TechTalk: 3D scanning specialist discusses common and not-so-common applications

Article by Karen Majerly updated February 21, 2022


Brian Metzger, an Elite Application Engineer with TriMech, gave us an overview of how 3D scanning technology is making an impact, and it’s safe to say the varied applications are as diverse and creative as our clients themselves. Read what Brian shared in the interview below.

Let’s start with a reminder about the 3D scanning technology that Javelin sells and supports

We have expertise in 3D scanners made by two providers. All these scanners sense and capture the shape of real-world objects using laser light.

Artec 3D scanners provide a great way for our clients to enter this world. They are incredibly easy to use and produce full-colour 3D geometry for a variety of applications. We usually see them used for reverse engineering.

Artec Space Spider 3D Scanning

Artec Space Spider 3D Scanning

GOM scanners offer the next level of precision and accuracy. These are generally used for quality assurance applications, although in many cases they are also great for reverse engineering.

GOM 3D Scanner

GOM 3D Scanner

Understanding that there are countless applications for 3D scanning technology, what is the most common you see among TriMech clients?

It’s reverse engineering. Someone has an object in the real world and needs to get its geometry into the computer, into SOLIDWORKS.

Some manufacturers have to build onto things they don’t control or no longer have data for. If I make a product that fits into the trunk of a car, I can’t get the proprietary design specs from the auto manufacturer. Instead, I use a 3D scanner to scan the trunk space and capture the data I need. If I’m faced with having to repair old machinery, or recreate a part built 50 years ago, I can scan that part and 3D print it.

It’s true that the uses are as varied as the imaginations of our clients. A couple of client examples that come to mind are a military base repair shop and a small manufacturer making add-ons for earth moving equipment. One of our clients inherited a warehouse full of product they had no documentation or data for.

It’s exciting because our clients are dreaming up creative applications every day. We aren’t close to knowing everything that’s possible yet.

See the 3D scanners in action below:

Tell us how 3D scanning is being used for quality control

Yes, another popular application is quality assurance. In these cases, we often compare scanning with conventional measuring tools and tell stories about why clients have transitioned to scanning.

Using a 3D scanner over a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) or calipers can be faster and more accurate and allows you to check features you couldn’t check before. The time involved to capture data can go from hours to minutes.

Is there a common misconception people have about 3D scanning?

I would call it a common concern. It’s the translation step – how to get the data from the scanning software into SOLIDWORKS. Raw scan data isn’t directly compatible with a CAD tool like SOLIDWORKS. For that translation step, we use GeoMagic for SOLIDWORKS reverse engineering software.

Watch the video below for a demonstration of the 3D scanning process:

I have a library of videos I can draw from to demonstrate how GeoMagic works so clients feel more confident. The scanner is the beginning of the conversation – the postprocessing software is always necessary to get to a solution.

If I come to you with just a little bit of knowledge about 3D scanning technology, how do you determine how you can help me?

It’s my job to find out what’s important to you. I start by asking about three things: scale, resolution, and accuracy.

Different 3D scanners operate at different scales, so to match you with the correct tool, I need to understand the size of the things you’ll need to scan.

For resolution, I want to know the smallest level of detail you need. How many points do you need in your point cloud? If I’m scanning a human face, do you need to see the pores? If I’m scanning an injection molded part, do you need to see the parting lines from the mold?

In many applications, accuracy is critical. If I am making parts that bolt to a vehicle, the locations have to be correct. The scan itself doesn’t have to look beautiful, but the part I design from the scan does have to fit perfectly. I don’t need to capture minute details like a fine scratch, but it cannot be even a tiny bit warped.

We show clients the 3D scanning technology options we have to offer and guide them through selecting. We can do that from afar, too – we don’t need to meet in person.

How do you support clients after they purchase a 3D scanner?

Clients definitely want to make the most of their investment and use the technology to its full potential. We are here for every situation they might face. If something isn’t working as you think it should, call us for tech support or to arrange a repair. If you need a refresh on your skills, or you forget something you learned, call us.

You don’t have to be an expert in 3D scanning. We are. You be an expert in whatever you do for your customers.

We are here for training and support and our Project Engineering Group can back you up if your team ever gets overloaded.

What led you to this position with TriMech?

I think I am one of the few people who became a mechanical engineer without having a serious passion for cars. I actually started my career in energy production – first biofuels, then nuclear.

What I love about my role at TriMech is the variety. I get to help a lot of people in small ways. Their work is in every sector – from automotive parts, to making commemorative coins, to forensics, to education.

I enjoy checking back with people after a few months, seeing how I made a difference. I hope I can play a small part in a lot of people’s success.

Can you leave us with an example of a cool application of 3D scanning technology? Something a little out of the ordinary?

For sure. One of our clients replicates ornate metalworks of historical significance on old buildings, and obviously they work at great heights. Before using 3D scanning, they had to bolt wood frames to the structure and pour silicon molds. Today, they use a handheld Artec 3D scanner and simply email themselves the file.

They tell me they can’t even tally the huge amount of savings; it is thousands of dollars at a time. When you’re working near the top of the Empire State Building, you need the safest, most efficient process!

Contact us to get started

Our applications experts have years of experience working with various types of scanners in a wide variety of industries. We would be happy to review your needs and advise how 3D scanning can assist your business.

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Karen Majerly

Karen Majerly is a communications specialist who helps remarkable people tell rich stories. She has been working with the TriMech Group of companies since 2013.