Best Affordable Low cost 3D Scanner for Beginners 2020

3D scanners are the devices that are used for scanning real world physical objects to create their 3D models.

Earlier 3D scanning was limited to industrial purpose only. But with radially availability of technology, reduction in price and improvements in the design of lasers, cameras and computing hardware. Affordable low cost 3D scanners are available in the market. These affordable 3D scanners are used by hobbyists, educators, students and freelancers for personal use.

In this article we will discuss applications of 3D scanner, How to select a 3D Scanner? and the best affordable low price 3D scanner available in the market for real world object scanning applications.

Why 3D Scanners are used?

Most affordable 3D scanners available in the market are used for scanning 3D objects and manufacturing them using a 3D printer. But in a real world 3D scanning has a vast variety of applications in engineering, entertainment and robotics. Following are the applications of 3D scanners in various fields.

  • 3D scanning is used for reverse engineering and inspection of manufactured parts in mechanical engineering.
  • Scanning and 3D printing real world objects.
  • Used in the entertainment industry for creating video game or movie real world characters.
  • Environment mapping in robotics.
  • Create 3D objects for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality app developments.

Types of 3D Scanner : Available 3D Scanning Technologies

Various types of 3D scanning technologies are available in the market. Each technology has its own advantages, limitations and applications. For example, some scanners work best with large objects whereas some 3D scanners are designed to scan small parts with precision and accuracy. Following types of 3D scanning technologies are available in the market.

  1. Laser Based 3D Scanner
  2. Structured-light Scanning
  3. Coordinate Measuring Machine.
  4. Optical 3D Scanning
Laser Based 3D Scanner

Laser scanners utilize a trigonometric triangulation method to accurately scan 3D objects and work best for short range applications. 

The laser based 3D scanners have following advantages.

  • Low cost and easy to use.
  • Glossy surfaces can be scanned.
  • Portable.
  • Minimal impact from environment light conditions.
Structured Light 3D Scanners

Structured-light scanners are also known as blue or white light scanners. Compared to laser based scanners, structured light scanners utilize white or blue light to generate object 3D surfaces using  triangulation methods. They also work best for short range applications. 

Structured light 3D scanners have the following advantages

  • Low cost.
  • Highly accurate.
  • Larger scan area.
  • Multiple lenses for small and large part scanning are available.
Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM)

CMM machines utilizes a probe that is moved along part surface to generate its 3D surface. Mostly CMM machines are used to inspect part quality.

CMM inspection machines have following advantages:

  • Highly accurate
  • Small or medium range parts can be measured.
Optical 3D Scanner

Optical scanners utilize a set of cameras and other sensors to track and scan an object position relative to the scanning head. Most optical scanners are portable and used to scan large objects.

Optical 3D scanner has the following advantages.

  • Portable.
  • Large scan area.
  • Low cost.

Factors affecting the selection of a 3D Scanner?

As discussed above, various types of 3D scanning technologies are available in the market. Buying a most expensive scanner may not work best for you. Therefore it is recommended to analyze a 3D scanner on following parameters and take decision accordingly.

Part Surface Type and Finish

Not all scanners work for all parts. For example, a reflection based scanner does not work best on glossy or clear surfaces. To scan glossy surfaces using a reflection based scanner, part preprocessing is required.

Accuracy and Resolution Requirements

A 3D scanner price starts from a few hundred dollars and can go up to thousands of dollars. What differentiate them is the level of the details a 3D sensor can capture. For example, for manufacturing and quality control activities a highly accurate 3D scanner is required. Whereas for Augmented reality and gaming development less accurate 3D scanner will also work.

Object Size

3D scanners are available in various scan area capabilities. Therefore good practice to select a scanner based on the range of object sizes you want to scan.

Scanner Types

Various types of scanners such as : desktop, handheld, auto scan are available. Therefore a good practice is to decide scanner type according to the available infrastructure.

Application Type

It’s really important to know if the 3D scanner you are planning to buy is safe to use on living beings. For example, laser scanners can harm human eyes. Therefore if the application is to scan human or animal bodies. You should buy a scanner that is more safe for humans.

Best Affordable Low Cost 3D Scanner

Depending on technology used, bed size and accuracy a 3D scanner price may vary from a few 100 USD to thousands of dollars. Following is the list of affordable low cost 3D Scanners available in the market. Each scanner has its own advantages, limitations and applications. 

S.No3D ScannerBest Use ForPrice
1XYZ Printing Handheld Scanner 2.0 Beginners, Professionals~$200
2BQ Ciclop 3D ScannerDIY Kit, Beginners~$199
3HP Z 3D CameraProfessionals~$566
4Sense 2 by 3D SystemsProfessional, Scan Mid Size Objects~$500
5Structure Sensor Mark 2Professionals~$527
6Sol 3D ScannerHobbyists, Entrepreneurs~$699
7EinScan-SE 3D ScannerEducators and Hobbyist~$1400
1. XYZ Printing Handheld 3D Scanner 2.0

Powered by Intel® RealSense™ It is a portable, low-cost high-resolution 3D scanner. This 3D Scanner 2.0 allows you to scan real world objects and export them in multiple formats. It’s a good choice to generate 3D models for 3D printing, 3D Game Development, VR and AR Developments. This scanner is a good option for scanning large objects.

This image shows affordable XYZPrinting 3D Scanner 2.0
XYZPrinting 3D Scanner 2.0

Scan Engine: Intel® RealSense™ Camera

Output Format: stl, obj, ply and fbx

Operating Range : 25 to 60 cm

Scanning Distance: 20 to 120 cm

Scan Size : 100 x 100 x 200 cm

Resolution: 0.2 ~ 1.5 mm

Connectivity: USB

2. BQ Ciclop 3D Scanner

Ciclop 3D Scanner is an open source 3D scanner that comes with a DIY kit. It’s a basic level scanner. All information on this is available on BQ Website. You can build this and learn from it. But it’s not a good choice if you are looking for a plug and play option. It comes with 2 lasers and one Logitech C270 HD camera to scan physical objects.

this image shows an affordable BQ Ciclop 3D Scanner


Scan Technology: Laser Triangulation

Output Format: stl, ply

Scan Area : Approx 24 cm Circular

Resolution: ~ 0.1 to 3 mm

Connectivity: USB

3. Hp Z 3D Camera

It utilizes SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) technology to construct 3D models from real objects. This can be mounted on any monitor. To scan an object or a document. The object needs to be placed under the camera.


Scan Technology: SLAM

Output Format: OBJ, GLTF, 3MF, JPG, PNG, PDF

Other Features: Live view, 2D and 3D scanning

Connectivity: USB

Read in detail about HP Z 3D Camera here

4. Sense 2 by 3D System

Sense 2 is an affordable full color 3D scanner. It is a handheld device that can be used to scan moderate size physical objects. Sense 2 utilizes structured light technology with two sensors.

This image shows Sense 2 3D Scanner by 3D systems.

Scan Technology: Structure Light Technology

Output Format: stl, obj, ply and fbx

Operating Range : 0.4 meter to 1.6 meter

Scan Size : 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.2 meter to 2 x 2 x 2 meter

Spatial X-Y Resolution: 0.9 mm per 9 meters

Depth Resolution: 1 mm per 5 meters

Connectivity: USB

Visit Sense 2 Website for More Details

5. Structure Sensor Mark II

Mark II 3D Scanner is an infrared 3D laser scanner. You can connect this scanner with iPad (can also be connected to Windows and Linux).  It adds 3D vision to your mobile device. Therefore you can scan physical devices using you mobile device. It is used to scan physical objects for 3D printing, Augmented Reality, virtual reality, 3D Games development and 3D mapping.

This image shows mark 2 3D scanner

Scan Technology: Structure Light Technology

Output Format: stl, obj, ply and fbx

Operating Range: 0.3 meter to 5 meter

Other Features: Indoor Mapping

Connectivity: App Based (Connects with iPad)

Visit Structure Mark II Website for More Details

6. Sol Laser 3D Scanner

It’s an affordable scanner to scan small to midsize objects. Complete scan process is automated. You can scan parts just in one click. It utilizes triangulation and white light technology to scan objects.

This image shows an affordable Sol laser 3D Scanner

Scan Technology: Laser Triangulation and White Light Technology

Output Format: STL, OBJ, DAE, XYZ, PLY

Scan Area (Far Mode) : 170 mm in diameter and 170 mm Height

Scan Area (Near Mode) : 170 mm in diameter and 100 mm Height

Resolution:  ~ 0.1 mm

Connectivity: USB

Other Features: One Click Scan

Read in detail about Sol Laser Scanner Here

7. EinScan-SE 3D Scanner

Similar to sol laser scanner EinScan Desktop scanner from Shining 3D can scan physical objects automatically. But compared to Sol Laser it’s Fast.


Scan Technology: White Light and 1.3 Mega Pixel Camera

Output Format: STL, OBJ, ASC, PLY

Minimum Scan Volume : 30 x 30 x 30 mm

Scan Area (Auto Scan Mode) : 200 x 200 x 200 mm

Scan Area (Free Scan Mode) : 700 x 700 x 700 mm

Resolution:  Less than 0.1 mm

Connectivity: USB

Other Features: One Click Scan

Read in detail about Ein-Scan 3D Scanner Here

To sum up, 3D scanning has applications in manufacturing, design and the entertainment industry. Nowadays some 3D scanners are available at very low cost. But scanners used professionally are still very costly. We suggest you read this article on affordable 3D Printers. 

We will keep adding more information on low cost affordable 3D scanners and various 3D scanning technologies. Please add your suggestions, comments or questions on low cost affordable 3D scanners in the comment box.

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