November 22, 2020
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The Top 10 Best Cheap 3D Scanners in 2020 (Starting at $50!)

So you’re interested in getting into 3D scanning? First thing you’ll need: a 3D scanner. Now you could save yourself some money by making your own DIY 3D scanner, but this requires time, effort and skill, and some would prefer to buy their own cheap 3D scanner online and save the hassle.

Therefore, we ranked the 10 best low cost 3D scanners based on their price-performance ratio, overall accuracy, versatility, ease of use, and compatibility with 3D software tools to create our overall list. We’ve included info about certain specialties each is best for, so those looking for a 3D scanner for certain niche pursuits can decide which is best for them!

Section 1: Very Cheap 3D Scanners Under $500

BQ Ciclop — Great Cheap 3D Scanner Under $200!

Most 3D printing experts will know of BQ’s 3D printer range, including the Hephestos line, the Witbox Go and Witbox 2. They also designed this amazing open source 3D scanner which you can either build yourself at home if you prefer a DIY project, or buy pre-assembled online.

This nifty cheap 3D scanner has a good scanning volume — up to 250 x 205 mm — so it’s no slouch for the price. It utilizes laser triangulation technology, so you don’t need to hold the scanner and move it around the object. Our favorite part of the Ciclop scanner is that it’s open source; you can modify it however you want — following the RepRap 3D printer philosophy.

bq ciclop 3d scanner assembly guide

In terms of specs, it’s actually very good for the price — with resolutions between 0.3-0.5mm. You can easily scan to a free 3D software tool (the BQ Ciclop comes with Horus) via Bluetooth or USB, though experienced makers may prefer to work with their 3D printer models in a more professional 3D software package.

Overall, the BQ Ciclop is a plucky, low cost 3D scanner that’s great for new makers looking to get their bearings with 3D scanning. One drawback is that it isn’t the easiest 3D scanner to assemble, so less experienced DIY-ers may opt to buy it pre-assembled online — we recommend purchasing it from Amazon here.

In this video, a maker on YouTube creates an accurate copy of a model using the BQ Ciclop. Check it out below:

XYZprinting Full Color Handheld 3D Scanner 1.0 A

XYZprinting have come, in relatively little time, to be one of the biggest actors in the cheap 3D printer space. They’ve since expanded however away from just making FDM 3D printers, and now manufacture an industrial SLS 3D printer, a cheap 3D pen, and now a handheld 3D scanner. Now that’s versatility!

The company aren’t just versatile, the scanner is too. It features four scanning modes: object mode, head mode, full body mode, and mask mode. Each mode is designed with different sizes in mind, for example object mode is 60 x 60 x 50 cm, whereas full body mode is 100 x 100 x 200 cm. These differentiations help optimize this cheap 3D scanner for every scenario.

xyzprinting handheld 3d scanner 1.0 A
XYZprinting’s handheld 3D scanner 1.0 A. It’s not the most accurate or reliable, but does a stellar job for the price.

In terms of accuracy, it’s not the most accurate, but you can’t expect it to be for the scanner’s low price. The resolution is between 1.0 to 2.5 mm depending on the mode and settings, and a major advantage is that it weighs less than 300 grams, so you’ll never struggle to hold this handheld scanner accurately.

The XYZprinting scanner supports an image size of 1920 x 1080p as well as 630 x 480p image depth, at 30fps. According to the guide, the ideal scanning range is between 30 and 50 cm from the object / person being scanned, so keep this in mind if you’re trying to get the best results.

Overall, the XYZprinting handheld scanner 1.0 A is a strong 3D scanner option for the price. Some have claimed it can be unreliable with scans occasionally failing to complete however, though if you can get past this it’s a great cheap 3D scanner that won’t set you back thousands of dollars.

This video shows the XYZprinting scanner in action scanning a full color model:

3D Systems Sense 2 — Best Handheld 3D Scanner

3D Systems have been around in the 3D printing sector since the beginning, and are now one of the most valuable 3D printing companies in the world. They first commercialized stereolithography in the 1980s with their SLA 3D printer, and now have made the leap into desktop 3D scanning with the Sense 2 3D scanner.

The Sense 2 has been upgraded compared to the first scanner model — the Cubify Sense — and can operate accurately at distances between 0.4 and 1.6 meters. It can scan objects between 0.2 and 2 meters cubed, and is an accurate handheld 3D scanner.

Another bonus is that the Sense 2 comes with 3D Systems’ Sense 3D software tool, making transferring your scans a breeze. Simply connect the Sense 2 with your computer, import the scans (probably OBJ or STL files), and you can then 3D print them with ease! To conclude, it’s an upgrade on the XYZprinting handheld scanner, and costs more as a result, so it’s up to you to decide whether the higher price is worth it for you.

3d systems sense 2 3d scanner
The Sense 3D scanner scanning a historical artefact — a growing application for 3D scanning technologies.

Structure Sensor 3D Scanner — Best cheap iPad 3D scanner!

If you were thinking you could only buy standalone scanners, you’d be wrong. The Structure Sensor 3D scanner is designed to be used with your iPad, turning your iPad Air or other model instantly into your own portable 3D scanner!

Just because it uses your iPad, don’t mistake this kit as mediocre — it creates high resolution, full color 3D scans despite being so small and weighing less than two pounds. Again, it’s also made by 3D Systems (who make the Sense 2 scanner) who have clearly used their 3D scanning expertise well in creating this great iPad scanner.

For those who don’t want a specialized, standalone scanner, this could be the perfect way to complement your current setup with your iPad. It works on most models and can be modded for a bunch of other machines too.

ipad 3d scanner structure sensor
The Structure Sensor turns your iPad into your own personal, portable scanning suite.

Microsoft Kinect V1 / V2 — Potentially a 3D scanner for less than $100!

We’ll admit this might be a niche option, but with a little bit of technical know-how the Kinect can be modded into a great cheap DIY 3D scanner.

Originally designed to monitor human movement as part of the interaction between player and Xbox 360 / One, the Kinect has all the sensors necessary to create 3D scans. Therefore, download some free 3D software for the Kinect and in less than an hour you’ll be good to go with your own 3D scanner for less than $100!

Overall it can create scans of 480p quality — not HD, but you can’t expect the world for the price. It’s also fairly versatile; you can hold it and use it as a handheld 3D scanner, use it as a laser triangulation device if you rotate it, or have it stand still and scan. Even if you don’t want to use it seriously, it could be a fun DIY project just to try out.

Here’s an interesting guide to scanning with a Kinect 3D scanner:

Section 2: Relatively Low Cost 3D Scanners Between $500 and $3,000

Matter & Form V2 3D Scanner

Canadian 3D scanner startup Matter & Form have recently released the second iteration of their successful scanner range. Featuring very accurate scanning at up to 0.1mm due to its 2 lasers and HD-CMOS sensor, the Matter & Form V2 is up there for most precise cheap 3D scanner under $1,000.

Like many of these desktop 3D scanners, the Matter & Form comes with its own 3D software tool for editing and transferring files, and comes with Mfstudio and Quickscan to edit and perfect your STL files that you can easily transfer over to your computer via USB.

The only thing that may rule it out for some people is its relatively small maximum scanning size. Because it sits stationery when scanning, it can only scan objects that fit on its scanning platform (up to 25cm tall and 18cm diameter), so those who plan on scanning people or larger objects will prefer a handheld scanner instead. Apart from that, it’s a fantastic, very precise 3D scanner perfect for scanning intricate, small objects.

matter and form v2 3d scanning a vase
The Matter and Form scanner is ideal for stationery objects, such as this vase.

Shining 3D EinScan-SE

Proclaimed the “cheapest professional level 3D scanner” by Shining 3D, their EinScan SE model is their introductory model. Some of their other scanners, for example the Einscan Pro 2X (featured in our best 3D scanner ranking) can cost upwards of $7,000, though just because it’s their cheapest scanner doesn’t mean the EinScan SE isn’t impressive.

It can scan up to 70 x 70 x 70 cm, which should be enough for your printing needs unless you’re scanning whole people or large objects like cars. Moreover, it’s accurate to 0.1mm so scan quality will absolutely not be a problem.

You can either have the object being scanned rotate, or do so yourself, the EinScan-SE supports a variety of options. Overall, it’s impressive for the price and a very strong 3D scanner.

einscan SE shining 3d cheap scanner

Shining 3D EinScan-SP

Having included the EinScan-SE, we had to also include its bigger brother, the EinScan-SP, as they’re both such standout 3D scanners. It’s not as cheap, and in fact $2,500 is a lot of money, but compared to some industrial 3D scanners that can cost $50,000 plus, it’s comparatively inexpensive!

Whereas the EinScan-SE is accurate to 0.1mm, the SP is accurate to 0.05mm, an astonishing level of precision. This will result in clean, accurate and crisp 3D scans that can in turn be made into stunning 3D prints. Additionally, it can scan larger objects, up to 120 x 120 x 120 cm, so unless you need to scan entire rooms or cars, you should definitely have enough space with the EinScan-SP.

einscan SP 3d scanner by shining 3d scanning a face

If you enjoyed this ranking, check out some of our other ranking / top 10 articles here!