The moons are all coming into the right phase for a dramatic takeoff for three-dimensional data scanning, which could become a bigger field than rapid prototyping and manufacturing combined, in the opinion of industry expert Todd Grimm.
One of the primary reasons is a proliferation of new hardware offerings, many at very low prices. One of the most notable is a new desktop scanner from NextEngine priced at $2,495. “I'm sure you can manage to save that much on some project somewhere,” says Grimm, who is chairman of the Society of Manufacturing Engineering's new tech group, 3D Data Capture/Reverse Engineering. It's even possible to rig your own scanning system using freeware off the Internet. “You can get started today at no risk by combining an existing LCD projector and a digital camera,” says Grimm. The rigor of such systems, however, may not be up to snuff for most design engineers. In fact, lack of standards in general are a problem, although an ASTM committee is working on that.
The big story is applications. Use your imagination to determine where you need digital data from a physical object. Some Fortune 500s even use 3D scanning to collect data for their own products that were designed by subcontractors. 3D scanning played a big role in moldmaking at Corbin-Pacific.
Scanshark's Portable CMM
ROMER's new ScanShark includes seven-axis portable CMM, a 4Vi laser scanning probe, PolyWorks software and a laptop or desktop computer. The mobile metrology system delivers the power of articulated arm measurement and laser scanning for on-demand part inspection and/or reverse engineering right on the shop floor. It is particularly effective for part surfaces that are difficult to reach, such as inside an aircraft or under an automobile. It's available in 6-, 8-, 9-, 10- and 12-ft measuring envelopes.
NextEngine: The Price is Right
NextEngine's 3D scanner has been somewhat of a sensation since being introduced last year, says Todd Grimm. It has a low price ($2,495), yields good results and is the size of a cereal box, the SME expert says. NextEngine says it plugs into SolidWorks 2007 Office Premium and works with other major 3D applications. There is no limit to the size of objects it can scan. You make a complete object model by combining shots from various facets. NextEngine is a 7-year-old, privately held company.
Metrology Grade Digital Scanner
Dimensional Photonics International (DPI) of Wilmington, MA, recently introduced a scanner based on a technology out of MIT Lincoln Lab. called Accordion Fringe Interferometry (AFI). AFI-based scanners are said to be the most accurate in the world and are generally able to scan machined parts without surface preparation of any sort. Industry expert Todd Grimm says the DPI scanner is particularly well-suited for capturing data from shiny or glossy surfaces.