Open-source 3D scanning brings the technology to the masses, making it cost-effective and customizable. Check out our favorite open-source 3D scanners for 2019!
3D scanning is a great companion to the additive manufacturing family. It lets you create models of real-life objects and spaces without you needing to know their design specifics beforehand. 3D scanning does the measuring for you so you can ditch the measuring tape. This is super helpful in a wide variety of industries and hobbies, as it’s a non-intrusive way to replicate 3D objects.
If you’re not familiar with 3D scanners, you can think of them kind of like advanced video cameras. Using a variety of techniques, they capture light in order to generate digital maps of 3D objects.
Once this map is complete, the appropriate software helps you create a replica design of the object you scanned. Within that software, you can either leave the design exactly as is for a direct clone, or you can adjust design details for any improvements or deviations you might want to make.
Your 3D scans are ultimately only as good as your software, so you may be tempted to get the most expensive your budget will allow. However, this may not be as straightforward as you’d think. Just because a program has a million bells and whistles doesn’t mean it will work the best. In fact, the opposite is often the case. 3D scanning technology is at its most sophisticated when it’s streamlined for intuitive use.
That’s where 3D scanning and open-source make great partners. Open-source means the software is free to download and use, and the all of the code is available to modify however suits you best. 3D scanning and open-source software are both part of the exploding do-it-yourself community, where success isn’t necessarily measured by the cost. So they’re a natural fit for each other.
Open-source 3D scanner software lets you see into and comment on the minds of the creators. Using an open-source 3D scanner lets you participate in a conversation, leaving room for evolution that’s critical to creation. We highly recommend finding a 3D scanner that lets you do that, and we’re here to help with our top picks for 2019 so far.
Market price: Free
The MakerScanner 3D is one of our favorite open-source 3D scanners because it goes all-out on compatibility. MakerBot is a legend in bringing 3D technology to the masses. They continue that legacy of excellence with their 2019 update of their MakerScanner 3D.
Version 3.0, like its predecessors, has its own open-source software program, which is smart enough to compile the peaks and valleys of a human face into a recognizable model. This time, the scanner’s camera and laser are upgraded to improve the quality of its scans, which is the source of its data measurements. Similar to stereo vision, a laser pointer scans to make a vertical line. As the scanned object gets closer to the sensor, the laser line gets closer to the edge of the camera. Using this technology helps keep the MakerScanner’s process cheap and fast while remaining accurate.
The only downside to this model is it doesn’t work great for long ranges, because the laser pointer becomes too diluted.
Build Instructions: MakerScanner 3D
Market price: $250
If you’ve got a 3D printer and don’t want to pay manufacturing costs for something you can put together yourself, the BQ Ciclop might be right up your alley. This open-source 3D scanner goes all in with open-source by including its body under that label. The plans are all online, and you can make any modifications you want to house the electronics that you buy from the company. Plus, it runs on open-source software that was created by the same company, so the integration from hardware to software is seamless.
Know that the Ciclop can be difficult to put together in its unmodified form, and it’s more expensive to buy the whole kit and kaboodle from BQ. So if you’ve got the will and the way, it’s best to go with the electronics only and make your own design to house them to take advantage of its 0.3 – 0.5 mm layer resolution.
Here’s where you can find plans to build the BQ Ciclop if you don’t want to buy a kit.
Purchase: BQ Ciclop
Market price: Free
Do you have a smartphone? Then you’re already halfway there!
This turntable mobile phone 3D scanner was built with true DIYers in mind. Dave Clark created it to use with your smartphone’s camera. It uses photogammetry instead of triangulation, which means it takes a series of photos of the object in different lighting conditions. First, you set your smartphone to camera mode and put it on the perch attached to the base. Then you put your object on the scanner’s circular base, which rotates underneath your smartphone’s camera as the camera takes photos to show different angles of the object.
Your smartphone will be able to translate these photos into a 3D scanning program with the help of Regard3D. This is an open-source structure-from-motion software that lets you convert photos to a 3D object. There are a lot of 3D scanning apps available, but Regard3D is one of the only that have stayed free and open-source, so we highly recommend this combo for those looking to turn their smartphones into a functioning 3D scanner.
The best part of the turntable is you don’t have to pay for any of it except the materials it will take to 3D print.
Market price: $215
The FabScan Pi is the latest version of the open-source FabScan project. It started out as a bachelor’s thesis from Francis Englemann, and users have been improving on it since. It originally cost Englemann about 150 € ($169), which was reduced to 100 € ($113) for the FabScan 100.
You can find the directions for building one on the FabScan Pi website for free, although remember the materials will cost approximately what we mention above. The directions are open-source, so feel free to improve on them how you want. The end result will work with a plethora of free 3D scanning software out there. You can also buy pre-made kits on the same website. Take your pick!
The Pi added a built-in Raspberry Pi computer so you can take advantage of any WiFi connection, the Raspberry Pi’s higher quality camera, and the leaps of advancement since the last model. Truly a product of DIY collaboration, the FabScan Pi has its own subsections of the FabScan forums dedicated especially to its construction, use, and helpful adjustments.
Purchase: FabScan Pi
Market price: $239
The Atlas 3D is a crowdfunded open-source 3D scanner that also uses Raspberry Pi to hack its way into greatness. There are a couple kit options available, depending if you need all of the pieces or want to 3D print the parts. Plus, Murbo has great customer service to help you every step of the way.
It works with laser triangulation, which means the laser shines on the subject and looks for where the laser ends up on the camera’s lens when the light bounces back. This is a great combination of professional tech housed in a DIY hobbyist package. You can export the data model to whatever software you’d like to use, so the Atlas 3D is a great way to enter the world of open-source 3D scanners.
Purchase: Atlas 3D
If you’re looking to get into 3D scanning, open-source hardware and software are perfect for the start of your journey. You don’t have to invest nearly as much up front as you would for professional equipment, but you won’t compromise on the quality. In addition, you’ll find welcoming communities of fellow DIYers who love to talk about how to make the experience better. Don’t forget to stop by the forums for all the open-source 3D scanning sources we mention to find tips, pointers, fixes, and new friends!
Feature image source: mrpeter81 / YouTube
License: The text of "5 Best Open-Source 3D Scanners in 2019" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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