3D scanner overview

3D Scanners have become a revolutionary addition in the world of testing and inspection for industrial applications. With access to a technology that can digitally develop a 3D representation of virtually any object, industry personnel can take advantage of limitless opportunities to design and digitally manipulate the object. Since there are multiple different 3D scanning technologies, industry leaders often access outsourced inspection labs for such projects, for quick and accurate results.

What is a 3D Scanner?

A 3D scanner is a device utilized to capture measurements of an object in x, y and z plane. 3D scanners can be classified as devices that can capture shape, size, measurements and appearance of an object with the use of laser, light or x-ray technology. The data captured by the device is used in combination with a software to develop a 3D model of the object being scanned.

Relevant for industrial applications, there are multiple different hand held 3D scanners, portable 3D scanners and stationary scanners utilized for testing and inspection purposes.The ultimate purpose of a 3D scanner is to capture and translate measurements of an object into a 3D model. From an industry perspective, 3D scanning is often referred to as technology which is able to capture external structures and features of the surface of any object. However, with the application of x-ray technology, users have the option to access internal measurements, structures and failures using Industrial Computed Tomography (CT) equipment.

Most common types of 3D scanning equipment

3D Structured light scanning (structured light/white light scanning/blue light scanning) – also referred to as ‘structured light’. With the use of a ‘white light source’ (ex. Halogens), the structured light 3D scanner exposes a pattern on the object being scanned. Measurements are recorded on the basis of deformation of the known pattern of light, as it comes in contact with the surface of object being scanned. The capturing sensors (ex. CCD cameras) have the ability to capture accurate data required for reconstructing measurements into 3D digital model.

3D laser scanning – 3D laser scanning has the ability to capture the shape and size, and appearance of an object being scanned, by utilizing one or the combination of three different techniques: laser triangulation concept, time of flight scanning or phased based scanning. The scanning process develops a point cloud projected on the object. This data is reconstructed using a software into a 3D model. 3D scan results are utilized for quality control purposes across many industries. 3D laser scanners are one of the most utilized methods of replicating an object in full 3D form.

3D Laser Scanning Techniques

Laser triangulation 3D scanner –  A laser and sensor are involved in the laser triangulation process. As the laser source shoots a laser point/dot or line to a certain area of an object, the sensor (located at a pre-determined distance from the source) captures the reflection. This reflection can further be utilized to assess the angles at which they appear and develop 3D data.

Time of flight 3D laser scanner – The speed of a laser light is pre-determined and known, which aids in using this method of 3D scanning. The laser reflects off an object, and the reflection is captured by the sensor. The distance to the object from the source can be measured and calculated by recording the time difference during projection and detection, subject to the known speed of the laser’s light.

Phase shift 3D laser scanner –  A constant laser beam is exposed to the object. The phase shift can be measured of the reflection in order for calculating distance. A standard phase is compared to the reflected phase.

Why use a 3D scanner

With several different approaches and techniques for 3D scanning, users are able to explore their options to satisfy test project requirements. For example, in regards to large industrial applications or for the purpose of 3D scanning a building, photogrammetry would be utilized. For intricate components, white light scanning or 3D laser scanning can be utilized. Furthermore, for applications requiring internal part data, Industrial Computed Tomography (CT) can be utilized. 3D part scanners are a highly effective tool when used efficiently in combination with a software to provide the highest accuracy in a timely manner. Industry leaders use 3D scanners regularly for the following purposes:

Benefits of using a 3D scanner

A 3D scanner can be used to provide many benefits, as it is one of the fastest and most accurate methods of retrieving object data in 3D form. With the option to manipulate, adjust, design and visualize an object, industry personnel are provided with limitless opportunities to increase, maintain and sustain quality of part being scanned. Additionally, any objects scanned provide digital data which can be archived for future reference. 3D scanners provide the option of contact and non-contact technology as well, allowing users to pursue nondestructive testing methods. Ultimately, 3D scanners allow users to minimize time invested in designing, prototyping and reverse engineering by providing a digitally developed 3D representation of the part which can be manipulated for further analysis.

Applications of a 3D scanner

3D scanners have multiple applications across various industries, including movie productions, video games, aerospace to medical device. Regardless of industry, 3D scanners can be utilized for different purposes including, but not limited to:

  • Research and development (ex. Aerospace casting comparison analysis)
  • Archive data digitally (ex. Tooling and outdated parts)
  • Dimensional analysis (ex. Intricate medical devices)
  • Quality control (ex. Automotive piston heads, performing reverse engineering)
  • Failure investigation (ex. Structural failures on surface of a component)
  • Prototyping (verifying and confirming geometry and adjusting design)
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