The Many Uses of 3D Scanning

Published: 25th June 2012
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For many years now, regular scanners have allowed us to scan and digitize any 2-dimensional surface. Whether it is a large scanner for documentation, or a hand-held one for scanning surfaces, scanners have allowed us to digitize almost any 2D (2-dimensional) surface around us. However, start thinking in 3D (3-dimensional) terms and the limitations of the scanner become obvious. It is impossible to scan a 3D surface using conventional scanner technology.

Discoveries and breakthroughs in modern science, especially in lasers, have allowed scanning technology to take that extra step forward and enter the 3D realm. 3D scanners are starting to become widely available. As awareness about their existence ad usage increases, more and more new uses for the scanners are being discovered as well. As a result, 3D scanners now have a variety of uses in numerous fields, ranging from medicine and engineering, to archaeology and entertainment.

The field of medicine has greatly benefitted from the development of the 3D scanner. Initially, Computer Aided Design (CAD) could only be used as a tool for teaching. Without any way to create an accurate 3D model, CAD could not be used to help in diagnosis and treatment. However, 3D scanners are now used to accurately scan the relevant body parts and 3D models can be transferred to the CAD software. For example, a dentist can scan the inside of a patients' mouth and create a 3D image to work with. Using CAD, a set of dentures can be designed and manufactured, based on the 3D model. This eliminates the need for the use of casts, which can be very messy and time consuming. A similar process can be used to create prosthetics for amputees.

One of the biggest sectors to benefit from 3D scanners is the consumer industry. Laser scanning is a boon for industries seeking to ensure the highest levels of quality control. As a product passes through the laser scanner, any imperfections on the surface are immediately detected and the bothersome item can be removed from the production line. Quality assurance systems using 3D scanners, like the ones used in automotive manufacturing plants, rapidly cut down the time taken for quality control, while increasing efficiency. Most companies readily adapt 3D scanners into their system despite high costs, since they see it as an excellent long-term investment.

3D scanners are playing an important role in the field of archaeology. Many artefacts are too delicate to be handled and studied. Moreover, some artefacts and fossils cannot be moved from their place of origin till they have been completely studied. 3D scanners allow archaeologists to create complete 3D models of artefacts and store in a digital vault for later storage. Most importantly, it allows archaeologists to study the same object, at the same time, while spread across continents. Similar to archaeology, 3D scanning is also gaining prominence in the fine arts community. Scanned 3D models of sculptures are eliminating the need for students and scholars to travel to where the sculpture is kept. Instead, they can study the sculpture in a lot more detail from the comfort of their own computer.

3-Dimensional scanners are allowing us to see the world around us in a very different manner, while letting us to create digital copies for future reference and generations. With the technology continuing to develop rapidly, it may not be long before 3D scanners soon become a common house-hold electronic item.

Click on the link to find out more about 3D scanners. Also, learn more about handheld 3D scanners.

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