Build Your Own 3D Scanner: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Building a 3D scanner is a rewarding and exciting project that can help you create digital models of real-world objects. Whether you’re an artist, engineer, or hobbyist, a 3D scanner can be a valuable tool in your arsenal. With the right tools and some basic knowledge, you can build your own 3D scanner at home.

The basic idea behind a 3D scanner is to capture the shape and geometry of an object using a series of measurements. These measurements can then be used to create a digital model of the object that can be manipulated and edited in a variety of ways. There are many different types of 3D scanners available, ranging from simple DIY projects to high-end commercial scanners used in industry and research. In this article, we’ll focus on building a simple yet effective 3D scanner using off-the-shelf components and open-source software.

Understanding 3D Scanning

What is 3D Scanning?

3D scanning is a technology that enables the capture of a physical object’s shape and appearance and converts it into a digital 3D model. It is a non-invasive method of creating a digital replica of an object, and it is widely used in various industries, including engineering, product design, architecture, and entertainment.

How does 3D Scanning work?

The process of 3D scanning involves several steps, including:

  1. Preparation: The object to be scanned is cleaned and prepared to ensure that it is free from any dirt or debris that could affect the quality of the scan.

  2. Scanning: The object is scanned using a 3D scanner, which captures the shape and appearance of the object using various methods such as structured light, laser, or photogrammetry.

  3. Data Processing: The data captured by the scanner is processed using specialized software to create a 3D model of the object. The software aligns the captured data and creates a mesh of the object’s surface.

  4. Post-Processing: The 3D model is then cleaned up, repaired, and optimized for use in various applications.

3D scanning is a complex process that requires specialized equipment and software. However, it has numerous benefits, including the ability to quickly create accurate 3D models, reduce the time and cost of product development, and improve the quality of products.

In conclusion, 3D scanning is a powerful technology that is transforming the way we design and manufacture products. By understanding the basics of 3D scanning, you can take advantage of this technology to improve your product development process and create better products.

Choosing the Right Components

When building a 3D scanner, choosing the right components is crucial to ensure high-quality scans. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting the components for your 3D scanner.


The camera is one of the most important components of a 3D scanner. It captures the images that will be used to create the 3D model. When choosing a camera, consider the following:

  • Resolution: The higher the camera’s resolution, the more detail it can capture.
  • Field of View: The camera’s field of view determines how much of the object can be captured in a single shot.
  • Shutter Speed: A faster shutter speed can help reduce motion blur and produce sharper images.


The laser is used to measure the distance between the camera and the object being scanned. When choosing a laser, consider the following:

  • Wavelength: Different wavelengths work better on different materials. For example, a red laser works well on dark surfaces, while a blue laser works well on reflective surfaces.
  • Power: The laser’s power determines how far it can reach and how accurate the measurements will be.
  • Modulation: Modulated lasers are less affected by ambient light and produce more accurate measurements.


The turntable is used to rotate the object being scanned so that it can be captured from multiple angles. When choosing a turntable, consider the following:

  • Size: The turntable should be large enough to hold the object being scanned.
  • Speed: The turntable’s speed should be adjustable so that you can control how quickly the object rotates.
  • Precision: The turntable should be precise so that it rotates the object in a consistent and accurate manner.


The computer is used to process the images and create the 3D model. When choosing a computer, consider the following:

  • Processor: A faster processor will allow for faster processing of the images.
  • RAM: The more RAM, the larger the images that can be processed.
  • Graphics Card: A dedicated graphics card can help speed up the processing of the images.

By considering these factors when choosing the components for your 3D scanner, you can ensure that you build a high-quality scanner that produces accurate and detailed 3D models.

Building the Structure

Designing the Structure

Before starting to build a 3D scanner, it’s important to design the structure. The design should be based on the type of scanner you want to build, the size of the objects you want to scan, and the accuracy you need. You can use software like SketchUp or Fusion 360 to create a 3D model of your scanner.

Materials Needed

The materials needed to build a 3D scanner will depend on the design you choose. However, some common materials include:

  • Aluminum extrusions
  • 3D-printed parts
  • Linear rails
  • Stepper motors
  • Belts and pulleys
  • Screws and nuts
  • Electronics components (Arduino, RAMPS board, etc.)
  • Power supply


Once you have all the materials ready, it’s time to assemble the structure. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Start by assembling the base frame using aluminum extrusions and 3D-printed parts.

  2. Attach the linear rails to the frame using screws and nuts.

  3. Mount the stepper motors on the frame and attach them to the linear rails using belts and pulleys.

  4. Install the electronics components, including the Arduino and RAMPS board.

  5. Connect the stepper motors to the RAMPS board and the power supply.

  6. Finally, attach the 3D scanner head to the linear rails and calibrate the scanner.

Building a 3D scanner can be a challenging but rewarding project. With the right design and materials, you can create a scanner that meets your specific needs.

Calibrating the Scanner

Calibrating your 3D scanner is essential to ensure accurate and consistent results. In this section, we’ll cover the necessary steps to calibrate your scanner.

Software Setup

Before calibrating your scanner, you need to ensure that the software is set up correctly. Make sure that you have installed the necessary drivers and software for your camera and laser. You should also ensure that the software is configured to capture images and laser data correctly.

Camera Calibration

The first step in calibrating your scanner is to calibrate the camera. This involves adjusting the camera settings to ensure that the images captured are accurate and aligned correctly. You can use calibration software to help you with this process.

To calibrate the camera, you need to take a series of images of a calibration target from different angles. The calibration software will then use these images to calculate the camera’s intrinsic and extrinsic parameters, which are used to correct for lens distortion and camera position.

Laser Calibration

The next step is to calibrate the laser. This involves ensuring that the laser is aligned correctly and that the laser line is straight and uniform. You can use a calibration target to help you with this process.

To calibrate the laser, you need to capture a series of laser line images from different angles. The calibration software will then use these images to calculate the laser’s parameters, which are used to correct for any distortion or misalignment.

Once you have completed the camera and laser calibration, you should test your scanner to ensure that it is working correctly. You can do this by scanning a simple object and comparing the results to a known model of the object.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your 3D scanner is calibrated correctly and can produce accurate and consistent results.

Scanning Objects

Preparing the Object

Before scanning an object, it is important to prepare it properly. The object should be clean and free of any debris or dust that could interfere with the scanning process. If the object is reflective, it may be necessary to apply a matte spray to reduce reflections.

In addition, the object should be placed on a stable surface to prevent any movement during the scanning process. If the object is small, it may be necessary to use a turntable to rotate it during the scanning process.

Scanning Process

Once the object is prepared, it is time to begin the scanning process. The first step is to set up the 3D scanner and calibrate it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This may involve adjusting the camera settings, aligning the lasers, or setting the scanning resolution.

Once the scanner is calibrated, the object can be placed in the scanning area. The scanner will capture multiple images of the object from different angles, which will be combined to create a 3D model.

During the scanning process, it is important to ensure that the object remains stationary. Any movement can result in errors in the final 3D model. It may also be necessary to adjust the scanner settings if the object is particularly complex or has intricate details.


After the scanning process is complete, the 3D model can be exported to a computer for post-processing. This involves cleaning up the model, removing any unwanted artifacts or errors, and preparing it for use in other applications.

There are many software programs available for post-processing 3D models, ranging from free open-source tools to professional-grade software. The specific tools and techniques used will depend on the intended use of the 3D model.

In general, post-processing involves smoothing out any rough edges or surfaces, filling in any gaps or holes, and optimizing the model for use in 3D printing or other applications.

Overall, scanning objects with a 3D scanner can be a complex process, but with the right preparation and techniques, it is possible to create high-quality 3D models that can be used in a wide range of applications.


Building a 3D scanner is a challenging but rewarding project that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. Throughout this article, we have covered the basic steps involved in building a 3D scanner, including selecting the right components, assembling the hardware, and calibrating the system.

One of the key takeaways from this project is the importance of selecting high-quality components that are compatible with each other. By choosing components that are designed to work together, you can avoid many of the compatibility issues that can arise when building a custom system.

Another important consideration when building a 3D scanner is calibration. This process can be time-consuming and requires a lot of trial and error, but it is essential for achieving accurate and reliable results. By following the calibration instructions carefully and taking the time to fine-tune your system, you can ensure that your scanner produces high-quality 3D models every time.

Overall, building a 3D scanner is a challenging but rewarding project that can open up new possibilities for makers, designers, and engineers. With the right components, tools, and instructions, anyone can build a custom 3D scanner that meets their specific needs and requirements.