In the most general terms, 3D scanning, also referred to as 3D digitizing, is the utilization of a three dimensional data acquisition device to acquire a multitude of X,Y,Z coordinates on the surface of a physical object. Each discrete X,Y,Z coordinate is referred to as a point. The conglomeration of all these points is referred to as a “point cloud”. Typical format’s for point cloud data are either an ASCII text file containing the X,Y,Z values for each point or a polygonal mesh representation of the point cloud in what is known as an STL file format.Sample 3D scanner generated point cloud and STL polygonal mesh images.
There is a wide range of 3D scanning technologies available to address a multitude of different applications ranging in size from an individual tooth to one of our national monuments. For this discussion we will confine our scanning parameters to product development / manufacturers.
There have been many studies that have shown that the company that delivers a product 1st to market captures the lion share of the revenue. With this goal in mind, product development / manufacturing companies are implementing 3D scanning solutions in an effort to reduce the time and costs associated with their Concept through Sustaining Engineering Product Life Cycle. There are many different points of entry in this product life cycle where an accurate As Built digital definition can add value.
Simplified serial depiction of an iterative generic Concept through Sustaining Engineering Process
A few tasks within this product development cycle that have benefited by the introduction of a 3D scanning solution are:
Key capabilities of the 3D scanning solution will be its ability to effectively capture an as thorough as required digital definition of the part / assembly with the required accuracy and data clarity to support the required deliverable. I highlight “as thorough as required” and “required accuracy and data clarity” because in some processes, not every downstream deliverable will require a complete scan or the same data accuracy.
Through our industry engagements we have seen many companies promised scanning capabilities, data accuracy, system flexibility and ease of downstream deliverables. For those of you who are users of 3D scanning solutions, you already know that the devil is in the details.