3D scanners are widely perceived by users of 3D printers as a kind of addition to 3D printing technology – their task is to digitally reconstruct the actual object for the purposes of additive manufacturing. This is an extremely unfair image, because 3D scanners not only have a broader spectrum of applications, but it can even be said that in the world of industrial manufacturing, they are now more often used than 3D printers ever were.
Metrological works are carried out with the help of 3D scanners, e.g. for the purposes of quality control of manufactured items and quick creation of digital documentation of even the most complex or hardly available geometries. The 3D scan result is millions of points (so-called “point cloud”), which are a digital copy of a real object. Of course when done, digital model can be 3D printed but absolutely do not have to be. Their use can take many different forms, where replication of objects (in any manufacturing technique) is only one of many options …
3D scanners can be divided into two groups: short and long range. Short range scanners are ideal for scanning small and medium-sized objects, such as a car door handle and an entire full-size car. To scan really large objects such as a building, production hall or ship, you will need long-range 3D scanners.
How does a long range 3D scanner work?
Long-range 3D scanners, such as FARO Focus 3D, use a laser beam in their work, which “combs” the space in its field. When the laser encounters a surface on its way, it bounces off it and returns to the device with information about the distance and location of the point in the coordinate system in the space it covers. During one 3D scan, the device collects almost a million points by scanning objects up to 350 meters away with an accuracy of +/- 1 mm.
Where and when to use such 3D scanners?
3D scanning of buildings for renovation to create a digital inventory
Currently, almost every building is built based on a carefully prepared and visualized 3D design. When rebuilding an existing object, the designer must spend a lot of time to map the actual state and receive the spatial model. Often subcontractors are used, i.e. separate companies that carry out architectural / construction inventory.
Long-range 3D scanners allow you to recreate the architecture of the building even in 1 day, with an accuracy of 1 mm. This not only significantly speeds up the design process, but also allows you to create a model that would not be possible using traditional measurement methods. Thanks to the 3D scanning accuracy, it is possible to precisely measure even the most complicated parts and you can also identify the elements that are characteristic and key to the future design, such as cracks in the walls, or the distribution of external plumbing, heating, gas, or electrical installations.
Checking the progress of construction works
Errors in the creation of buildings can lead to catastrophic consequences or huge remodeling costs in case of non-compliance of the building with the project. Real-time control with traditional measuring devices is possible but very time-consuming. Therefore, many people skip the analysis of certain elements at the construction stage or make mistakes, hurrying up during the inspection.
Long-range 3D scanners allow you to control the progress of construction work in real time without much human involvement. They can be successfully used, among others, during:
- controlling the size of construction excavations and the level of settlement of buildings,
- dimensional control of the building by comparing its actual dimensions with the 3D design,
- inspection of supporting structures,
- supervision of the progress of construction works.
Inventory and protection of monuments and antique buildings
In April 2019, a dramatic fire took place in Paris, during which a large part of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral burned. Thanks to 3D models, which were created using 3D scanners, it can be rebuilt in the same condition as before the fire. Long range scanners are an irreplaceable tool for inventory of monuments. You only need to scan a given object once to be able to preserve its appearance and design in a digital version forever.
This solution is also great at scanning excavations and caves. In this way, you can save the full-size image for scientific analysis or for future use as a renovation project. FARO Focus 3D scanners collect the image in color, thanks to which it is possible to scan frescoes or paintings on the walls. The device is able to scan even textures. All this allows you to make realistic 3D visualizations or VR projects for virtual walks around the facility. This use facilitates the work of engineers and conservators, but is increasingly being made available in museums as an attractive tourist attraction.
3D scanning of ships and yachts
Many older units do not have a 3D model, so changes or repairs are definitely difficult and require a huge amount of designer work. Therefore, shipyards and shipowners use 3D scanners to scan the ship and provide a precise model on which the designer can make the required corrections.
The situation is similar when the ship is damaged. By scanning the hull 3D and then comparing the scans with the 3D model before the collision, you can quickly assess the damage and provide the designer with a 3D damage model.
The shipbuilding company Murray & Associates has just used the FARO long range 3D scanner to repair major damage in just one month. Another ship hit the side of the ship, which caused one side to be almost completely destroyed. The shipyard scanned the undamaged part of the ship, and then using a CNC machine recreated broken parts.
Analysis of accidents and crime scenes
Accidents (especially traffic) are situations that require quick but thoughtful actions. The services need time to analyze the accident, however, this involves stopping traffic and paralysis. Long range 3D scanners are used by services to record the place of the incident and then to analyze (e.g. by means of computer simulations) the circumstances of the accident.
3D scanners also work well when making 3D models of finished products, e.g. for a website. Due to the fact that the surface scanner can scan even large objects in color within a few hours, such visualization is not expensive and meets customer expectations at a lower cost than in the case of modeling from scratch in CAD software.