The Role of 3D Scanning in Manufacturing

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3D scanning in Manufacturing

The first concept of 3D scanning was introduced in the ’60s and over the years, this technology has considerably changed. Advancements in computing technology and other fields have made 3D scanning practical, affordable, and fast enough to have real-world applications in numerous fields like manufacturing, healthcare, education, and even archeology. Today, 3D scanning has a projected market share of above $6 Billion as its applications are expected to grow at an unprecedented pace. In the following text, we’ll take a closer look at the influence of 3D scanning in manufacturing and discuss the future potential of this incredible technology.   

Applications of 3D scanning in Manufacturing

Throughout the years, the manufacturing industry has seen significant changes. Integration of concepts like Lean manufacturing has allowed production environments to come up with profitable, efficient, and sustainable ways of growing their businesses. Innovative technologies like 3D scanning fit perfectly in this race of maximizing benefits and minimizing costs. 

3D scanning allows users to digitally replicate an existing design in a matter of minutes. You can then improve the said design, print it with different materials, test out its performance through simulations, and do much more. The possibilities with 3D scanning for any manufacturing environment are endless!

Some of the areas in manufacturing where 3D scanning has introduced significant changes are listed below. 

1 – Concept Generation

The conceptualization phase is an integral stage for any design-based business. Traditionally, these designs were either prepared with lead Clay or foam and then digitized with the time-consuming CAD designing process. 3D scanning makes the process simple and allows you to perform the same task with more accuracy in a matter of seconds. 

Another overlooked positive aspect of 3D scanning in manufacturing deals with presentations. Most designers need to present their concepts in front of a board or other stakeholders before getting the required resources for the next stage. Human beings inherently absorb visual information more efficiently, and designers can use that to their advantage and better convey the qualities of their design through 3D scanning their designs and rendering them. 

2 – Industrial Design

Product designing is a complex and elaborate process where a lot of thought goes into different aspects of the design. Once the functionality and the working principle of a product are established, engineers work on different aspects like ergonomics, aesthetics, and manufacturability to create the most optimized design. 3D scanning can be a great help in all of these processes as it allows the designers to immediately digitize the existing model and start working on potential improvements. 

In the industrial design process, the concepts of reverse engineering and rapid prototyping play an important role in ensuring the best results in the shortest time. In the next sections, we’ll see how 3D scanning helps in these areas. 

Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is the process of creating a perfect CAD model of an object on your computer. This is an integral part of industrial design and various other processes because it saves time and allows designers to use existing prototypes as the base for further improvement. 3D scanning naturally has an affinity with the reverse engineering process as it makes it simple for the operator to replicate even the most elaborate setups easily. 

Want to know more about 3D scanning and reverse engineering? Check this out!

Rapid Prototyping and Additive Manufacturing

3D scanning along with additive manufacturing technologies have created rapid manufacturing easier and convenient for all involved parties. Prototyping is an iterative process where designers continue to make improvements in their product after rigorous testing. 3D scanning allows them to immediately capture all the details of the product before and after use to check for any changes or deformations. 

Similarly, 3D printing allows designers to immediately acquire the latest iteration to carry out their tests and analysis. We have extensively covered how 3D scanning and 3D printing work together to ensure excellent results in the prototyping and fabrication stages. To know more, read this article. 

3 – Fabrication of Custom Parts

Manufacturing environments sometimes deal with customers needing custom-made parts. This is a very common scenario in the automobile sector, but other sectors also deal with their fair share of custom orders. 3D scanning can help with custom part fabrication as you can directly make the required edits on the existing assembly. This process ensures that whatever custom-part you make is an exact fit for the application you are targeting. 

4 – Maintenance for Traditional Manufacturing Plants

Maintenance is an essential department for any manufacturing organization. Engineers responsible for maintenance must always be on the lookout for potential failure points and act proactively to ensure continuous and uninterrupted production. 

Many maintenance engineers report that finding quality spare parts at the right price is a huge problem. Especially if the original manufacturer has discontinued the production. This forces them to make do with aftermarket copies that are of inferior quality and easily get damaged. With 3D scanning, engineers can take control of the issue and produce the required component at their in-house facility with better materials and techniques. This approach reduces maintenance issues and allows non-stop operations till the next scheduled maintenance. 

5 – Metrology and Inspection

3D scanning in manufacturing allows you to maintain excellent quality control standards rather easily. The technology is quite common in manufacturing environments where quality managers check each batch by 3D scanning a model and comparing its dimensions with the CAD design. This allows you to consistently deliver excellent quality to your clients and maintain your credibility in the market. 

The inspection system can also be automated if you want. Today, many assembly lines come with a series of 3D scanners that automatically check each product and compare it with the existing design. You can set the acceptable tolerances and the system automatically flags down any object that does not fall under the acceptable range.

6 – Production Line Simulations

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could get an idea of how your production line would work before investing your time and resources? With 3D scanning, it is now possible. A German scientist recently developed an innovative method of digitizing production lines through 3D scanning and identifying potential safety issues or a source of inefficiency. The system can run detailed simulations and allow you to make different changes and check their effect in real-time.

What Does the Future Hold for 3D Scanning in Manufacturing?

Day by day, the technology behind 3D scanning is improving and becoming more accessible. Modern 3D scanners are now more accurate, convenient, smaller, and affordable. Today the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3D scanning stands at 6.6% and with the introduction of better scanning technology and 3D scanning services, the market has the potential for further growth. 

Industrial experts believe that 3D scanning and 3D printing together will bring forth a new era where additive manufacturing will become even easier and industry would be able to produce objects that are impossible for any other manufacturing technique. Andrei Vakulenko, the CEO of a major industrial player in the 3D scanning market, said in an interview

“Eventually, 3D scanners and 3D printers are likely to become one solution, similar to how 2D scanners have now been integrated into 2D printers. Additive manufacturing will be much faster and much cheaper than molding. Plus, it will allow for the manufacturing of objects that traditional manufacturing can’t produce, such as a ball inside a ball.”

What Industries Outside Manufacturing Can Be Impacted by 3D scanning?

There are a few emerging technologies that can claim to be as diverse as 3D scanning. Manufacturing is the most well-known area where 3D scanning is making a difference. Today, a lot of industrial sectors are leveraging this technology to either improve their processes or come up with new and innovative ways to bring a positive change. 

Some industries other than manufacturing where 3D scanning is making a significant impact are listed below:

  • Aerospace
  • Robotics
  • Healthcare
  • Research
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Archeology
  • AR/VR

Click here to know more about the impact of 3D scanning on different industries. 



Sean is head engineer with his previous career stemming from mechanical engineering, automotive dynamics, and aerospace. Pulling from real-world experience, he has over 15 years of experience as a designer and in fabrication. Before creating Tangent Solutions, Sean was the lead designer for many winning off-road race teams as well as mass-market production companies

About Tangent Solutions

Tangent Solutions offers the latest in 3D scanning technology paired with 15 years of CAD design experience, to bring your ideas to reality. Our team specializes in reverse engineering and data verification.

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