you’re a newbie, it’s better to build something more manageable like the FabScan 3D scanner. This should be fine if you don’t mind a challenge when it comes to assembly. And also if you aren’t the type to hurl your unfinished DIY project out the window three stories down when things go south. (What is this “patience” you speak of?)
Technology: Photogrammetry | Assembly Level: Beginner-Intermediate | Resolution: mm | Designer: OpenScan German Company
Got an Arduino Nano? (Nano your business!) If so, this 3D scanner is perfect for you. It’s affordable and yields high-quality scans — and best of all, there are different options depending on your requirements.
First off, we’ve got the Mini model. It has a scan volume of 80 x 80 x 80 mm, and as the name and scan volume suggests, it’s the smaller option. It is only compatible with Arduino or Pi-based cameras. This option is perfect if you want to scan small objects. It is also more inexpensive.
The Classic, however, features a sizable scan volume of 180 x 180 x 180 mm. It’s compatible with any camera, whether a smartphone camera or DSLR or what have you.
One-click easy scanning allows the scanner to rotate both the object and the camera for better quality scans. Like a 3D scanner merry-go-round. Wow!
But how does it work?
OpenScan uses a stepper motor connected to a frame (that you can 3D print… noticing a theme here?). This motor rotates your chosen object, and your camera then takes pictures of it at different angles.
You can then use OpenScanCloud software to compile the images into a high-quality 3D model.
All the necessary information and documentation can be found on their website here.
OpenScan allows you to customize your own 3D scanner kit or order a complete one. Or you could build it yourself.
Also, here’s the kicker — this scanner rotates the object around three axes rather than just two, which makes it more accurate than some other DIY scanners.
Want a 3D scanner that will truly put your technical chops to the test and pose a rewarding challenge?
Tricky to put together, but quick and easy to use — all you do is press a button, and you’ll get a 3D model.
This 3D scanner uses photogrammetry to scan objects and create models. Photogrammetry works by taking lots of photos of the object and then calculating its measurements from the photos. Ta-da! This results in a 3D model. It works like panorama mode on your phone, combining multiple pictures to make one long picture.
This DIY standalone 3D scanner uses a specific computer algorithm called “shapes from silhouettes”. This algorithm determines the shape of your chosen object from various silhouettes captured by the camera at different angles.
Here is a brief description of what you’ll need (you can find all components and instructions in this Instructable).
First off (and most important), you’ll need a GR_LYCHEE board. (What is it with computers and fruit names???)
This board has a camera that acts as a mini paparazzi for your chosen object, taking lots of candid shots to make the complete model!
Next, you’ll need a NEMA 17 stepper motor, a stepper motor driver, plastic sheets, various electronics, and some nuts and screws. The rest of the required parts can be found in the Instructable. Keep in mind the tutorial doesn’t tell you how to wire the board — DIY extreme edition!
Also, you’ll need blue paper as a background for your object. Oddly specific, but it works!
The output is an STL file, so you can use it immediately after scanning in your 3D printing program.
One thing to keep in mind with this 3D scanner — it’s not as accurate as some of the other scanners on this list. It gives you a resolution of over a millimeter. But if you want something super easy to use, this is it.
Technology: Laser Triangulation | Assembly Level: Intermediate-Advanced Users | Designer: Uriah Liggett
Want really accurate scans — the best you can get with DIY? The Murobo Atlas 3D Scanner will be right up your alley! Offering a scan resolution of 0.25 mm, this 3D scanner is perfect for capturing detailed 3D models, particularly of figurines and more elaborate objects.
There are a few different options with this 3D scanner. You can buy all the parts individually from the Murobo store or elsewhere and assemble it by yourself (instructions can be found here). Or you can go for one of two kits — the BYOP (Bring Your Own Pi) kit if you already have a Raspberry Pi or a complete kit with Pi included.
This 3D scanner takes a few hours to put together, but it’s definitely worth it. Components include a Raspberry Pi 3 B with WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, two laser modules, and a 5MP camera. Other parts and instructions can be found here.
So how does the Atlas 3D scanner work?
You place your object on the turntable, which then rotates and is scanned by the laser. This is a laser triangulation scanner and uses the same principle as the FabScan Pi and the BQ Ciclop.
Generally, laser triangulation yields more accurate results than photogrammetry, which is why this scanner can go down to a 0.25 mm scan resolution.
The Atlas 3D scanner uses FreeLSS, which is a free 3D scanning software. The scanner can be accessed via WiFi and SD card.
Want to use your smartphone for something more productive than scrolling Facebook reels? Well, now it can help you scan 3D models!
This is one of the most affordable options, so if you’re tight on budget, this Arduino-based 3D scanner is perfect.
First, as the name implies, you’ll need an Arduino for this 3D scanner — specifically an Arduino UNO SBC, which is priced affordably.
Next, you’ll need your smartphone, which you’ll then connect to Bluetooth to do the scanning.
You’ll also require a joystick (yay, gaming!), a stepper and servo motor, and a Bluetooth remote. Oh, and don’t forget — an LCD screen. All components can be found here.
You’ll connect your smartphone to the Bluetooth remote, which is located in the turntable. The servo motor presses the button on the remote to capture photos. Genius solution, if you ask us.
As for the body, you can easily 3D print all the mechanical parts of the 3D scanner out of PLA filament.
Now for features. The turntable in this 3D scanner can capture 360° photos for some epic cinematic shots! If you want to, you can customize the turntable’s speed from 1 to 17 RPM.
You can even configure the number of photos it takes from 2 to 200 photos — which then can be converted using any photogrammetry software (the creator suggests Autodesk Recap Photo).
This is similar to the previous 3D scanner but guess what? It can work with any camera! And it’s the cheapest to build on this list — while also providing high scan quality.
Working similarly in principle to the Arduino-Controlled Smartphone 3D Scanner, this desktop 3D scanner uses an Arduino board to control a turntable.
All you have to do is place your object on the board, set up the camera — and voila! You can start your scan.
Soon as it’s done, all you have to do is put those photos into any photogrammetry software you choose.
Here is the full guide to building and using this 3D scanner.
Any Arduino will work for this project, but the creator recommends an Arduino Mega for easier wiring. You’ll also need a SainSmart 1602 LCD screen which will be the display for your 3D scanner and provides buttons to control it.
Apart from that, a NEMA 17 stepper motor will be responsible for the task of turning your object! And it will need a stepper driver, which allows the Arduino to drive the stepper motor.
Next, you’ll need a 950 nm IR LED. And lastly, you’ll need a power source — a 9V battery will do.
How does it take pictures? It does a cool little magic trick. There is an LED that flashes every time the stepper motor rotates, which triggers your camera to take a pic. Very cool — you never have to click a picture once!
What is a DIY 3D Scanner?
3D scanners are wonderful for turning real-world objects into super accurate 3D models. However, as a downside, they can be expensive.
A DIY 3D scanner is a 3D scanner that you put together yourself using easily or readily available parts. You can source and assemble the parts or buy a DIY kit.
How Do DIY 3D Scanners Work?
There are two main methods involved in DIY 3D scanning.
The first and most common one is photogrammetry. Photogrammetry scanners work by taking pictures and then converting them into a 3D model. It’s the most affordable way to scan.
Next, we have laser scanning, which uses a laser to:
- Illuminate the object
- Record the measurements of the object
This information is then relayed to your computer, which using the appropriate software, creates a nice and fresh 3D model — right out of the laser oven!
Is DIY 3D Scanner Cheaper?
Yes — DIY 3D scanners are much cheaper than conventional 3D scanners and can be half or even a third of their cost. Keep in mind that DIY scanners are, in the end, just that — and probably aren’t as able as higher-end scanners to give you top-notch results. But for the price point of DIY, the results are pretty good.
If you don’t want the hassle of building your own scanner, check out our article on the cheapest 3D scanners you can buy.
So Which Is the Best DIY 3D Scanner?
If you want an all-around great DIY 3D scanner, the Murobu Atlas 3D scanner won’t disappoint.
If you’re looking for a nice and easy Raspberry Pi-based 3D scanner to set up, look no further than the FabScan Pi.
Not a Pi kinda guy or gal? Try out the Arduino-based scanners. If you want one that works with your smartphone, the Arduino-Controlled 3D Scanner is it. If you want something more professional and compatible with other cameras, the OpenScan 3D scanner is perfect for you.
The DIY Standalone 3D Scanner — although a tough cookie to build, it’s super easy to use and gets printer-ready models in no time.