Scanning in Depth – The Art and Science of 3D Scanning

If you’re of a “certain age,” then you remember the days before scanning of any type – 2D or 3D was common technology.  I’m old enough to remember when graphics digitizing tablets, which were the precursors to today’s scanning technology, were cutting edge technology, and you could digitize an entire E-size drawing in a day, or less if it wasn’t too complicated.  Fast forward to digitizing an entire building in as long as it takes you to walk through it, aim your hand-held 3D scanner and shoot.3D Scanning

Indeed, 3D scanning is a growing method of measurement and image access that includes many types of scanning devices for a broad range of applications. Manufacturing companies use 3D scanning for everything from reverse engineering, first article inspection, quality control inspection, and object analysis to the creation of documentation.  The AEC marketing makes use of 3D scanning to create “as-built” models or to duplicate intricate architectural designs.  Artists use 3D scanning to recreate three-dimensional objects of all kinds.  Scientists, archeologists, and historians use 3D scanning to duplicate and recreate objects from fossils, shards, and other unearthed objects.

In fact, the question may be “Is there anything 3D scanning technology can’t do?  The answer for today is not much.  And, my bet is that as 3D scanning technology and computing capabilities advance and merge with artificial intelligence, there will be uses for 3D technologies of all kinds that we haven’t even thought of yet.

3D Scanning Today

But, for now, let’s stay with present technologies and capabilities.

A 3D scanner is a device that can measure an object or its surroundings using lights, laser, or x-rays. It creates point clouds or polygon meshes depending on where the light/lasers hit the object in front of it. These data points are then fed into a computer and processed to create a three-dimensional rendering of the physical object or space.

Some of the things that our customers use 3D scanners for include:

  • recording data about parts of equipment and devices like vehicles, aircraft, and machinery
  • ensuring product quality
  • combining 3D scanning with 3D printing to create real-time objects for dentistry, healthcare,  and fashion
  • recording factory layouts, office layouts, etc. for documentation and upgrades

3D scanning quite simply makes life easier, faster and more efficient for any number of industries and organizations.  Moreover, users of 3D scanning technologies don’t need to be experts.  All they need to do is create the scan, which can then be turned over to 3D modeling experts for conversion from point cloud or mesh to the virtual and/or 3D printed model.

Determining the Type of 3D Scanner You Need

Whether you need to reverse engineer something, inspect parts, or create a blueprint of a physical object on your computer, a 3D scanner is your friend.  But, just like your human (or even canine) friends, some fit better with one activity and some with another activity.  So, let’s consider the qualities that make a 3D scanner right or wrong for what you want to do.

Short Range Scanning

If you need short-range scanning, for a machine part, an art object or a set of dentures, then you are likely talking about laser triangulation or structured light scanners.

  • Laser triangulation involves the use of a laser line or point that runs across an object at close range. A sensor calculates the amount of light reflected off the object in order to draw a dot map of it on a computer.
  • Structured light scanners use white or blue light to project patterns onto an object. The edge of each line is measured and the distance between the scanner and the object is recorded to create a three-dimensional image.

Long Range Scanning

When you need long-range scanning, for the outside of a building, an airplane or an automobile, for instance, then you’ll want to know about pulse-based and phase-shift laser scanners.

  • Laser pulse-based scanners measure how long it takes for a laser to reach an object and reflect back. Once sensors pick up how far away an object is, it can scan the entirety of an object from a distance.
  • Laser phase-shift scanners are very similar to pulse-based scanners but they add power modulation into the mix. By measuring how long it takes for the laser beam to reflect back to the scanner the phase-shift technology makes for more accurate results. It’s also pretty fast!

Need to know more about 3D Scanning?


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