Inexpensive and easy-to-make CNC scanner for duplicating parts

This is a very cool and extremely easy-to-make accessory that can turn a a CNC mill into a scanner which can be used to duplicate parts.  It uses an inexpensive USB webcam and some free software.  The camera mount is also super simple.  The video shows them simply taping the camera to a rod held in a collet.

The Bad News

You can test Tormach’s software for free but it’s pretty useless unless you buy the full version for $335.   The “shareware” version won’t let you save anything, so you can’t export your scan into a CAM program.  Which means you can’t actually use it to make a duplicate part or do anything else that is very useful.   Also, the video says your accuracy and resolution will depend on the web cam you use.  That sounds like you could use a $20 web cam but your results might not be very good.  Tormach describes the camera they sell, for $513 with a mount, as a USB microscope.  As you can see in the video, the camera is only a few inches from the part it’s scanning, so it appears you may need a camera that can focus at close distances.

I really wanted to try this out until I learned how crippled Tormach’s free software is and how unaffordable the full version is.  I even found a $12 web that would be easy to mount on my mill.  I don’t know how well it will work, but it has a focusing ring and it gets good reviews on Newegg (where it costs more).

This would be a nice accessory to have, but it’s not affordable and don’t see how I would use it much.

4 comments to Inexpensive and easy-to-make CNC scanner for duplicating parts

  • Roy
    November 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Reply

    I tried the Tormach scanner system with a $9 webcam stuck to the end of a bit of bar stock.

    The Good: I was able to accurately enough (.001″) measure holes, curves, edges and spacings off a plate I had with the free SW– I just copied down the measurements I wanted manually. I use it rarely, but it’s nice to have.

    The bad #1: Unless you use a camera with significant magnification (USB microscope), you’ll run into a lot of trouble getting the scanning SW to work properly– it doesn’t like standard webcams much.

    The bad #2: Unless your camera has it’s own lighting, you’ll be looking at a lot of shadows and parallax, making accurate edge and hole-finding tricky.

    The bad #3: At this point, from what I heard from the Tormach guy, even the paid-up SW doesn’t do automatic edge and hole detection– you have to drag-n-click geometry over where the edges are on-screen. They say they’re working on getting this in the future.

  • Boort
    December 12, 2010 at 2:06 PM | Reply


    You might want to look into the open source MakerScanner ( project. It has been under fairly active development, and uses a line laser and webcam to take it’s scans. A similar project with both free and commercial versions is David Laserscanner ( You can download the software for free and save usable scans. The commercial version adds a package that helps automate the stitching of multiple face scans into a seamless watertight 3d model.


  • Rob
    December 12, 2010 at 6:45 PM | Reply

    Thanks Boort for telling us about MakerScanner. I’d looked hard for an open source alternative to Tormach’s software and I didn’t find a good one. Most of the free alternatives I found used the David software and it sounded like free version wouldn’t have enough resolution and the paid version was too expensive.

  • Eric LeClair
    July 4, 2016 at 1:59 PM | Reply

    Not sure about the open source scanners but I found a great guide here: – I think 3d scanners need to come down in pricing as well.

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