Technology continues to evolve to provide even greater convenience, speed and affordability in product development and manufacturing — with 3D printing (in its many forms) typically enjoying the highest profile. Other capabilities and services, however, are also becoming ever more effective and accessible as key components of a rethought, streamlined production process. One of these capabilities is 3D scanning — which can create a major positive impact on your bottom line, time to market, and overall product quality and success.
What is 3D scanning, and when should you use it? Basically, 3D scanning describes a number of technologies, all of which are used to create a digital point map of every contour and dimension of a physical object. It is a highly accurate method of generating a 3D digital model that can then be used to solve a variety of problems throughout your product development process.
3D scanning is typically best used in several specific (though broadly applicable) cases:
- Scan and evaluate the design of an existing part (which can then be modified for new uses).
- Identify problems with production parts.
- Compare production parts to original CAD designs.
- Create aftermarket parts and accessories with a perfect fit to existing parts.
- Recreate obsolete or difficult-to-source parts.
Note that while these examples are representative of some of the most common uses of 3D scanning, other uses exist.
Why Use 3D Scanning?
Now that you understand when to use 3D scanning, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of using 3D scanning compared with more traditional methods such as manual measurement and CMM..
A complete picture: 3D scanning is the only method that creates a complete digital representation of your parts, directly from the object itself. Other methods such as CMM only allow you to measure a small number of points, providing an incomplete representation of your part. This severely limits what you can accomplish with the resulting data. With 3D scanning, you can capture the complete geometry of your parts in excellent detail, allowing you to perform a variety of tasks that would otherwise be impossible.
Speed: Compared to both manual measurement and CMM, 3D scanning is lightning fast when it comes to part inspection and reverse engineering. 3D scanning a single part can take as little as an hour, depending on the size and the amount of data needed. Here at 3 Space, we typically have 48-hour lead times for our 3D scanning services.
Overall cost savings: The accuracy and speed of 3D scanning can play a major role in a lean and efficient product development process, especially when used in conjunction with 3D printing for fast prototyping and, in some cases, short-run production. These cost savings can come from a few different areas:
- By starting with a more accurate source file, there should be less need to further iterate during the physical prototyping process.
- Faster source file creation reduces your overall design and development time, which means less overall resource investment before you’re ready to begin selling your product.
- Spend less time troubleshooting problems with your production parts and get to market faster.