Meshes are the main output of all 3D scanners, and the format commonly understood by 3D printers. A coordinate represents the surface of a shape with a large number of triangles, connected edge to edge. On the other hand, engineers are trained to work with solid models. Solid models hold information about how an object is designed, and this information is explicitly encoded into the model as features in a ‘stack’ of logical steps. In solid CAD, it’s possible to change the dimensions for a single feature, and the rest of the model will update to accommodate the change.
This can be very useful when manufacturing drawings are missing, part files are lost, or legacy drawings don’t exist in digital forms. Alternatively, it could be used to help the design process where an industrial designer shapes the form of a product in clay and the shapes need to be transferred into CAD software. This process can be done in multiple degrees of detail ranging from just creating a “dumb solid” in the CAD software that acts mostly as a reference to creating a fully parametric and editable solid by building the part from scratch in your CAD software.
Traditionally, measurements would be taken with physical tools and gauges such as rulers, calipers, and radius gauges in order to gather information about the part’s features. Using these tools takes a high degree of skill to be accurate and repeatable and can be a very lengthy process. Additionally, with curved, organic surfaces, creating an accurate representation in a CAD program would be nearly impossible.
The process of reverse engineering can be immensely sped up and improved with 3D scanners. In a matter of minutes, millions of measurements can be made to create a mesh in real-time. This mesh can then be turned into a surface ready to import into CAD. Reference entities such as planes, cylinders, and cross-section profiles can be created from the mesh geometry and transferred to help you create a fully parametric solid model.
- How to Scan an Object for 3D Printing: The Reverse Engineering Workflow
- Preparing the Object for Scanning
- 3D Scan the Object
- Refine the coordinate
- Import the coordinate to CAD software
- Extract Important Surfaces
- Integrate New Objects
- 3D Print the New Design