5 DIY 3D Scanners to Watch




In 2011, 3D printing genius Tony Buser released the Spinscan, an open source 3D scanner based on a laser and a digital camera. MakerBot later used ideas from the Spinscan to create the closed source Digitizer 3D scanner. Thankfully, Spinscan is still available and has inspired numerous other open source scanners. Below we will take a look at a few of them.




The FabScan started out as a thesis project, and has since been adopted by a small community that continues to work on improving its capabilities. The FabScan works like many of the other laser scanners, but is aided by the incorporation of an enclosure that helps to even out light levels, preventing distortion in the scan.





An alternative method to laser scanners is the structured light scanner. Using a pico projector instead of a laser, the VirtuCube can be easily constructed with a few printed parts and basic electronics. This entire system can be placed into a cardboard box to prevent other light sources from causing errors in the print.

Two new and exciting open source scanners were released last week: The BQ Cyclop and Murobo Atlas.




BQ, a Spanish consumer electronics company, announced the Cyclop 3D scanner at CES. The Cyclop uses two laser line levels, a standard USB webcam, and BQ’s custom Arduino controller. BQ has written their own custom scanning application called Horus. While reports say the Cyclop is not available yet, BQ is stating that it will be later this year.



The Atlas 3D scanner by Murobo is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Like the Spinscan, Digitizer, and Cyclop, the Atlas uses laser line modules and a webcam to scan an object on a rotating platform. The Atlas replaces the Arduino with a Raspberry Pi to combine control and capture into the device. Like the Cyclop, the creator of the Atlas promises that it will be an open source project. The $129 kits are sold out, but there are some left at the $149 and $209 price points.

We will continue to keep an eye out for new DIY scanners as they emerge. With each generation improving software, design, and function, we will hopefully have great things to look forward to in the future.

13 thoughts on “5 DIY 3D Scanners to Watch

  1. owens_bill says:

    At this point, I like the Atlas electronics and software (no custom boards required, and no dedicated computer) and the Ciclop mechanical design (looks like the right mix of printed and manufactured parts where each make sense). The good news is that, since they’re Open Source, it ought to be possible to come up with a best-of-breed combination of the two.

    1. Matt Stultz says:

      You know what they say about great minds?!? Also be sure to check out the FreeLSS project that the Atlas is based on. It’s amazing how much you find out after you hit publish.

      1. owens_bill says:

        My progress to date is that I’ve printed and assembled the turntable from Ciclop, and it’s very nice – the big bearing makes for smooth, solid operation. My only feedback so far is that their hand-made support structures don’t work well, though the parts still printed.

        Last night I started to print the camera holder, knowing that it won’t be ideal because it doesn’t have the right space for a Pi nor for its camera, and my printer broke partway through :( Now that I have an enforced layoff while I repair the printer I’m thinking that I’ll try to design a cut-down version of the camera block that will print more easily and will let me just attach the Pi to the back in its own case. We’ll see how that goes…

        1. koraykal says:

          Interesting idea, it would be great if you can share the modifications you make afterwards.

        2. Matt Stultz says:

          Good to know, I think I’m going to start printing this ASAP.

        3. owens_bill says:

          I’ve started to document the process of mashing the Ciclop and ATLAS together (into the Piclop ;) here: http://bill-owens.blogspot.com/2015/02/building-piclop.html

  2. mod38 says:

    Of course BQ have taken on sponsorship of Octoprint and hired Gina Haußge to continue development so they have good credentials!

  3. Pat McDonald says:

    One inaccuracy – the concept of 3D scanning by turntable and laser dates from the 1980s, so in this case it’s not really applicable to say Makerbot used Tony Buser’s 2011 ideas (because the published ideas predate the Spinscan). What has made the 80s ideas mature into products is the availability of mass produced stepper motors to make 3D printers (and other robotic manufacturing) much more common. Can dig out the old references if you really want them Matt Stultz, cos… I wrote them. :)

    1. Matt Stultz says:

      Thanks Pat, you are right and I should have actually clarified that more, something along the line of Tony doing some of the original work on bringing these devices to the masses at an affordable cost. These are not even the only scanners of their type on the market, just most of them are not in the price point that the average user can afford. I would love to see your documents, not because I doubt you but because I would love to learn more about the technology. Thanks for your input!

  4. owens_bill says:

    One other thing – the Ciclop files are now available: http://diwo.bq.com/en/ciclop-released/

  5. Raphaël Dechief says:

    ciclop is available now

  6. Mario Lukas says:

    There is a new version of the FabScan called FabScanPi http://fabscan.org

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