Laser scanning overview

Laser scanning, commonly referred to as 3D laser scanning, is one of the most common testing methods utilized today for the inspection and analysis of an objects external structure in 3D. The implementation and use of this technology has provided users with limitless opportunity for accessing, manipulating and improving part design processes for refined quality control. Industry leaders seek outsourced inspection labs for 3D laser scanned results in order to attain high accuracy in a timely manner.

What is laser scanning?

Laser scanning is the process of exposing laser beams on to an object, which are controlled and measured by unit of distance. Laser scanning is often referred to as 3D laser scanning or 3D object scanning. Laser scanning utilizes lasers to capture measurements and data of the external structures of solid objects in 3D, such as engineered components or buildings. There are three different techniques for accessing 3D laser scanning data including laser triangulation concept, time of flight scanning or phased based scanning.

How does laser scanning work?

Different 3D laser scans may have different speeds, accuracy or time for scanning. Although they may work differently based on the technique utilized, the resulting scans have the ability to capture the shape, size and appearance of the test subject. Using laser triangulation concept, time of flight or phased based scanning, a point is projected on the object. Data is captured and reconstructed into a 3D virtual rendering using software.

Types of 3D Laser Scanning techniques

There are many different 3D scanning testing techniques users are able to access, which satisfy different project requirements. The versatility of this technology provide users with many options, which assist in attaining higher quality results in a timely manner. 3D laser scanning is the most common method of 3D scanning which falls under three distinctive classifications:

Laser triangulation 3D scanning – 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 scanning – 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 scanning – 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.

Applications of laser scanning

Laser scanning is used for multiple different types of applications, regardless of the industry. Most common industrial applications for the testing and inspection process of manufactured part components include:

  • Reverse Engineering Application – development of a CAD file
  • Failure investigation – structural cracks or voids
  • Wall thickness analysis – distribution and durability of material
  • Dimensional analysis – external part measurements
  • Comparison analysis – part to CAD and part to part comparison to assess consistency

Benefits of laser scanning

3D laser scanning is an exceptional testing process for external part data in 3D. The most common benefits include the ability for laser scanning processes to access results without causing change or applying pressures to the testing subject. Furthermore, the ability to access accurate results for external measurements, failures and structural integrity, 3D laser scanning provides users with the benefit of gaining extensive insight in a timely manner. The most common use and benefit for 3D laser scanning is in regards to the access and accuracy for reverse engineering applications.


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