How to 3D Scan for CAD Files

Are you looking to generate a CAD file from 3D scan data? CAD files are needed for manufacturing and quality control applications. Below I explain the process on how to 3D scan for CAD files.

When digitizing real-life objects, 3D laser scanners can measure complicated items rapidly and efficiently. This greatly speeds up the design workflow. Clients who use a 3D scan for CAD files are able to design components that fit flawlessly onto existing products or create new designs entirely.

Services to Create a 3D Scan for CAD Files

3D scanning services are a way of digitizing a physical object with a series of lasers that pass over the object in order to create a representational mesh. A 3D scanning service provider has the ability to arrive on-site for large and remote scan projects or perform scanning in their offices.

How do we 3D scan for CAD files? It is a common misconception that 3D scan data immediately generates a CAD file. Although 3D scan data generates models that are available as an accurate model, the scan data must be reverse engineered in order to create CAD files.

Reverse engineering by way of 3D scanning is the process of drawing a 3D model by using mesh data as a reference. A technician will import scan data and geometric entities to create a fully functional CAD file. CAD software is needed to complete this process and results in dimensionally accurate CAD files; data that can report vital measurements like inside and outside diameter of holes.

When we 3D scan for CAD files, our goal is to digitize physical items for use in design, 3D inspection, and product development. 3D laser scanners are used to properly record the shape and measurements of any physical object.

When you need to 3D scan for CAD files, one of the best resources is to work with a 3D scanning service provider. Tangent Solutions provides 3D laser scanning, reverse engineering, and other design engineering services.

Meshes and Solid Models

A topic many people may confuse is the difference between meshes and solid models. When you need to 3D scan for CAD files, you will need to know which file format suits your project.

Meshes are the primary output of all 3D scanners and the format most 3D printers use. Meshes are commonly exported as STL or OBJ file format. A mesh is the surface of a form represented by a large number of triangles joined edge to edge. Aside from the location of the triangles that determine the shape, mesh models carry no information about the item. Think of it as a photo.

Mesh to CAD file comparison

In order to create a CAD file, design engineers will use a STL mesh file to create the fully functional CAD model. Solid models provide information about how an item is dimensioned, making it a complete parasolid. By using a 3D scan for CAD files, you will now have a 3D model that can be modified, altered, and compared.

Meshes don’t include information about how an item was built, therefore there are few ways to change a mesh model. CAD programs like Solidworks are not great at modifying meshed. If you need to make significant modifications to the fundamental layout of a scanned part, the mesh must be transformed into a solid CAD drawing; the reverse engineering process.

The Reverse Engineering Workflow

When using a 3D scan for CAD files, you will be able to produce new components and catalog legacy designs. 3D scanning is ideal for projects that do not have access to the original CAD files.

Projects for reverse engineering can help to make new parts that match the original design of damaged components or employ reverse engineering procedures to incorporate complicated surfaces from existing objects.

Sometimes you don’t have access to a part’s original design documentation from the time it was manufactured. Reverse engineering allows you to examine a physical element and learn how it was originally constructed in order to recreate, make variants, or improve on the design. The ultimate aim is to use a 3D scan for CAD files that can be used for manufacturing.

Automatic Surfacing

From a watertight scan, automatic surfacing can be used to create a solid model. Standard CAD tools may be used to remove and add to this auto-surfaced body, although moving fundamental elements around on the body will be more challenging.

Automatic surfacing is an excellent method to reduce modeling time in these situations. However it is not the best method for more complicated CAD file creation.

Reasons to Use a 3D Scan for CAD Files

  1. It saves time over creating from CAD files from scratch.
  2. It provides an exact representation of the current part for use in creating the CAD model.
  3. It allows you to input design intent and repair faults or damage.

Using a 3D scan for CAD files by way of reverse engineering is one of the best ways to create dimensionally accurate 3D models. 3D scan to CAD not only provides insights into building better products but also does it in less time than designing from start.

3D laser scanning makes reverse engineering considerably faster and easier than it would be otherwise. Instead of attempting to perfect complicated curves and angles, 3D scan data records the even the smallest detail at high precision. If the profile is inaccurate or the physical part is damaged, a skilled design engineer has the opportunity to see where the previous geometry is and repair it while creating highly detailed CAD files.

Sean Kepler

Sean is lead 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, manufacturing, and data verification. 

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17845 Sky Park Circle Suite E Irvine, CA 92614