Introduction: Multiple Raspberry PI 3D Scanner

Picture of Multiple Raspberry PI 3D Scanner

UPDATE: Check out step 8 for the latest version of my scanner and a download link for the python scripts.


I am a big Arduino and Raspberry PI fan and also love 3D printing. I wanted to be able to make a 3d model of my kids and started investigating how to build a 3d scanner. I found a lot of solutions out there, but the problem with most of them is that the subject would have to sit still for a while... well I think it would be easier for me to invent a spaceship that can fly to mars then inventing a solution for my 2-year old son to sit still :-( So none of those solutions where going to work.

I knew I had to come up with a way to instantly take many images at the same time. So I first started to research what cheap digital cameras exists. If I could find a cheap model, I probably could make an automated trigger system using arduinos. But then I would have all the images on many separate SD cards and I was not able to find a cheap good digital camera.

Then I noticed the Raspberry PI and PI camera combination. A "fairly" affordable module, that already is ethernet connected, so I could do the triggering of the cameras using the network and an easy way to download all the images to a centralized place. So my Project (and investment) started.

I bought for this project:
- 40 Raspberry Pies for this project and 40 PI cameras.
- 40 8Gb SD cards
- 1 single 60A 5v power supply to power all the raspberry Pies
- Led Strips and a powerful 12v power supply to power them on

As I am an impatient person I did not build the whole setup at once, I started of with 12 cameras, and was already seriously impressed with the results. So you DO NOT need 40 cameras, especially not if you just want to catch just the front of a persons face.

Here a result output:

I have included a photo of Britt (the model in the video) being printed in full color by shapeways.


I finally was able to make a scan of my little son Hugo (2years old). It was made using 47 Raspberries and using my new softboxes with permanent lights. This allows me to shoot the images with no shadow. Can't wait to receive the printed model from shapeways :-)

    Step 1: Setting Up the Hardware

    Picture of Setting Up the Hardware

    So I first needed a rig to hold the Raspberry Pies. I initially did some testing with a big round circle I made out of wood, but this was really impractical to work with and hard to walk in and out of. So after some testing, I went with an "individual pole" design. Most programs that turn images into a 3D model need the images to be shoot from different angles. So I settled for each pole to hold 3 Raspberry Pies cameras.

    I made the poles out of fairly cheap multiplex wood using a 2mm cutting bit on my CNC machine. This allowed me to pre-drill 2mm mounting holes for the Raspberry, so I just needed 2.5mm screws that would instantly fix the raspberry to my frame. 

    For the PI Camera, I designed a small and easy to print bracket (as I need 40 of them, so it needed to be small) that can hold the camera securely and would easily allow me to change the angle the camera would be pointing at.

    To fancy up the poles I also added a 1meter strip of 60 LEDs to each one, to provide some extra light for the photos and just because it looked cool :-)


      Step 2: Connecting Everything Up

      Picture of Connecting Everything Up

      Connecting 40 computers with ethernet and power was going to be messy, but I wanted to do it as efficient as possible. Unfortunately the Raspberry PI does not support Power-over-Ethernet, so I had to make this myself. I cut 40 ethernet cables, each 5 meters long. I kept all cables the same length so I know that what ever voltage I would lose over this distance would be equal for all and I would be able to adjust this on the power supply to get a very accurate 5v.

      As 100mb ethernet only requires 4 of the 8 cables inside an ethernet cable, I could use 2 for providing the 5v to the raspberry. So I ended up putting 80 (2x 40) connectors on the cables using just 6 of the 8 wires (2 not being used). I would say this was one of the most boring and tedious elements of this project :-(

      I bought a bunch of female jumper wires, cut them in half and soldered 2 on the end of each network cable, so I could easily just fit this on the ground and 5v pin of the Raspberry Pi.

      On the other side, I build a "power distribution board" from my single 60A 5v power supply to where I could easily connect all the 5v and ground wires to coming from each ethernet cable.

      Step 3: The Software

      I am using Raspian OS, just the default download from the raspberry pi website.

      To collect all the images, I am using a central file server (in my case I am using a Qnap). I configured the raspbian image to connect to the file server using cifs. This is done in the /etc/fstab file.

      I am also using the central file server to store my software, so I can make modifications without having to update every raspberry on its own.

      After I completed this image, I used dd (on my mac) to clone the SD card 40x for each raspberry.

      I wanted to write a "listening" script that each raspberry would run, listening to a particular network broadcast package that would trigger the camera and then save the photo and copy it to the file server. As I want all the images to be stored in a single directory (one directory per shot), I am using the local IP address of each raspberry (the last 3 digits) for a prefix of the filename.

      Here the python listening script I am using:

      import socket
      import struct
      import fcntl
      import subprocess
      import sys

      MCAST_GRP = ''
      MCAST_PORT = 5007

      sock = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_DGRAM, socket.IPPROTO_UDP)
      sock.setsockopt(socket.SOL_SOCKET, socket.SO_REUSEADDR, 1)
      sock.bind(('', MCAST_PORT))
      mreq = struct.pack("4sl", socket.inet_aton(MCAST_GRP), socket.INADDR_ANY)

      sock.setsockopt(socket.IPPROTO_IP, socket.IP_ADD_MEMBERSHIP, mreq)

      def get_ip_address(ifname):
      s = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_DGRAM)
      return socket.inet_ntoa(fcntl.ioctl(
      0x8915, # SIOCGIFADDR
      struct.pack('256s', ifname[:15])

      id = get_ip_address('eth0')

      ip1, ip2, ip3, ip4 = id.split('.')

      print 'ID: ' + ip4

      #create an options file, this file should containt the parameters for the raspistill image cmd
      optionfile = open('/server/options.cfg','r')
      options = optionfile.readline()
      print "optons: " + options

      while True:
      data = sock.recv(10240)
      data = data.strip()
      if data == "reboot":
      print "rebooting..."
      cmd = 'sudo reboot'
      pid =, shell=True)
      print "shooting " + data
      cmd = 'raspistill -o /tmp/photo.jpg ' + options
      pid =, shell=True)
      print "creating directory"
      cmd = 'mkdir /server/3dscan/' + data
      pid =, shell=True)
      print "copy image"
      cmd = 'cp /tmp/photo.jpg /server/3dscan/' + data + "/" + data + "_" + ip4 + '.jpg'
      pid =, shell=True)
      print "photo uploaded"

      To initiate all the raspberries to take a photo, I created a "send script". That would ask for a name. This name is send to the raspberries to include in the prefix of the filename. So I know who the images are from.

      Here the python send script:

      import socket
      import sys
      import time

      print 'photo name:'
      n = sys.stdin.readline()
      n = n.strip('\n')

      MCAST_GRP = ''
      MCAST_PORT = 5007

      sock = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_DGRAM, socket.IPPROTO_UDP)
      sock.setsockopt(socket.IPPROTO_IP, socket.IP_MULTICAST_TTL, 2)
      sock.sendto(n, (MCAST_GRP, MCAST_PORT))

      The listening script checks the name received. If the name is reboot, reload or restart it does a special action, instead of shooting a photo.

      To configure what options I want to use for raspistill (the default image capture software on the raspberry for the PI camera) I am using an options.cfg file to configure this. Again this is stored on the central file server, so I can easily change the options.

      I did some testing to see how in-sync all the Raspberry Pies would take the photo. As they all receive the network broadcast package at the exactly same time, I found this worked great. I did a setup test with 12 units all taking a photo of my iPhone running the stopwatch app. Each photo captured he exact same 1/10th of a second.

      Step 4: Processing the Images to a 3d Model

      Picture of Processing the Images to a 3d Model

      There are different ways how you can turn the photos into a 3d model. Personally I like autodesk’s recap the best.

      Go to If you do not have an autodesk account yet, you can create one for free. It comes with 5Gb of storage, which is plenty enough to create your 3d model.

      After you have logged in to recap, click on the new project button. Here you can select the quality of your 3d model (I always choose Ultra, why settle for lower). For the export format, most 3d printer software can directly work with .obj files, so at least select that one.

      After that you can upload all your images by dragging them into your webbrowser, or by clicking you get a popup windows where you can select your photos.

      Wait for the photos to be uploaded and click next 2 times. The autodesk cloud system will now start to do the hard work and turn your photos into a 3d model. This can take between 15 and 45 minutes. As this is happening “in the cloud”, you can do other things while waiting  [:-)]

      When the heavy computing is done you can click in the middle of the thumbnail (on the eye) to see the model in 3d on your webbrowser. Important: this requires the Chrome webbrowser!

      When viewing your 3d model, you should see a thumbnail gallery of your images on the left. If all went well, you should NOT have many (or ideally none) in the list called “Not Stitched”. This would mean that those images where not detected. You can try to fix this by manually clicking marking points on the images. But as I said, hopefully the 3d scanner took good enough photos of you that this is not needed.

      You can now download the .OBJ file to your local computer for further processing and clean up, like removing the background. The file you download is again a zip file. So you need to unzip this before moving on to the next step.

      Cleaning up your 3d model.

      There are many programs available to clean up your 3d model. The easiest program I have found to do this is also a free product from autodesk called “project memento”. You can download memento (Only for windows!) here:

      After you have installed project memento, you can directly open up the downloaded .obj file, it should be called mesh.obj. The photos taken by the 3d scanner are 90degrees turned. This means that your model probably has an incorrect feeling for up and down. In the botton left you will get a message “did the orbiting feel off?”. Click on “feels off” to correct this.

      You correct the orbit, click for instance on the top of your head, making sure that the arrow is pointing up. Try rotating the model (by keeping your right mouse button pressed). If it feels good now you can accept the setting.

      As you can see, you where not only scanned, but also part of your environment. You probably want to cut those pieces away. This is very easy in memento. Just select with your mouse a region of unwanted stuff and then hit delete. By rotating the model around you should be able to easily select and remove all unwanted stuff.

      Fix your model for 3d printing.

      To be able to print your model on your 3d printer, you need to make sure you have a watertight model (no holes in it). Again this can easyly be fixed with memento. Click on the top middle of the memento window and you will see a popup to fix your model.

      Just walk thru the wizard and any hole issue it finds, click on fix. You need to select if you want a flat or smooth fix. For me usually the flat fix works best. Select “next” again to find more issues. The holes need to be fixed, everything else is optional.

      After you have fixed all the holes, click done and now you can export the model as a new .obj file. You can do this by going to the top left corner of the mement program and click on the bended arrow.

      You can now specify how detailed you want to save your model. Again here, why go for lower resolution?? move the slider all the way to the right to get the best quality.

      You are somewhat done now. You have a printable 3d model. If you want to clean the model more up there are some programs that can help you with that.

      Pixologic Sculptris (free): This is a great program to fix little details in your model, like smoothening out areas. it is like a photoshop, but then for the 3d world.

      Meshmixer (free): An other free program from autodesk. Meshmixer is great to for instance make a flat bottom on your model.

      Alternative software to make a 3d model

      Besides Autodesk Recap there are more options to turn your photos into a 3d model.
      Autodesk 123d Catch (free): It works like recap (being a cloud service), it a bit better developed then recap, but does scale down your images. So the end result is a bit less resolution.

      VisualSFM (free): This is local (and much more complicated) software to turn your images into a 3d model. You need a powerful graphics card (supporting cuda) to run this software.
      Agisoft Photoscan Standard Edition ($179): Also for this software you need a powerful pc and so far I have not found that this produces better results that Recap or 123d catch.

      Step 5: Results

      Picture of Results
      After building this project, there is of course no greater fun then sharing the "machine" with others. So I decided to participate in the Dutch maker faire and offered everyone a free 3d photo shoot. I can tell you it was a very busy but fun 6 hours and we scanned 225 people! You can read more about it on my blog:

      Step 6: Design Files

      Here are the design files I used. The "statief" is an 2d cad file for the poles that I cut out on my CNC.

      The camera_mount files are the camera brackets I designed.

      Step 7: Version 2

      Picture of Version 2

      A few months doing the Makerfaire show, I was invited for another exhibit to demonstrate my 3d scanner. I wanted to make the set more portable and easier to adjust. So I redesigned the frame. instead of using only wood, I designed tripods from cheap radiator pipes. This allows me to easily move the cameras up and down. I already designed new 3d printed brackets for the raspberry and camera that slide over the radiator pipes (40mm).

      You can already download the tripod design on thingiverse: and I will soon be adding the raspberry and camera mount to it as well.

      I am currently using 47 camera units. This allows me to do full body scan of kids (up to 1.20m). I will need to add more cameras to do full body scan of an adult.

        Step 8: Version 3 - 98 Cameras / Raspberry Pies and High Power LED Strips

        Picture of Version 3 - 98 Cameras / Raspberry Pies and High Power LED Strips

        Here is my latest setup. Using 98 Raspberry PI units on 19 poles (2 meters in height).

        Between each pole is a 2 meter high power white LED strip (19.2watts per meter). On top is some extra LED lights (10 watts per meter) to provide some extra lighting on top of the head/hair

        Python Scripts:

        You can download the basic python scripts from my website:


        MakerIan made it! (author)2017-04-25

        This unit is with 8mp cameras. if I were to do it again I would certainly use the 5mp ones the added DoF is pretty useful. 168 cameras currently, with projectors to be installed next.

        johnjacobson190 (author)2017-04-06

        I feel like this is a whole lot of work if you're trying to scan full-body at scale - seems better to go with a pre-built solution if you're attempting to run a 3D scanning business and don't have the time to deal with the difficulty of managing something like this. Given that there are solutions in the $20-$30k range (like the Twinstant Mobile compared to the $20k or so cost of parts for this DIY (with enough cameras/projectors to make things work well), I'd think that would make more sense. Thoughts?

        Jeffth222 (author)2016-06-07

        what photogrammetry software do you feel is best? With 40 cameras can you get a good enough image to 3d print in full color ? Do you have projectors?

        roscowillie (author)2014-02-19


        I finally got the script to trigger a three camera wifi setup. It seems to work pretty well. I'm using the Model A, Cam, Edimax Wifi, 8 gb. I'm considering going for 24 (12 x 2) to capture people (15 ft diameter). Is this overkill? What have you settled on for your shooting configuration? Also, have you done any more experimentation with agisoft photoscan?

        Thanks again for your creative thinking and tenacious making.

        the_anykey (author)roscowillie2014-02-20

        Hi, There is never overkill (well unless you use 200+ cameras) :-)

        I can not capture a full body adult with just 24 cameras. I currently have 47 working and upgrading this week to 70 to enable full adult scanning.

        bharathy2 (author)the_anykey2015-08-23

        Kool Richard.. Very impressive setup... But I have few basic doubts...

        How many people you can scan with your current setup ? I need a setup which can scan single,couple or family... can we achieve using 64 or 100 camera setup ?

        does your setup directly push all images to a laptop/computer connected in network for post processing..?? or we need to copy from each SD card ?

        if we can use continuos light why not use LEDs ..?? which can be more cost effective and powerful ?

        NiccoloT (author)2015-07-31

        Could you also wire these up with just a router instead of using the gpio pins, assuming you are not using 50+Pis?

        TiagoC3 (author)2015-07-02

        Hello! Could you please email me the correct code to

        I tried do run the code, but it is without identation. Thank you!

        AzadehA1 (author)2015-04-29

        Hi Richard,

        I made the network cables using 4 wires and sparing the other 4 wires for power. I managed to power up the pi this way but the pi cannot connect to network although the network cable works when I don't plug in the power wires. I am using the AC to DC convertor power source of desktops.

        Any guess what the problem might be?



        Csalway (author)2015-03-01

        Do you control your raspberry pi's with a laptop or by another pi?

        the_anykey (author)Csalway2015-03-01

        you can do either. I have written windows software to easy control everything and manage the preview and downloading. You can find it on my website in the download section.

        Csalway (author)the_anykey2015-03-02

        Ok thanks

        smartmiltoys (author)2015-02-25

        This is terrifc higher performance solution for a very low budget price.

        My first thought was the

        PiScan can make a 1:1 scale 3D model of a face in about an hour.

        Use this a mould to make a latex mask.

        Paint it up in line with the images and you can make a look-alike in a few hours.

        Mohit Bhardwaj (author)2015-01-19

        Hi Richard,

        It is a great and very appreciable effort. I am also facing same problem. Can you tell me the name and cost of your power source/ supply used for 12 units....

        drewgolterman (author)2015-01-12

        May I ask what printer you used to make that color print above? I've been considering affordable options for full color 3d printers and I was wondering what you used to make that model.

        chwloon (author)2014-10-11

        Hi Richard, this is a great project, appreciate if you could give me the Python scripts, my email address is thank you!

        the_anykey (author)chwloon2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        andang1977 (author)2014-10-06

        Hi Richard, I would like the Python scripts as well my address is, Thanks. Great project BTW

        the_anykey (author)andang19772014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        orchus (author)2014-10-22

        Hi Richard, I also have two kids. That's a great project that I started thanks to you. In terms of power requirements, that's about 100 amps, right? How do you manage that? I was hoping to make a portable kit, but here in canada we're running at 120v/15a so powering a rig like that couldn't be done in a normal room.

        I, too, would love to learn from your scripts. Could you post them somewhere?

        the_anykey (author)orchus2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        roscowillie (author)2014-02-06

        getting closer. Substituted

        <print 'ID: ' + ip4>

        for < print "ID" ip[caret underneath]4 "-">

        now I get:

        <print "optons: "optio[caret underneath]n

        SyntaxError: invalid syntax.

        sorry to be so clueless. Noticed that maybe optons should be spelled options, however this is obviously not the syntax error. Tried single quotes same report.

        the_anykey (author)roscowillie2014-02-07

        The instructables page does not allow me to post the code correctly i noticed. Python needs idents for certain segments in the code. Send me a mail with your email and I will email you the code.

        johnacsyen (author)the_anykey2014-03-02


        I pm you with my email addressing regarding emailing the properly formated python scripts.


        John Ang

        the_anykey (author)johnacsyen2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        marklundquist (author)the_anykey2014-09-20

        Hi Richard, I would like the Python scripts as well my address is, Thanks. Great project BTW

        Hallo Richard,

        großartiges Projekt - klasse ;-)
        Würde mich sehr freuen, wenn Du mir auch die Python-Scripte per Email zusendest. Meine Emailadresse lautet: Vielen Dank Richard. Gruß Jürgen

        Scrips are now available for download on

        the_anykey (author)marklundquist2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        fernandop1 (author)the_anykey2014-09-25

        Hi Richard, I would like the Python scripts as well my address is, Thanks. super Great project !!!!

        I try to do anything similar but have many dudes , perhaps could talk about.

        thanks a lot and best regards


        the_anykey (author)fernandop12014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        orchus (author)the_anykey2014-10-22

        Code please :)

        the_anykey (author)orchus2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        clifford1 (author)the_anykey2014-10-31

        Hi Richard. Thx for this great tuto! Would you be so kind to provide me with your python scripts, or are the ones in the downloadable file the right ones?

        And a second question. To manage all your Rasp/cams, I suppose you need a central computer, your Mac I guess. So you've installed Python on your mac and launch your program with it, right? Thx in advance.

        the_anykey (author)clifford12014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        the_anykey (author)roscowillie2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        DesYgreck (author)2014-11-17

        Hi Richard, I would like the Python scripts, too.

        the_anykey (author)DesYgreck2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        redddragon1nz (author)2014-11-18

        Hi I would also love the code. Thanks

        the_anykey (author)redddragon1nz2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        LoganFoster (author)2014-11-19

        I love your project! I would like the Python scripts too, cheers!

        the_anykey (author)LoganFoster2014-11-22

        Scrips are now available for download on

        rocketman221 (author)2013-11-12

        This is a cool project. Have you tried to run the image processing software on the server and automate everything?

        the_anykey (author)rocketman2212013-11-13

        I currently have automated that the images are automatically uploaded to dropbox so they can easily be shared. I am in contact with autodesk about recap. They promised me that soon they will have an API to do this kind of automation. So the entire process can be set in motion by just a single click and (after a wait) get a full 3d model :-)

        fernandop1 (author)the_anykey2014-09-25

        Hi anykey...fantastic project!!!

        I want to do anything similar but have many problems....

        im really stupid with programing.....

        i have not much money for this project so im thinking forst at 2 pole with 6 pi each and a rotary platform... can do many shoots, 15 or 20 grade ...

        Would like if you could help me to control the ip cameras...dont have the code and really dont know how need do...

        I would like recibe any more info about your project, think that now you will have at leat 80 or 100 ip cameras working!!!!

        Best regards


        austinmayer (author)2014-09-23

        Awesome contribution. Is the code on github at all? Would love to take a peak!

        ChristianG1 (author)2014-09-14

        Really excellent quality of the 3d model. Could you also share one set of pictures from one session. Would be interesting to see the single photos and i would like to test them with my SW Agisoft Photscan. I am doing something similar with small objects. For this i have made a turntable which is triggering my Canon DSLR. With just 15-20 pictures i get pretty good results. Would be great if you could share some pictures to see how it works with Agisoft and how much effort i need to spend to get good results. Thanks for sharing !!!

        jholutiak216 (author)ChristianG12014-09-23

        I am trying to create a rig like this for creating game characters, I would also like to get a hold of some of these images to test in Agisoft Photoscan as well. We are currently working with one camera and a turntable but the movement makes its almost impossible to get a good looking mesh.

        vinodkdoshi (author)2014-09-09

        Hi Richard,

        This is great work. I am trying to build such a rig. What was the resolution for the raspberry pi cameras? Did you use the standard 5mp camera boards that are available? Is 5mp enough resolution for a whole body scan? If you used a better resolution camera, how to build\get that board for raspberry pi? I would appreciate your help regarding this. Thanks in advance.



        djgrazzy (author)2014-09-03

        Hi Richard,
        High Five, this is a great project you've put together. If things fall into to place I will be building something with your concept and have a cracking budget. Would you share the distance your cameras ended up from the subject and if you experimented with different distances from initial to your Version2? I would be looking at doing full body length scans, how important do you believe the different angles on different camera sharing the same vertical plane? I noticed you dropped the arc in V2.
        I imagine angled would assist the software calculate 3D depth somewhat more than just multiple rings of cameras facing directly inward?
        Im less than 24hrs into my research (triggered by my father in law request :)) Do you recommend any where in particular I can research the topic also read about high end systems I imagine are used with a Hollywood budget? (Ive noticed the Ten24 link provided by another commenter)

        I am thinking I would trigger the script from a mobile webpage sitting on my qnap (with maybe a sleep and photo directory count with display feedback afterward) or even a use a Nintendo Wii remote?

        Kind Regards,

        ps Ive kindly inboxed you a request for your scripts (reading instrutables website modifies them)

        About This Instructable




        Bio: Hi, I am Richard, Father of 1 son + 2 step sons, so we have a house full of Lego. I have had lego for decades ... More »
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