3D scanners can get really expensive. We’d know, we tested and researched them all to create our ranking of the best 3D scanners as a complete buyer’s guide. However, if you’re willing to be a little more thrifty you can save a lot of money building your own DIY 3D scanner — and have a cheap 3D scanner you can feel proud of building yourself!
Just because you built them rather than a large company, doesn’t mean they are worse quality. In fact, there are some very powerful scanners in our list, you just need to assemble them yourself. Moreover, some are free if you have a 3D printer to print out the parts — the only costs are the materials.
Some of these 3D scanner kits can be purchased and built, and some can be downloaded and 3D printed for free. We include download links for all our recommendations.
- Additionally, check out our full list of the best 3D scanners
- For those after a bargain, here’s our list of the best cheap 3D scanners
- We also have a guide to the best 3D scanner apps
- We also have a ranking of the best photogrammetry software
What makes a good DIY 3D scanner?
- Price-performance ratio: for the price, how good are scans?
- Resolution: a key indicator of performance is resolution. Though we couldn’t find stats for all our DIY 3D scanners, we applied it where possible.
- Accessibility: Can you simply download all the files from the internet from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, or are you limited to where the supplier will ship to. This is another key part of our evaluation.
- Ease of assembly and use: if the DIY 3D scanner is great but takes 45 years to assemble — it’s not worth it. The quicker, the better.
- Available in 2021: if it isn’t still viable as of 2021, it doesn’t qualify.
- Open source 3D scanners were prioritized.
It’s also worth noting that some of these scanners require specific software to run. We have our own ranking of the best free 3D software tools to download, as well as another list of several professional 3D software tools for advanced designers.
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1. BQ Ciclop
- Resolution: 0.3-0.5mm
- DIY 3D scanner technology: laser triangulation
- Price: around $150 — Available on Amazon worldwide here
- Company based: Spain
BQ are a Spanish technology giant who are well-known across Europe for their smartphones, tablets, and 3D printers. They’ve also developed their Ciclop DIY 3D scanner, which scans a volume up to 250 x 205 mm, based on laser triangulation technology.
An important feature of the BQ Ciclop is that it’s a completely open source 3D scanner. You’re free to modify it as you wish, following the RepRap philosophy. It’s easily accessible via USB or Bluetooth, and can 3D scan with a resolution of between 0.3-0.5mm.
- We also have a ranking of the best open source 3D printers.
Another great addition to this DIY 3D scanner is that it works with Horus open source 3D scanning suite which BQ also developed. This makes scanning much easier with the compatible program. You can buy just the electronics (includes an Arduino, webcam etc) and print the parts yourself for $115, or buy the whole kit for $240. Not bad.
However, it is worthy of note that the BQ Ciclop is difficult to assemble. Other DIY 3D scanners are quicker and simpler to build, though the Ciclop is still a fantastic DIY 3D digitizer.
2. Murobo Atlas — Great Raspberry Pi 3D Scanner
- Resolution: 0.25mm
- DIY 3D scanner technology: laser triangulation technology
- Price: $200-250 — Available on Amazon worldwide here
Another homemade 3D scanner, the Atlas has the highest quality specs of any DIY 3D scanner we researched. It includes a 3D printed body made from PLA and ABS filaments, which can be purchased online. If you’re a serious DIY fanatic, you can print the parts yourself via the download link here.
Depending on if you already own a Raspberry Pi or not, you can save money on the build. This is because the Atlas DIY 3D scanner uses a Raspberry Pi camera to take detailed 3D scans with an accuracy of 0.25mm. Depending on your choice, the Atlas is likely to cost between $200 and $250, which is far less than most professional 3D scanners.
Moreover, Murobo has made considerable efforts to make sure that the Atlas DIY 3D scanner is convenient and simple to use. To achieve this, the Atlas comes with FreeLSS free 3D software which enables you to easily take 3D scans. In addition, you can access your Atlas via your computer’s browser through WiFi, as well as via SD card.
Overall, this DIY 3D scanner Raspberry Pi collaboration is a really interesting and creative way of combining several different innovative technologies to create a scanning device. If you’re an Arduino fan instead, you may be able to make it work for you too.
3. CowTech Ciclop
- Price: $119 – $159 (depending on whether you’re 3D printing the parts or not) — Available on Amazon here
- Company based: USA
- Resolution: 0.5 mm
- Maximum scan volume: 200 x 200 x 205 mm
BQ formed the foundations of the DIY 3D scanner kit, and remains one of the best DIY 3D scanner on tight budget options. Then back in 2015, CowTech Engineering used the foundations led by BQ, putting their unique spin on an updated model.
True to the open source movement, Cowtech started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to put their version of the original, the CowTech Ciclop, into production. The team set the lofty goal to raise $10,000, and were met with surprise when the community rallies to raise $183,000. The CowTech Ciclop DIY 3D scanner kit was born.
So what are the differences between CowTech’s version and BQ’s DIY 3D scanner?
The CowTech Ciclop still uses the Horus 3D software program as it does a fantastic shop for 3D scanning objects. Differences however include a slightly different design, which the team spent days designing so that the parts could be 3D printed on any FDM 3D printer. Some desktop 3D printers only have a small build volume, so CowTech designed parts that can be printed on any printer with a build volume of 115 x 110 x 65 mm, which almost all 3D printers have.
Additionally, CowTech’s Ciclop has adjustable laser holders, and whereas the BQ Ciclop uses threaded rods, CowTech’s DIY 3D scanner uses laser-cut acrylic. This isn’t anything drastic and the scanners still look fairly similar, but CowTech only intended to improve the existing design, not reform it. CowTech sell the Ciclop, ready-to-scan, for $159 on their website. Overall, this is a great cheap DIY 3D scanner, and very effective for laser triangulation 3D scanning.
4. Turntable Mobile Phone DIY 3D Scanner
- Technology: DIY Photogrammetry
- Price: FREE to print yourself (though materials will cost ~$30)
Designed by British maker Dave Clarke, this DIY 3D scanner is very different to the others on this list. Firstly, it looks completely different with it’s circular shape. This is because it is based on photogrammetry rather than laser triangulation, and is built to be compatible with your smartphone! You can download the file to 3D print here.
This simple device instantly turns your iPhone or Android into a 3D scanner by attaching it to this turntable. Then, using your phone’s headphones and camera, takes over 50 photos of the object to be scanned as the turntable rotates. Once you’ve taken these images, you can then load them into a program such as Autodesk ReCap to turn your photos into a complete 3D file.
Overall, this is a fantastic creative project, and a great DIY 3D scanner for those on a tight budget.
5. OpenScan DIY 3D Scanner For Your Phone or DSLR Camera
- Technology: photogrammetry
- DIY 3D scanner price: around $150 for the electronics; you can print the plastic parts at home
OpenScan is a German project allowing makers to build their own 3D scanner at home with either an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to operate it. You can either download all the plastic parts to print at home on your 3D printer, or buy them from OpenScan by getting in contact with their team.
You can use the OpenScan scanner with anything with a camera — though low-quality webcam shots will show in the final scan. Using a camera, for example your phone, the scanner takes pictures of your chosen object, slightly turning it each time, to create a 360 degree 3D model.
OpenScan sell all their necessary electronics for both the Arduino and Raspberry Pi versions. They also have an in-depth guide in English showing you how to assemble each part of the kit, and how to use the scanner once you’ve made it.
The full assembly guide is here.
6. AAScan Open Source 3D Scanner Based on Arduino and Android
AAScan is a very recent (February 2020) DIY open source 3D scanner that’s fully automated in taking photos and moving the object around on the scan plate. All the files are on Thingiverse, which we’ve linked below. Interestingly, the creator stresses that the AAScan is intended to be a purposefully minimalist machine, able to scan but not filled with extra features beyond this primary capacity.
All the instructions for how to build, print and assemble the AAScan are on the Thingiverse page, requiring an Arduino, some electronics, and either a 3D printer to print the plastic parts or someone else to print them for you — such as from a 3D printing service.
You can view the DIY scanner on Thingiverse here.
7. FabScan Pi
- DIY 3D scanner technology: laser triangulation
- Price: $100-200 depending on which version
The original FabScan was a DIY 3D scanner built by Francis Engelmann as part of his Bacherlor’s thesis back in 2011. Since then, there have been numerous improvements made in new iterations up to the newest model, the FabScan Pi. This new model uses a Raspberry Pi camera along with the new design to offer higher quality 3D scans.
Based on laser triangulation technology, the FabScan Pi is one of the best DIY 3D scanner options for those who are into doing it themselves. Depending on if you go for one of the older models or the latest, the price can vary between $100 and around $200 to completely create the 3D scanner. Overall, it’s a really cool kit and thesis which you can make at home.
If you want to create your own FabScan, you can download the parts for each version here.
- Technology: DIY structured light 3D scanner
- Price: FREE to print (material costs however)
Described on Thingiverse as a ‘David Laserscanner in a box’, the Virtucube DIY 3D scanner is an interesting scanner which you can download all the parts to print out yourself here. The Virtucube uses structured light technologies with a pico projector instead of a laser to create high quality scans of your favorite projects.
The Virtucube has a nostalgic, 70s vibe to it, and can be placed inside a cardboard box for optimal scanning conditions. This is because otherwise other sources can create anomalies and errors in the scan. Overall, it’s retro, not the prettiest, but it’s free and not too difficult to put together!
9. Microsoft Kinect 3D Scanner
- Price: $99.99 (No longer sold however, though the Kinect V2 is still sold with Xbox One)
- Xbox One Kinect available on Amazon UK here / Amazon USA here
- Company Based: USA
The DIY 3D scanner Kinect has the potential to be would surprise many. Though not manufactured with the intention of being a low cost DIY 3D scanner option, it has evolved to engage a community to swear by the Xbox accessory.
Though Microsoft reacted to demand by creating their own 3D Scan app for the Kinect 3D scanner, there are a number of third party options that may be preferable. These include Skanect, made by Occupital who also sell the Structure Sensor, and ReconstructMe. These provide a suite of tools that enable you to 3D scan for under $100.
The results aren’t fantastic, but you can’t expect that for the price. It has been shown to lose out to traditional protogrammetry options in quality, especially in fine details for example on small models such as shark teeth. However, for a beginner to 3D scanners, this is a fantastic entry level product, especially since you may already own one for your Xbox 360.
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