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How 3D Scanning Improves Product Design

Three-dimensional scanning technology has become the mainstream tool for reverse engineering and complex part inspection. 3D scanning is also a powerful tool for new product design. It provides new capabilities to artists, designers, and engineers and allows companies to produce improved products while save time and money. 3D scanning also provides many benefits for product design including; reducing time to market, enhancing aesthetics, and improving ergonomics. In recent years, leading companies have successfully implemented 3D scanning into their design process to develop superior products.

Design with 3D Scan Data

The complexity of an object affects 3D scanning cost more than the object's size. 3D scanners measure within line of sight. Complex objects require many more scan than simple objects. 3D scanning bridges the gap between the physical world and 3D design software changing the typical product design workflow. Using traditional, CAD-only methods, designers face many challenges such as: Incorporating 3D scanning into the design process makes solutions to these issues available. Essentially, 3D scanning allows a designer to start with something other than a blank screen in their CAD software.

Consumer Product Design

Sculpting Clay for 3D Scanning Nearly every consumer product designed in recent years contains complex, organic shapes. It is challenging to design a new product such as a bicycle helmet or pistol grip inside of most 3D design software packages. However, designing an aesthetically pleasing bicycle helmet is more easily achieved by sculpting it in clay. The following is a typical workflow for designing an organically shaped consumer product.
  1. Design organic shapes by hand using clay or wax.
  2. Scan and reverse engineer the design in reverse engineering software.
  3. Transfer reverse engineered model into CAD software to add mechanical detail, run analysis, create drawing, add to assemblies, etc.
  4. Produce and test prototype.
  5. Make alterations to prototype. Repeat step 2.

Aftermarket Product Design

3D Scan of Car Exhaust 3D scanning gives designers the ability to design aftermarket products in CAD based directly on the geometry of the mating part. For example, an aftermarket exhaust system can be designed using scans taken on the underside of a vehicle. This process allows the engineer to design the exhaust system while ensuring it does not collide with other components of the vehicle and all the mounting points align. Since the initial exhaust is created inside CAD software, the design is rapidly ready for review and performance analysis. The following is a typical workflow for designing aftermarket products.
  1. Scan and reverse engineer mating component. (i.e. mobile phone, car body, etc.)
  2. Transfer reverse engineered model into CAD.
  3. Design aftermarket product utilizing the geometry of the reverse engineered model.

Ergonomic Product Design

Face Mask Designed from 3D Scan Data 3D scanning provides designers the ability to use actual human anatomy to design new products. Opposed to starting with a blank screen, designers can open a 3D model of a human head and begin designing products based directly on the anatomy. Once a design is complete, it can be virtually tested against 3D scans of a variety of different people.
  1. Scan human anatomy. (i.e. face, foot, etc.)
  2. Auto-surface 3D scan data in reverse engineering software.
  3. Import model into CAD software.
  4. Design product utilizing the geometry of the human anatomy.
  5. Test fit of design against 3D scans of a variety of different people.

Product Re-design

3D scanning is the ideal tool for reverse engineering legacy products for design changes, manufacturing replacements, and incorporation into new designs. In recent releases, Geomagic DesignX reverse engineering software provides users the ability to create fully-parametric CAD models from scan data. Once a designer reverse engineers an object, he or she can transfer the model natively into most major CAD software packages. The result is a native, full-parametric CAD model with a fully editable feature tree.

Reverse Engineering Techniques

The output of a 3D scanner is a point cloud. A point cloud is simply thousands or millions of X,Y,Z coordinates, each coordinate being a measurement of the scanned subject. Reverse engineering is the term commonly used to describe the process of converting or re-engineering a point cloud into a 3D CAD model. There are two main approaches to reverse engineering. The first method results in a 3D model that matches the physical object as closely as possible. The second method results in a 3D model containing the design intent. Design intent models are generally created in the case of a heavily used part, a poorly manufactured part, or a handmade model. It is also possible to reverse engineer an object where some areas match the original and some areas are altered for design intent purposes.

Learn more about 3D Scanning File Formats

Verification and Validation

3D Scan Color Deviation Map 3D scanning provides the ideal solution for measuring, inspecting, and troubleshooting the shape and dimensions of an object. Engineers and designers are often given the challenging task of determining why a product is not fitting or functioning properly. Determining the cause of a problem is difficult with traditional measurement instruments. A 3D scan provides a clear picture of an object. Defects such as warp, twist, and wear become apparent when the scan data of a manufactured part is compared to the original CAD model. 3D inspection software, such as Geomagic Control, generates color deviation maps. The deviation map colors red, orange and yellow describe areas with too much material. Cyan and blue colors describe areas with too little material. In addition to color deviation maps, 3D inspection software contains the functions for full part layout with standardized geometric dimensions and tolerancing (GD&T). Implementing 3D scanning into the design process gives a company many advantages over its competition. In addition to implementation in product design departments, 3D scanning offers cost and time savings for manufacturing and quality control. 3D scanning is a tool currently available to any company through the purchase of a 3D scanner or through the use of 3D scanning services at Neomek Incorporated.

Also see Neomek 3D Scanning Services.

Written by Jim Clark





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