Creating a 3D model of a real object can be extremely fast if you have a 3D scanner at home. The problem is that 3D scanners are expensive to buy new.
If you’re looking for a solution, why not try building your own affordable 3D scanner at home? It may not create perfect 3D models, but it’s a cost-effective alternative to buying a 3D scanner.
Is it cheaper to build a DIY 3D scanner?
The cost of buying a decent 3D scanner ranges from $700 to $10,000 at the higher end. On the other hand, building a DIY 3D scanner can cost less than $200, some even as low as $35.
Depending on the resolution of your homemade 3D scanner, you’ll still have to work to put the 3D model away so it can be used for things like 3D printing, game development, or perhaps design prototyping. But overall, it will still speed up the design process compared to building a model from scratch.
1. Cheap 3D printed 3D scanner
This 3D scanner is built using 3D printed parts, including both open source software and open source hardware files. If you choose to install the maximum of four lasers, the cost of the project is between $35 and $50. Once it’s built, handling the digital scan will require some legwork to smooth out. But considering its price, it is worth trying.
You can find the STL files and a full build guide on Instructables. Besides the 3D printed components, you’ll need one to four lasers, a stepper motor, a turntable, and an Arduino Nano to put it all together. One of the good things about this project is that it’s been built over and over by the creators in the community, which has resulted in lots of images and comments around the project to help fill in the gaps.
2. DIY 3D scanner using a DSLR camera
Another option for building a 3D scanner is to use a DSLR camera and a method called photogrammetry. At its most basic, it involves taking many images of an object from different angles and stitching those photos together in software to create a 3D model.
Besides a DSLR camera, you will need an Arduino, stepper motor and driver, LCD display and IR LED. The purpose of the hardware is to build a rotating platform that moves in set amounts so your camera can shoot the object in great detail and control. You can find a great explanation of the project on Instructables.
The real difficulty of this project comes from the processing of the photos. A good photogrammetry program is essential, and it can cost upwards of $150 to license. Some freeware is available, but it may have limitations.
If you are wondering if there is an alternative solution, you can read our guide on how to turn everyday objects into 3D models without a 3D scanner.
3. Optical CT/3D scanner with Arduino
For something a little different, in this project you’ll build a 3D scanner that doubles as an optical scanner. This type of scanner will do if you have semi-transparent objects, like a gummy bear or a segment of orange. Alternatively, you can use this setup with the photogrammetry method for regular 3D scans.
Everything in this version is enclosed in a box. This allows for better control of object lighting to produce sharper images. Although it involves woodworking and construction, the hardware is still powered by a humble Arduino Nano, plus additional parts you can find at any hardware store.
A great guide is available on Instructables for building the box, along with details for creating a sleek control panel to change photo settings on the go.
4. FabScan: Raspberry Pi + Arduino 3D scanner
This 3D scanner uses both a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino to build a 3D laser scanner. What sets this version apart is that it can be used remotely through a web browser on a phone.
Just like other DIY 3D scanners, a stepper motor and driver are used to spin a turntable containing the object you want to scan. Additionally, you will need a line laser and a Raspberry Pi camera. You can find the guide and a full list of components on Instructables.
While the creators opted for a laser-cut MDF box, you could just as easily use spare parts lying around the house to create the enclosure. Alternatively, cardboard can also work, and painting it black will help diffuse the laser light so it doesn’t interfere with scanning.
Once you have a good scan of your object, you might be interested in 3D printing. Don’t have a 3D printer? Here is our selection of the best 3D printers.
5. The ultimate human-sized 3D scanner with Raspberry Pi
While most homemade 3D scanners are designed to capture a small object, it is also possible to build a human-sized 3D scanner. The way to do this is with lots of Raspberry Pis, as you can see on Instructables.
The manufacturer behind this project scaled their 3D scanner using a whopping 47 Raspberry Pis plus a Raspberry Pi camera for each module. The goal was to use the method of photogrammetry to take a picture of his subject from all possible angles. Because he wanted to capture a 3D model of his two-year-old son, it all had to happen instantly.
Incredibly, it works, and it works very well too. If you have the time and investment to buy a box full of Raspberry Pis, you won’t be disappointed as the results are impressive. The manufacturer says you can use fewer Pis and cameras and still get good results, especially if you only need to capture the front of a person’s face.
6. Standalone 3D scanner
Maybe you’re just looking for a simple, small 3D scanner that you can craft over the weekend. If so, then this project is right for you. This 3D scanner on Instructables is designed to be all-in-one, meaning photos are compiled onboard and an STL file is saved directly to a memory card. Instead of compiling photos in a separate photogrammetry program, this 3D scanner manages them for you.
While it doesn’t produce incredibly detailed scans, it is a quick way to transfer a 3D model straight to 3D printing. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the dimensions of the 3D scanner structure must be kept exactly as written in order to match the code.
Build a homemade 3D scanner
Assembling a 3D scanner at home is not extremely difficult to achieve. Compared to the high price of commercial 3D scanners, it is worth building a DIY 3D scanner yourself.
With a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and a few affordable extra parts, you’ll be well on your way to creating a cheap and awesome 3D scanner.
The best photogrammetry software (free and paid)
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