automatic BOOKSCANNER for Ethiopia

Design of a 500 Euro automatic BOOKSCANNER which can be build without expensive or complicated equipment or skills.

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Design of an affordable automatic BOOKSCANNER which can be build without expensive or complicated equipment or techniques. The BOOKSCANNER will be used in Ethiopian universities to compensate the lack of books in the library for the fast increasing number of students.

PS: for every 'LIKE' we dance around the table :)


A Professor of an Ethiopian University has asked us to develop an automatic BOOKSCANNER for his and other universities in Africa. The reason for this is that they do not have the money to buy enough textbooks for the increasing number of students.

Our design goal is that every maker can build our automatic BOOKSCANNER for about 500 Euros. Find details at:


With this BOOKSCANNER every university library in developing countries can digitize all required books and provide it to the students.

First video of the project showing the first proof of concept prototype.

If you like it, please hit 'LIKE' right now ... Thank you!


The problem which leads us to this project was the lack of enough text books in Ethiopian Universities. Ethiopia has recognized that the only way into a safe future for the country is education for the coming generations. Huge effort is already made to build universities and recrute teachers from other countries to start the process. Ethiopia has more than 100.000 new students entering the universities each year. But so far they don’t have enough text books in their libraries. It is beeing tried to make copies of them but they do not last long and the process of making them is boring and has a high failure rate (double or missing pages).

During the Maker Faire 2013 in Hannover this problem was published in a lecture from a Professor (University of Mekele, Ethiopia) and makers were asked to build an automatic BOOKSCANNER to solve this problem in Ethiopia. We thought that means to BUILD SOMETHING THAT MATTERS and work on this non-commercial project to provide plans to build the BOOKSCANNERS in Ethiopia or where else they would be needed.

That was the start of the project mäqädat (amharic - ethiopian language: to copy and frisian - german coastal dialekt: ‚[so] mok wi dat’ = lets do it). We have a growing number of people working on different aspects of the bookscanner as: the mechanical design, simplification to grant an easy reproducability, electronical design, software design, writing an assembling manual and prepairing a workshop in Ethiopia to build the BOOKSCANNER there.

The basic concept of our BOOKSCANNER was invented by Dany Qumsiyeh who first published his idea August 2012.

We changed his design in two major aspects: The first is that Dany used a vacuum cleaner to energize the page turning mechanism with vacuum. We invented a mechanism to turn pages reliable and gentle with pressurized air (using the Coanda effect). This has some advantages as over pressure is cheaper/ easier to generate and no pages can be damaged due to differential sticking. Secondly Dany build his bookscanner from sheet aluminium but proposed steel for further developments - you would need the right machines to precisely cut and bend this material. One major design aspect for our BOOKSCANNER was that it needs to be build without special toolings and special knowledge. The result should be a reliable machine even if only very basic tooling is available. We decided to use a main structure from aluminium profiles which can be assembled easily and sheets of acrylic for the panels. Depending on the availability this acrylic sheets can be cut with a laser cutter or by a hand saw. The material to build the Scanner will be about 500 Euros.

The electronic is based on a raspberry pi computer and some additional electronic components e.g. to control the motor which moves the book. The linear scan elements and the control electronics are taken from standard flad bed scanners.

On our journey with that project we already presented prototypes which proved the feasibility of single aspects of the design such as page turning or scanning images.

This presentations happened during maker faires in Hannover and Berlin, Germany.

A number of videos are available on Youtube which show this presentations and further material. The links can be found...

Read more »


3D Model of the Bookscanner - E-Drawing File (Player included)

octet-stream - 7.73 MB - 07/15/2016 at 21:46


  • 1 × Aluminium Profiles 20x20 mm - about 12 meters
  • 1 × Acrylic Sheet 3 mm - ca. 0.6 qm
  • 1 × NEMA 23 Stepper Motor
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi
  • 2 × Linear Scan Units taken from standard flat bed scanners

View all 11 components

  • 7" HDMI Display

    Karsten Fuhst10/02/2016 at 19:35 0 comments

    Instead of a bigger HDMI monitor or TV we tried an cheap (40 EUR) 7" HDMI display.

    That worked out well and is absolutely sufficient to operate the BOOKSCANNER.

  • BOOKSCANNER as Assistive Technology for Blind People

    Karsten Fuhst10/02/2016 at 19:00 0 comments

    The original idea behind the project was to develop the BOOKSCANNER for universities to digitize theire libraries. When we first showed our design ideas and the page turning mechanism as a feasibility model we learned from visitors that there might be another field of use for the BOOKSCANNER.

    BOOKSCANNER for blind people

    Sometimes (older) books printed in braille letters don't exist (or are not available) as a normal (visible) printed copy or as digital version. By scanning the pages with our BOOKSCANNER it would be possible to 'read' the braille pattern by using OCR technology.

    The content could be stored in a digital form and/or it could be read by a computer voice.

    Another idea which came up in this context was, that a computer voice could read standard printed books to blind children (in an age where they didn't have started reading) by using the BOOKSCANNER and OCR.

  • What to research while building a BOOKSCANNER?

    Karsten Fuhst06/17/2016 at 21:27 0 comments

    While designing and optimizing a machine like a bookscanner we tried to identify possible spots where problems can occur.

    Two major operations are:

    • the movement of the books on the acrylic sheets
    • the turning of the pages with a stream of air

    The friction between the paper and the acrylic sheet results in required torque/ power of the motor which drives the book slide. We decided for acrylic sheet because of the

    • easy availability
    • easy machinability as sawing, laser cutting, drilling, bending by heat
    • durability

    The material is available in different

    • thicknesses
    • colours
    • GS (casted) or XT (extruded)
    • surface textures

    The parameter to influence the friction is the surface texture.

    We got samples of different textures and made experiments with different kinds of paper from tissue to whatever BUTTERBROTPAPIER is in english :)

    In this video you can see the experiments and the results:

    The result of the experiments was that a pearl structured surface had a significant lower friction with all tested types of paper. This acrylic sheet is now build into the bookscanner and the results from the experiments could be replicated in the real application as well.

    For the page turning we made experiments with different shapes of so called coanda effectors. This unit blows a stream of air tangential onto a tubular. The resulting low pressure zone causes the lowest page to separate from the others. Next to the overall shape of the coanda effector the positioning and the speed of the air are important variables - Some of the work can be seen here:

    The process of just separating a single page is pretty reliable. Just in case if less or more than one pages is separated this requires a reaction of the bookscanner. It should be tried to repeat that page separation till exact one page is flipped. To detect the number of pages we found out that an infrared LED and detector gives very good results. One needs to teach zero, one and two pages into the machine and possible failures during the book scanning process will be detected.

    The following video shows how the page detection works:

  • Anything goes in Ethiopia?

    Karsten Fuhst05/16/2016 at 10:42 0 comments

    What's up in the education system in Ethiopia?

    More that 100.000 students are entering the universities every year. The government takes care to employ professors from other countries to educate all this students.

    But one thing is missing - BOOKS.

    The libraries can not effort to buy enough textbooks for the students. The books cost the same as in Europe or in the USA (in Ethiopia the teaching language is english from the fifth year of school). As a result they try to make paper copies from the books. The disadvantages are that those copies don't last long and it is bring task to make them. Additional Ethiopia has to import every paper to produce the copies.

    One could think of scanning the books.

    One method is to rip of the cover to make scanning easier - not prefered!

    Or you can scan them manually - after 50 pages you will get mad and make mistakes - not prefered!

    You could buy an automatic bookscanner from the shelf - 50.000 $ - bit too expensive!

    That is why we were asked if we could build a much cheaper automatic bookscanner.

    We accepted the challenge and now we can present our AUTOMATIC BOOKSCANNER for just 500 EURO material cost!


  • Deliveries for the 4th prototype coming in

    Karsten Fuhst05/02/2016 at 21:58 0 comments

    Motorcontroller Boards were delivered.

    This are all aluminium profiles for one Scanner.

    Plexiglas panels.

  • Production of Electronic test boards has begun

    Karsten Fuhst04/23/2016 at 16:23 0 comments

    We have designed a PCBA which will be pluged onto the Raspberry Pi. This board will help the Pi to controll the stepper motor and some of the sensor. The first three boards are ordered :)

  • Why did we drag the BOOKSCANNER into the Hackaday Prize?

    Karsten Fuhst04/15/2016 at 21:06 0 comments

    Money! Its about the money :)

    Our plan is to organize a workshop in the Fab Lab of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia with people from different university libraries till end of this year.

    The people who want to use those the BOOKSCANNER need to build them by themselves to assure that they can maintain, repair or even improve them.

    To make that happen we need some money of course for the flights and shipping the required material and of course some material to play with.

    As the project is financed only by donations and the membership fees of our small organization 'mäqädat - Bildung ohne Grenzen e.V.' some extra money from winning such a contest with so many impressive ideas and builds would be quite helpful.

    And of course we would like to use this opportunity to tell you all about our idea to design an automatic BOOKSCANNER for Ethiopia.

    In case we will win any money it is guaranteed that it will be used within the BOOKSCANNER project by 100 percent!

    And now it is time to donate us a LIKE :)

  • ​Isn’t that ILLEGAL?

    Karsten Fuhst04/07/2016 at 20:58 0 comments

    Hell no. Of course we wanted to be sure about this. We have a certificate from the university of Mekele which states that digitizing text books for the purpose of education is legal in Ethiopia. In Germany it is also allowed to digitize or copy books from libraries and use them for the education.

    Proclamation to Protect Copyrights and Neighboring Rights

    BGH Decision: Az.: I ZR 69/11 – Elektronische Leseplätze II

  • What's the INNOVATION?

    Karsten Fuhst04/07/2016 at 20:50 0 comments

    Page turning

    The bookscanners we found commercially or as DIY projects used a number of different methods to turn the pages.

    One had a so called bionic finger to turn the page as one would do it with a wet finger. Another machine lowers a glas prism into the open book and sucks the ajectand pages to the prism while it is pulled up and fotos are made. One lifted the page with vacuum and slided a stick under the lifted page to turn it. Danys linearbookscanner uses vacuum to suck one page onto a curved slotted surface to guide this page under an edge while the book is moving forward.

    All these concepts are interesting and work within their boundaries. But some of them cannot be build easy or cheap enough.

    Our page turning concept is based on the COANDA EFFECT. Air is blown tangential over a curved surface. The stream of air will follow the curvature. A page which is moved over this area is also following the deflected stream of air.

    The big advantage is that pressured air is easy to generate und other than vacuum no pages can be damaged because they are hold to the vacuum slots to strong while the rest of the book is still moving.

    Next we designed the frame from aluminium profiles which can be assembled easily. Also improvements can be done without scraping to much parts.

  • all REQUIREMENTS fullfilled?

    Karsten Fuhst04/07/2016 at 20:39 0 comments

    The requirements were: to design a BOOKSCANNER which

    1. turn pages automaticly
    2. can scan books up to DIN A4 size
    3. has low material cost (no exact number defined – we had less than 1000 Euro in mind)
    4. does not require special materials
    5. does not require special machines or equipment
    6. can be build and maintained in Ethiopia

    Automatic bookscanners are already available on the market. Comercial bookscanners can easily cost more than 50.000 Euro. Also plans for DIY bookscanners are available but this 1000 USD machines require that the pages are turned manually by the operator.

    Even the concept on which our bookscanner is based was build in about five versions. The original concept was invented by Dany Qumsiyeh in August 2013.

    But those designs are based on sheet metal which we want to avoid because of the required equipment.

    We decided to design our own bookscanner based on Danys concept.

    We were able to fullfill all of our given requirements.

    No. 1: The mäqädat BOCKSCANNER can scan the book automaticly.

    No. 2: The limitation is the size of the scan sensor bar which is bigger as A4 format.

    No. 3: The estimated material cost are 500 Euros.

    No. 4: All materials can be ordered with short lead times. Some parts need to be 3D printed.

    No. 5: The acrylic sheets can be cut with a laser cutter but they also can be manufactured with a saw.

    No. 6: This is not prooved so far, but we discussed the design and chosen materials with people from Ethiopia. A major portion from the bill of materials is not manufactured in Ethiopia but also not in Germany or the US. Electronic components, motors or aluminium profiles are often manufactured in China and they can be imported to Ethiopia as well.

View all 12 project logs

Enjoy this project?



davedarko wrote 04/10/2016 at 07:59 point

is that based on a design from google? I thought I've seen the design before on the hackaday blog. Great prototype:)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karsten Fuhst wrote 04/10/2016 at 09:16 point

Hi Dave! Yes, the concept was first published by Dany Qumsiyeh (working for Google at that time), as we of course mentioned in our detail description. Please also take a look into our Log: WHAT'S THE INNOVATION to see the major changes from Danys design to ours and why we did this. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

davedarko wrote 04/10/2016 at 10:11 point

Kk. I was flying over the description and was wondering. I'm currently in Serbia, when I got home I'll take a look ;)

  Are you sure? yes | no

RandyKC wrote 04/08/2016 at 18:35 point

Voja Antonic has a book scanner project he implemented in his country: Scanner/intro.htm

The cameras he used are a little high end, but fixed focus high resolution web cameras could also be used. 

I would suggest reaching out to him for advice.

One concern on your design would be the possibility of tearing pages.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karsten Fuhst wrote 04/08/2016 at 19:59 point

Randy, thanks for your message! Vojas bookscanner is a great work but semiautomatic - page turning has to be done manually. Our design goal is an automatic bookscanner. Of course - the risk of damages is higher when you use an automatic machine but that's why we decided to use the gentle Coanda effect instead of e.g. vacuum. Our design is not planned to be used on invaluable books.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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