Best 3D Scanner (For Under $500)

Because of the grown of 3d printing as a manufacturing process, the growth in adoption and application of virtual reality and augmented reality, we are seeing an increased demand for taking existing physical objects and three dimensionally digitizing them.   The reason for this is as follows: in many cases it much simpler to scan an existing object than to have a 3d sculptor or digital artist model some objects digitally.

3D scanning can output a number of different file types – most need some clean up and repair in programs like Zbrush or Meshlab.  However, 3D scanning quality is mostly a question of hardware.  How good is your 3d scanner?

3D Scanners range widely in price and quality – from $10,000+ to a few hundred dollars.   The quality of some of the outputs range greatly as well.  Some 3d scanners are able to output millions of precise data points with remarkable precision – capturing the smallest details on objects.  Others, well, aren’t great.  Some inexpensive 3d scanners are likely to give out glitchy low resolution models.

Mostly, you get what you pay for.  However, in some instances you can get amazing value at a low price point.

Very High End

Custom multi-camera photogrammetry rigs

$30k +

High End

Artec Eva

Price: $15,000

Lower End

Microsoft Kinect

Price: $300

Good Results vs. Bad Results

3D scanning results will most often need some sort of file cleanup in order to get optimal results.  This is the case with the best 3d scanners, but especially with those on the lower end.  Here’s an example of what a great 3d scan looks like vs  messy and inaccurate one.

3D Scan using Artec Eva 3D Scanner

3D scan using Microsoft Kinect

The Best 3D Scanner Set Up

Occipital Structure Sensor Scanner

Price: ~$400

For the price and the quality, Structure scanners will give really great results at a reasonable price point.


  • Good for scanning people and small objects
  • iOs App publishes directly to Sketchfab
  • Scanning in full color
  • Attaches directly to an iPad
  • Easy to use


  • Scanning can require practice and calibration
  • Won’t capture extremely small objects or details very well
  • Not the best for scanning large interiors

Scan Quality

Here is a 3d scan taken with a Structure Sensor and the ItSeez3d app.  Quality differences are nearly imperceptible compared to $15k + models.

How to Get the Best Results

To get the best results with the Structure scanner, you need to do two things.

First is to carefully calibrate with the iOs app.

Next, to get extra stellar results, attach a fixed light source onto the iPad.  This will help resolve issues where light is inconsistent resulting in weird coloration of 3d models.

Light Source

I bought this LED light typically used for photography applications and it works great.  It’s powered by battery, the light can be dimmed and adjusted, and the setup can be directly attached to the iPad with simple velcro tape.

Light Source Attachment

I suppose you could use a fancy ipad bracket to attach a light source.  I used velcro and it works fine.

Full Setup

Total Cost Breakdown

Structure Sensor + Brackets: ~$400

Light Source Acessory: $70

Total Cost if you already have iPad: Less than $500

Total cost if iPad eeded): ~$800-$900

Happy scanning!

2017-07-17T09:13:26+00:00 July 17th, 2017|Uncategorized|