3D Scans



What are 3D scans?

3D scanners capture topographical information from the surface of an object, pharmacy recording the positions in space of enough points to reconstruct the surface in a 3D CAD (Computer Assisted Design) program. In the program, hospital the object will appear as either a "wireframe" open mesh or a shaded solid. These three-dimensional mathematical representations of a surface, page or "scans" can be used to reconstruct a facsimile of the original object at any scale, using an additive Rapid Prototyping machine or a subtractive CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) carving machine, as long as it fits in the work-envelope of the machine being used to build or carve it. They can also be used in their purely virtual form, and function like interactive photographs, as viewers can manipulate the image and show the object from all sides, instead of being limited to a single viewpoint, as with a conventional photo. Since it is essentially a collection of measurements, a 3D scan can be compared with a model and used for part quality inspection and verification, or for reverse-engineering a part that's unavailable. They have been used extensively to build prosthetics that match a person's missing parts exactly, and for documenting objects and sites of cultural heritage. Scans of actor's faces have been used by the film industry to bring them into the CGI (Computer Graphics Interface) environment for effects work, and they can also be used in the animation process. They can also be used for artistic purposes, either to "point up" or reduce a sculpture, or to create something new by combining different objects in a computer environment. See the Gallery of Applications on this site for examples of the various different uses to which scans can be put.

What are 3D Scanners?

There are a wide variety of 3D scanners on the market, ranging from articulated arm devices that are used to manually capture a single point at a time by touching it with a stylus and clicking a foot-pedal, to automated touch-probes that collect rows of points with piezo-electric needles, to sophisticated machines that use lasers to capture thousands of points in seconds. But the essential principle is the same - to record the positions in space of points on the surface of an object sufficiently well to reconstruct it by connecting the dots. Although this technology is in its infancy; comparable to where photography was150 years ago, there has been a remarkable development of different strategies and devices to enable the scanning of a variety of things in a range of sizes, for different uses. For scanning people, for instance, "structured light" systems have been developed that record a whole scene in a flash of light, so that the subjects don't have to hold a pose for an extended length of time. Long-range laser scanners are capable of recording the topology of a large building, or the interior of an auditorium, while CT (Computed Tomography) scanners can penetrate opaque objects and reveal micro-structures without damaging the solid object they're embedded in. See the Links page on this site for places to purchase 3D scanners or utilize 3D scanning services for your own projects.

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