7 Ways to Enhance Product Development With 3D Scanning

3D scanning is a powerful tool that helps companies save time and money in many ways. With proper software and workflows, 3D scanning can streamline product development projects, improving accuracy, results and quality from beginning to end.

Engineers frequently use existing manufactured products as models to design from, and this can be done quickly using a scanner. The process also decreases the likelihood of errors during the engineering phase.

1. Save Time and Money

As a fast method of creating measurements dense enough to resolve even complex surfaces and features, 3D scanning offers significant time savings for manufacturers. In fact, it is so efficient that sometimes designers can skip the product concept phase and go directly to 3D modeling and CAD for design.

Designers can also save significant time and money by using existing products as a base for their new designs. This is known as reverse engineering and it is a major advantage of 3D scanning. Reverse engineering is the process of transferring an existing physical part into a CAD model to understand how it works or to make alterations.

For example, an aftermarket automotive part can be designed in CAD based on the geometry of the mating parts that it will sit under or over. This allows engineers to design the part while ensuring that it doesn’t collide with other parts and mounting points. Once the design is completed it can be transferred to a CAD program for review, performance analysis and 3D printing for faster time to market.

To ensure that a 3D scan is as accurate as possible, it is important to prep the object before scanning. This includes a clean and smooth surface, a non-reflective background, and positioning markers on the item to avoid shadowing or errors. It is also helpful to use an aerosol spray that is specifically designed for 3D scanning. This will help reduce cleanup time and give a clean, uniform surface to the model.

2. Increase Product Reliability

3D scanning can speed up inspections and allow you to reliably measure parts with tight tolerances. This speeds up your quality team’s processes and allows them to work on other projects while ensuring the quality of your products.

Scanners capture point cloud data, which is a collection of geometric samples taken from the surface of an object. This data can then be processed to recreate the shape of an object and determine its dimensions. It can also be used to create a color map that depicts the deviation between scan data and design CAD nominal data, giving you the ability to quickly identify problem areas.

This information is then transferred into CAD software and used to generate a model, drawing or even scaled-down physical prototypes. This significantly reduces the number of prototype design cycles that must be completed and saves you money, time and resources in the long run. For example, if you need to alter the thickness of a ring or automotive part, it’s much easier and faster to design an aftermarket product in CAD based on scanned data than creating a new physical prototype from scratch. This digital workflow also enables you to use the data for CFD, CAE and FEA analysis.

3. Improve Product Design

3D scanning is the process of converting physical objects into digital models that can be manipulated or modified. It can be done with a variety of technologies, including photogrammetry, laser scanning, contact-probe measurement, and structured light systems. These digitized models can be compared to the original design model in order to identify quality issues during manufacturing and inspection. This allows for a smooth and efficient product innovation workflow, saving time and money on unnecessary rework.

For example, if a designer wants to create a new ergonomically-designed bicycle helmet or pistol grip, it would be more efficient to begin by sculpting the object in clay and then scan it, than to start from scratch in CAD software. This also applies to organic shapes that are difficult to design with conventional CAD tools.

In addition, 3D scanners can be used to scan existing products and components and then digitize them for use in a CAD software program. This can greatly reduce the number of design iterations needed to get a final design that is both functional and attractive. In some cases, it may even be possible to eliminate the need for the initial design entirely and move directly to production.

4. Reduce Risk

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3D scanning can help manufacturers reduce risk by providing accurate measurement data in multiple design iterations just like how the scan truck does in restoring parts through 3D printing. This can help streamline the prototyping process and reduce the number of prototype cycles required. 3D scanning can also be used to inspect and verify a product’s performance and quality, saving time and money throughout the manufacturing process.

3D scanners use structured light to digitally capture physical objects and transform them into Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models. This is accomplished by projecting a precise shifting fringe pattern across the object’s surface and then capturing the surface geometry based on the pattern distortion using triangulation. The massive point cloud of X-Y-Z data points are then analyzed to produce a highly accurate digital representation of the object.

3D scanning can be used to create CAD models of existing parts for a variety of applications including reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, tooling and fixture design, and assembly planning. This can provide a faster and more cost-effective route to CAD modeling than traditional methods, as the surface measurements of the original object can be used as the basis for the new design.

5. Reduce Manufacturing Costs

With 3D scanning, you can reduce the number of prototype design cycles needed to develop and manufacture a product. This means you can save money and time on prototypes and move directly into manufacturing, saving your business significant amounts of cash.

3D scanning can be used to create a digital model of physical products, parts or assemblies, as well as their assembly locations. This enables engineers to test out new design ideas in an extremely realistic simulation, verify that the results will likely meet performance criteria and then move on to prototyping and/or remanufacturing with confidence. This eliminates the need to make trial-and-error changes and can reduce manufacturing costs by minimizing material wastage.

Additionally, by using 3D scanning to compare a ‘as-designed’ model with the ‘as-built’ condition of manufactured products, you can quickly identify and fix any quality control issues that may occur during production. This can also be automated to streamline the process, making it even more efficient.

A 3D scanner is a non-contact, non-destructive digital device that uses light line/laser scanning to convert a physical object into Computer Aided Design (CAD) data. The result is a set of triangle meshes that represents the surface of an object at real-world scale and provides accurate information about the size, shape, and dimensions of the physical object.

6. Increase Product Innovation

3D scanning brings many cost savings to the manufacturing process. The ability to scan and create CAD models instantly reduces prototype iterations. 3D scanning also allows for faster inspections and allows quality teams to spend less time re-working designs due to inaccurate measurements.

Manufacturers can even use 3D scanners to digitally archive final concepts, produced products and inspection processes for future reference. This helps preserve the company’s institutional knowledge during times of change or loss.

One of the more overlooked benefits of 3D scanning is that it enables design engineers to quickly and easily make changes to their original CAD model, removing the need for multiple design iterations. For example, a design team might need to add a new feature to their product or replace a component that isn’t performing correctly. 3D scanning can easily produce a mesh file that reflects the geometry of the original object, making it easy for the engineering team to make these changes in their CAD software.

In addition, 3D scanning can be used to inspect and troubleshoot a part or product during the prototyping stage. This can help identify issues and prevent expensive redesigns and production delays. 3D scanning can be used to measure or inspect a wide variety of physical or mechanical properties, including friction and wear, surface finish, fatigue or corrosion, and geometric dimensions.

7. Improve Customer Experience

When paired with advanced software, 3D scanning can be used for many digital engineering strategies that enable product development, manufacturing and quality control processes. This includes scanning clay models, prototypes or finished products to create in-depth CAD models for industrial design and engineering teams to analyze.

During production, a 3D scanner can be used to perform first article inspections (FAI) to ensure that the produced product is within tolerances and meets CAD model specifications. This allows engineers and quality control teams to pinpoint any deviations that need to be corrected on the production line so they can be stopped before it is too late.

Additionally, 3D scanning can be used to scan products that are destined for the e-commerce space. Using 3D scanning to provide shoppers with a better sense of what they’re purchasing will help reduce returns and improve customer satisfaction. For example, customers can provide a scan of their feet or hands to receive custom shoes or gloves. This helps to eliminate ambiguous sizing which is a major cause of expensive product returns for online retailers. This is a win-win for everyone involved. In fact, it will likely increase sales, boost consumer confidence and reduce costs for both consumers and retailers alike.

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