3D printing works by taking digital files and bringing them to life as objects in the real world. 3D scanning does just the opposite – it takes an existing object and captures it digitally. This blog discusses how adding high-resolution 3D scanning to your workflows can help your business make better decisions, save money and reduce your time to market.
Modern 3D scanners are available with a wide variety of features to suit any industry. High resolution, high-accuracy models are available for quality control, supplementing traditional CMMs and checking fixtures. Cost-effective models excel for reverse engineering and offers increased portability. Some scanners can register full-color, and movement, allowing digital capture for archival purposes at research facilities and museums. 3D scanning is primarily an optical measurement process but is often supported by touch-probes and photogrammetry. Scanners can be handheld and more accurate scanners are often placed on stands or robotic arms.
3D Scanning Process
In general, regardless of brand or application, scanning follows this process:
- The object is prepared – this can include adding reference stickers, or spraying reflective areas of the parts.
- The 3D scanner produces triangular meshes, or point clouds, often tied to color photographs. If the object needs to be scanned from multiple sides, the scanning process can be paused and restarted for each new pose.
- From there, the datasets are aligned and merged into a single digital model with a common reference system. If necessary, the color data is wrapped onto the model.
- The data is exported to be used in other software, or retained for study.
3D Scanning Applications
For inspection, quality control, and quality assurance, scan data is often exported to programs like GOM Inspect, Geomagic Control X, or Polyworks. These tools allow the writing of an inspection routine, similar to CMM programming. The routine handles alignment of the scan data to nominal CAD, or a master scan, as well as all GD&T to be checked. It outputs to your ERP system, or to a PDF report.
For reverse engineering, scan data is often sent to SOLIDWORKS, especially with the Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS add-on. Alternately, Geomagic Design X offers even more tools and faster workflows for frequent users of scan data. Reverse engineering encompasses designing jigs or fixtures for existing parts, drafting aftermarket parts, integrating organic and anatomical data into your CAD, and reproducing CAD after file loss.
Our applications experts have years of experience working with various types of scanners in a wide variety of industries. We would be happy to review your needs and advise how 3D scanning can assist your business.
Contact us to schedule a demonstration with one of our 3D scanning experts.