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3D Scanning Services

3D Scanning for Engineering and CNC

Scanning for Engineering and CNC

The world is a better place in the one-off part business. With new technologies, better scanners (both arms and 3D scanners), and smarter software – we now have an efficient and cost-effective way to scan items directly into CNC machines for engineering.


Consider this Scanning for CNC Issue:

Discontinued parts for 3D scanning and CNC

How do you take a discontinued part and create a duplicate of it?

Or, how do you create several copies of that same part?

Think of the first step in the Reverse Engineering process.

In the past, this has been an expensive, slow, and inaccurate process.

CAD / CAM Services Scans for CNC Engineering

Today’s Solution: Scanning for Engineering & CNC

Hexagon TIGO SF CMM 3D Scanning Station

Step 1:  Generate a Point Cloud
of the Part or Object

There are two main approaches:
1) Arms with sensors attached, that can touch or scan any position on that part that you can see
2) 3D scanning.

Mitutoyo CMM machine 3D Scan Station

Types of CMM Machines

CMM machines start at $ 5-10,000 and can easily hit $ 130,000 or more depending upon the size and accuracy requirements.

Vendors like Mitutoyo, Hexagon and Zeiss are serious vendors in the CMM marketplace.

At best CMM machines can capture about 500mm per second.

Zeiss MMZ G CMM 3D Scanner

zCat Portable 3D Scanner
zCat Portable 3D Scanner

The zCAT 3D scanner is targeted at shop-floor measurement. it costs about $40,000.  

Most significant shop-floor measurement innovations have been either portable, or probing systems built into CNC machine tools—also known as on-machine verification or OMV.

The zCAT advances the technology of portable measuring arms by automating repetitive part measurement with significantly better accuracy.

zCAT comes with a five-hour lithium-ion battery.  It needs no electrical connection, therefor has no cables to stumble over. Another benefit is that zCAT doesn’t use air bearings, so there are no air hoses underfoot.

Arm Scanning with CMM

Arms with CMM have been the industry standard for years.  They are mostly accurate and stable.

One advantage of arm scanners is that you can be very selective as to what section you wish to have tooled.

Think of a specific fitting / opening you need to mimic or fit to.

3D Scanning with Faro Scanner
3D Scanning with Faro Scanner

With these types of scanners, you have the ability to capture specific sections.

Faro arm scanners are the industry standard and market leader here.

Handheld 3D Scanners

This category of scanners is much more affordable, quick and accurate.

With the passing of a laser scan, we can quickly and accurately capture the surface data of that part or object.

It might take several swipes/scans of that object to capture it in its entirety, but this scan will be worth its weight in gold.


Good industry handheld 3D scanners are are priced approximately $10-30,000.

We sell and use Artec hand helds, but Creoform are also excellent in this class.

The new Artec Leo can capture millions of points a second, which is rated at 80 frames per second.

Another huge benefit of the newer class of hand held scanners is portability. These hand held scanners can be run from a laptop.

Creoform White Light Hand Held 3D Scanner

Step 2- Point Cloud Data Assembly Required

3D Scanning with Point Cloud Generation and Assembly

3D Scanning with Point Cloud Generation and Assembly

What most suppliers tend to gloss over is the assembly of these new point clouds.

A point cloud is nothing more than a zillion 3D points in space that look like your part.

The wonderful news about this process is, software is now smart enough to greatly assist us in this automated assembly.

Point Cloud Density and Sub Density Map Piping

Point Cloud Density and Sub Density Map Piping

This results in a huge increase in productivity than the past.

In the past we had to use markers – targets, so a scanner knew when the next scan section starts and stops; along with knowing what to assemble to.

With small parts you can assemble the scan sections in just a few minutes, but on large buildings it can take 10-20 hours of computer processing.

Step 3- Turn Point Cloud into a Mesh

CAD Mesh of a Part
CAD Mesh of a Part

Now that we have an assembled and clean point cloud.  It is almost ready to turn it over to the CNC machine.

But we must now turn that clean and assembled point cloud into a mesh – a surface.

Some 3D scanning vendors include this feature, but most production houses use a higher end version called GeoMagic Wrap for this task.

Here we can smooth out surfaces, define how tight we want the mesh to be, check for hot-spots and inconsistencies, and even provide quality control across multiple parts to make sure they are within the production specifications.

geomagic turbine design

geomagic turbine design

Here we generally output to a generic *.stl file, but HOPS files are also suitable for most NC machines.

At this stage, these are not CAD Files yet, but clean, mesh point cloud files.

Except for cleaning up a mesh, you really don’t edit these mesh files very much.

Within reason, it is a WYSWIG type file.

the good the bad and the ugly

the good the bad and the ugly

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Further down the page we will discuss building a full CAD model. CAD modeling is useful if you are going to modify or edit a part.

For a straight forward scan to print or CNC approach, you don’t need that.  You just need to make a copy of something.

At this point we can now simply drop the *.stl file into 3D Printing, get an instant quote, and directly print this for you in a day or two.

Or, you are now ready for your CNC machine and MasterCAM software.

Don’t underestimate the fact, that some assembly will be required for your part.

You would be amazed how often we see missing sections of your part / object that where missed during the actual scan.

How can your CNC machine, even try to machine something that is undefined?

On a recent project– we cleaned up a huge mesh file on a very large building.  The point cloud contained ½ billion points.

Taking all of this into account, you truly get what you pay for.

Don’t expect a $ 3,000 approach to create Aerospace accurate parts.  It won’t happen.

Industrial quality 3D scanners with good quality software are a $ 30-50,000 investment.

The industry leader RX Solutions DeskTom/EasyTom/EasyTom XL and all the way up to the UltraTom range in price from $ 100,000 to $ 1m systems.

The better scanners give you a better product.  We utilize two RX Solutions CT scanners for our 3D scanning.

The Solution

In our business, one size does not fit all.  We have learned our lesson with cheaper, less production arms and scanners.

We have also developed a clean process to make sure we know how to scan all of your surfaces, without missing any data.

aluminum 3D scanning
aluminum 3D scanning

On shinny parts like aluminum, we often have to spray them with an anti-glare (3D Scan Spray) to reduce the gloss.

Otherwise, the scanners laser light would reflect off the surface.

Don’t worry, it is temporary and only useful for about an hour!

Faro Focus 3D Measurement & Imaging
Faro Focus 3D Measurement & Imaging

CAD/ CAM Services utilizes CMM, CMM arms, and high-end 3D laser scanners, including some with white or blue light.

Industrial CT Scanner
Industrial CT Scanner

We also utilize two types of industrial CT scanners to capture your meteorology and surface data.

This even allows us to look inside of your objects for voids, and surfaces you cannot see from an outside appearance.

FARO-Focus-M70-Laser Scanner- Scanning Pipes
FARO-Focus-M70-Laser Scanner- Scanning Pipes

All of our software is current, with experienced staff who knows how to operate it for excellent results.

3D scanning can be a science.  It is something you learn with practice.

Faro Focus Laser Scanner 1
Faro Focus Laser Scanner 1

Regardless of what the scanning sales people say, they are only as good as the operator.

That is why after 30 years in business, customers keep coming back to CAD/CAM Services.

CAD/CAM Services Provides:

  • Artec 3D scanner sales and rentals
  • High-end 3D scanning services
  • Point cloud to mesh creation
  • And full CAD model and assembly
V6 Twin Turbo Engine 3D CAD Model Assembly

We now have an efficient & cost effective way to scan items directly into CNC machines for engineering.
Click now or call us at 800-938-SCAN (7226)



CAD Conversion FAQs

There are special CAD translator software packages available on the market, why should I pay you guys?

It is better to ask the following question:

What can you do that a software translator cannot do?

  1. Verify files.
  2. Update files
  3. Fix files
  4. Convert the CAD data to native intelligent CAD data with full feature trees.
  5. Update data to the current CAD standards.
  6. Work in the native PLM systems.
  7. Correctly write scripts for this process as needed.

My company wants to change the focus of our CAD systems, is it possible to do this with your help?

Of course, we offer CAD migration services. If you want all the Cad Perfect™ files to comply with your updated company standard, just send us the guidelines and we will make Cad Perfect™ files which are perfect for you!

I have some exotic files nobody knows even how to open. Can you help me even in this case?

Yes, we performed successful conversions from many local or exotic and ancient CAD systems. You can continue the development of old projects in modern software with our help.

I have some weird CAD files from the previous century, can you help me?

Yes, absolutely. We can perform legacy CAD conversions.  Just send us some example files, and what CAD system we need to wind up in, and let us design the best solution for you.We have worked with old Computer Vision tapes, Anvil, and many other 1980’s systems.

Which CAD systems do you work with?

We support all the modern CAD systems including SolidWorks, Catia, Siemens NX, PTC Creo, Inventor, Revit, AutoCAD, and many others.

Which CAD file formats do you work with?

All the CAD file formats are listed on this page but bear in mind that we also work with exotic and legacy CAD systems.  After 31 years of providing CAD Services, we have run into almost any CAD file format.

What do I get?

You get native Cad Perfect™ files with the full-featured model tree (where applicable, since some file types have no trees), and features can be fully parametric. It all depends on your goals.  We prefer to not translate any files. Our goal is to deliver to you a file that you do not have to touch. Our work is exactly as if you had reproduced that work in-house.

What do you need to provide me with an accurate quote?

We need to know source CAD and target CAD software. Since large quantity orders can be discounted by us you can provide us with the number of parts you need to be converted.

If you tell us the desired purpose of the conversion we can offer you some conversion options. We can also convert your files into vendor-neutral file types (.STEP, .STL, etc,).

Please email us even cell phone photos, and the rough size of what you wish scanned and converted [email protected].

What is a CAD conversion?

A CAD conversion is when our team of engineers takes your sketch, physical drawing, existing CAD file, 2D CAD file, or idea and transforms it into a professional 2D or 3D CAD file. For instance, you can send us a picture of your legacy drawing, and we can create a 3D CAD model from scratch in your favorite CAD program (like NX, CREO, CATIA, SolidWorks, etc.).

A CAD conversion takes many shapes, and our engineers are able to perform most of the CAD conversions that you can think of. As long as you want high-quality 2D or 3D CAD files, then CAD/CAM Services can help.

Can you turn a sketch I have into an engineered CAD file?

Some of our most fun projects are taking someone’s sketch on a napkin, and transforming it into a manufacturable part. Yes, we can turn your sketch, idea, or dream into an engineered CAD file. Our team will go through engineering simulations, Design for Manufacturing (DFM) best practices, and tough calculations to make sure our designed part will work perfectly for you.

Allow our team at CAD/CAM Services to be your on-call engineer. We love going back and forth with inventors and dreamers like you, and our goal is to provide 3D CAD files and 2D manufacturing drawings. With our help, you can start building your dream part, assembly, or product today.