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

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Are you interested in creating your very own 3D scanner? With the rise of 3D printing and the increasing accessibility of 3D modeling software, having a 3D scanner at your disposal can be incredibly useful. Whether you’re an artist, engineer, or hobbyist, a 3D scanner can help you bring your ideas to life.

Fortunately, building a 3D scanner doesn’t have to be a daunting task. There are various DIY 3D scanner options available that you can build at home using readily available materials and tools. From using a DSLR camera and photogrammetry to creating a low-cost laser scanner, there are plenty of options to choose from. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best DIY 3D scanner options available and provide step-by-step instructions on how to build them. So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced maker, you’ll be able to create your own 3D scanner with ease.

Understanding 3D Scanning

What is 3D Scanning?

3D scanning is the process of capturing the shape, size, and texture of a physical object and creating a digital 3D model. The resulting model can be used for a variety of applications, including reverse engineering, quality control, and product design.

Types of 3D Scanners

There are several types of 3D scanners, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The most common types of 3D scanners include:

  • Laser Scanners: These scanners use a laser to measure the distance between the scanner and the object being scanned. They are highly accurate and can capture fine details, but they are also expensive and can be slow.

  • Structured Light Scanners: These scanners project a pattern of light onto the object being scanned and use cameras to capture the distortion of the pattern. They are fast and affordable, but they may not be as accurate as laser scanners.

  • Photogrammetry Scanners: These scanners use photographs of an object taken from multiple angles to create a 3D model. They are affordable and can capture color and texture information, but they may not be as accurate as laser or structured light scanners.

How Does a 3D Scanner Work?

The basic process of 3D scanning involves capturing data about an object’s shape and texture and then processing that data to create a 3D model. The specific steps involved in 3D scanning can vary depending on the type of scanner being used, but the general process typically includes the following:

  1. Preparation: The object being scanned is prepared by cleaning it and positioning it in a way that will allow the scanner to capture all of its features.

  2. Scanning: The scanner is used to capture data about the object’s shape and texture. This may involve taking photographs, projecting a pattern of light, or using a laser to measure distances.

  3. Processing: The data captured by the scanner is processed using software to create a 3D model. This may involve aligning multiple scans, removing unwanted data, and smoothing the model.

  4. Post-Processing: The final 3D model may be edited or modified using software to remove imperfections or add additional features.

Overall, 3D scanning is a powerful tool that can be used for a wide range of applications. By understanding the basics of 3D scanning, you can choose the right scanner for your needs and create accurate and detailed 3D models.

Building a 3D Scanner

If you’re interested in building your own 3D scanner, you’re in luck! With a few key components and some basic assembly, you can create a scanner that will allow you to digitize real-world objects and create 3D models. Here’s how to get started.

Required Components

Before you can start building your 3D scanner, you’ll need to gather a few key components. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A camera: You’ll need a camera to capture images of the object you want to scan. A high-quality camera with a high resolution is recommended.
  • A laser: A laser is used to create a grid of light that will be projected onto the object you’re scanning. This grid will help the software create a 3D model.
  • A turntable: A turntable is used to rotate the object you’re scanning so that it can be captured from all angles.
  • A computer: You’ll need a computer to process the images and create the 3D model.

Assembling the Hardware

Once you have all of your components, it’s time to start assembling your 3D scanner. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Mount the camera: Mount the camera onto a stand or tripod so that it’s stable and can be adjusted easily.
  2. Mount the laser: Mount the laser onto a stand so that it’s pointed at the object you’re scanning. The laser should be positioned so that it creates a grid of light on the object.
  3. Mount the turntable: Mount the turntable onto a stand or tripod so that it’s stable and can rotate smoothly.
  4. Connect the camera and laser: Connect the camera and laser to your computer using USB cables.
  5. Connect the turntable: Connect the turntable to your computer using a USB cable or other appropriate connector.

Connecting the Components

Once you have all of your hardware assembled, it’s time to connect the components and start scanning. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Install the software: Install the software that came with your 3D scanner or download a free software package online.
  2. Configure the software: Configure the software to work with your camera, laser, and turntable. Follow the instructions provided by the software.
  3. Calibrate the scanner: Calibrate the scanner by following the instructions provided by the software. This will ensure that the scanner is accurate and will produce high-quality 3D models.
  4. Start scanning: Once the scanner is calibrated, you can start scanning objects. Place the object on the turntable and start the scanning process. The software will capture images of the object from all angles and use the laser grid to create a 3D model.

With these steps, you can build your own 3D scanner and start creating 3D models of real-world objects. Happy scanning!

Programming the 3D Scanner

When it comes to programming a 3D scanner, there are a few key steps you’ll need to follow to ensure that your scanner is working properly and producing accurate scans. In this section, we’ll cover the basics of programming a 3D scanner, including choosing the right software, writing the code, and calibrating the scanner.

Choosing the Right Software

One of the first steps in programming your 3D scanner is choosing the right software. There are a variety of different software options available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some popular options include:

  • MeshLab: A free, open-source software that allows you to process and edit 3D scans.
  • ReconstructMe: A commercial software that offers real-time 3D scanning capabilities.
  • Skanect: A user-friendly software that allows you to create 3D scans using a variety of different devices.

When choosing your software, it’s important to consider factors such as cost, ease of use, and compatibility with your hardware.

Writing the Code

Once you’ve chosen your software, the next step is to write the code that will control your 3D scanner. This will typically involve using a programming language such as Python or C++ to interface with your hardware and control the scanning process.

When writing your code, it’s important to keep in mind factors such as scan resolution, speed, and accuracy. You’ll also need to consider how to handle issues such as noise and distortion in your scans.

Calibrating the Scanner

Finally, before you can start using your 3D scanner, you’ll need to calibrate it to ensure that it’s producing accurate scans. This will typically involve using a calibration target or object to measure and adjust the scanner’s settings.

Calibration is a critical step in the scanning process, as it can significantly impact the quality and accuracy of your scans. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and take the time to fine-tune your settings for optimal results.

By following these steps, you can program your 3D scanner to produce high-quality scans that are accurate and detailed. Whether you’re using your scanner for personal projects or professional applications, proper programming is key to getting the most out of your hardware.

Testing and Troubleshooting

Testing the Scanner

Before using your 3D scanner, it’s important to test it to ensure it’s working properly. To do this, you can scan a simple object, such as a cube or sphere, and check the resulting 3D model for accuracy. Make sure the edges and corners of the object are well-defined, and that the overall shape is symmetrical. If the model looks distorted or has missing parts, it may be a sign of a problem with the scanner.

Common Issues and Solutions

Here are some common issues that you may encounter when using a 3D scanner, along with possible solutions:

Issue Solution
Scanner not detecting object Ensure that the object is well-lit and positioned correctly within the scanner’s field of view. Try adjusting the scanner’s settings or moving the object to a different location.
Scanner producing low-quality scans Check that the scanner lens is clean and free of dust or debris. Adjust the scanner’s settings or try using a different scanning method.
Scanner producing distorted scans Make sure the object is not moving during the scanning process. Check that the scanner is calibrated correctly and that the object is positioned at the correct distance from the scanner.
Scanner producing incomplete scans Try scanning the object from different angles or using a different scanning method. Make sure the scanner is calibrated correctly and that the object is positioned correctly within the scanner’s field of view.

If you encounter a problem that is not listed here, refer to the scanner’s user manual or contact the manufacturer for assistance.

By testing your 3D scanner and troubleshooting common issues, you can ensure that your scans are accurate and of high quality. With a little practice, you’ll be able to create detailed 3D models of any object you can imagine.


In conclusion, building your own 3D scanner is a fun and rewarding project that can save you a lot of money compared to purchasing a commercial scanner. There are several approaches you can take, including using a DSLR camera and photogrammetry, or building a scanner from scratch using a laser and a Raspberry Pi.

Before starting your project, it’s important to consider your budget, the level of accuracy you require, and the materials and tools you have available. While some DIY scanners can produce high-quality results, others may be more suitable for simple scanning tasks or as a starting point for further experimentation.

Regardless of the approach you choose, building a 3D scanner requires patience, attention to detail, and a willingness to troubleshoot problems as they arise. However, with the right resources and a bit of perseverance, you can create a scanner that meets your needs and produces accurate, high-quality scans.

If you’re new to 3D scanning or DIY electronics, we recommend starting with a simple project and gradually working your way up to more complex builds. There are plenty of online resources, tutorials, and forums available to help you along the way, and many DIY enthusiasts are happy to share their knowledge and experience with others.

Overall, building a 3D scanner can be a fun and rewarding way to explore the world of 3D printing and digital fabrication. Whether you’re interested in scanning objects for 3D printing, creating digital models for animation or game design, or simply learning more about electronics and programming, a DIY scanner can be a great tool to have in your toolkit.