Ramsey, NJ —Minolta, which earned a global reputation for high-volume production of quality cameras, now wants to make another optical product—3D non-contact scanners—a common tool for design engineers.
Currently, many engineering teams that need 3D scanning of an object rely on service bureaus. But with its newly introduced VIVID 300 3D digitizer, priced at $15,000, Minolta is making a strong bid to get this useful tool into more engineering offices.
The portable unit, designed for input into a PC or laptop, uses laser-light stripe triangulation to scan 40,000 points of an object's geometry in just 0.6 seconds. It then converts all the scanned images into a polygonal mesh model.
The VIVID 300 supports both Windows NT and SGI computer platforms, with data export to a wide range of applications, including: CAD, FEA, CAM, 3D animation, industrial design, rapid prototyping, and reverse engineering. Among the growing list of software packages supporting VIVID: SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER, Mechanical Desktop, Maya, 3D Studio Max, Softimage, Lightwave, Rapidform 2000, Open Inventor, and VRML.
"This technology can really help trim design time, particularly in applications where engineers need to work with a physical model," says Martin Chader, business unit manager for Minolta 3D products. "It also lends itself to applications that blend engineering and industrial design, such as in medical prosthetics, product packaging, automotive instrument panels, and consumer electronics."
In fast-paced fields like consumer products, scanners can accelerate the design of initial physical prototypes that can be shown to focus groups for evaluation even before final engineering is completed. Companies that make custom or after-market parts for the auto industry also stand to benefit.
While Minolta introduced its first non-contact 3D scanner—the VIVID 700—to the U.S. market in 1997, it has only been in the last 18 months that this technology has really taken off, says Chader. He predicts even more interest this spring, when Minolta adds the VIVID 900 to its line. This model, with substantially more resolution and accuracy, will provide the added benefit of serving as an inspection tool in manufacturing.