What is 3D scanning and how can it help your business?

Article by Kelly Clancy updated February 8, 2022


3D printing takes digital files and brings them to life as objects in the real world. 3D scanning does just the opposite – it takes an existing object and captures it digitally. This blog discussing how adding high-resolution 3D scanning to your workflows can help your business make better decisions, save money and reduce your time to market.

Modern 3D scanners are available with a wide variety of features to suit any industry. High resolution, high-accuracy models are available for quality control, supplementing traditional CMMs and checking fixtures. Cost effective models excel for reverse engineering, offering increased portability. Some scanners also register full colour, or even movement, allowing digital capture for archival purposes at research facilities and museums. 3D scanning is primarily an optical measurement process but is often supported by touch-probes and photogrammetry. Scanners are often handheld, but more accurate units are often placed on stands or robotic arms.

How to 3D scan an object

In general, regardless of brand or application, scanning follows this process

  • The object is prepared – this can include adding reference stickers, or spraying reflective areas of the parts.
  • The 3D scanner produces triangular meshes or point clouds, often tied to colour photographs. If the object needs to be scanned from multiple sides, the scanning process is paused and restarted for each new pose.
  • The datasets are aligned and merged into a single digital model with a common reference system. If necessary, the colour data is wrapped onto the model.
  • The data is exported to be used in other software, or retained for study.

Check out some of our 3D scan models >> 

How to use a 3D scanner in your business

For inspection, quality control and quality assurance, scan data is often exported to programs like GOM Inspect, Geomagic Control X, or Polyworks. These tools allow writing of an inspection routine, similar to CMM programming. The routine handles alignment of the scan data to nominal CAD or a master scan, as well as all GD&T to be checked. It outputs to your ERP system, or to a PDF report.

3D scanning inspection

3D scanning submarine with Artec 3D

For reverse engineering, scan data is often sent to SOLIDWORKS, especially with the Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS add-on. Alternately, Geomagic Design X offers even more tools and faster workflows for frequent users of scan data. Reverse engineering encompasses designing jigs or fixtures for existing parts, drafting aftermarket parts, for integrating organic and anatomical data into your CAD, and for reproducing CAD after file loss.

Artec Space Spider 3D Scanning

Artec Space Spider 3D Scanning

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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Kelly Clancy

Kelly has been working in the 3D technology industry since 2014. Kelly is an Assistant Marketing Manager based at Javelin head office in Oakville, Ontario.