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What is 3D Scanning?

In the most general terms, 3D scanning, also referred to as 3D digitizing, is the utilization of a three dimensional data acquisition device to acquire a multitude of X,Y,Z coordinates on the surface of a physical object. Each discrete X,Y,Z coordinate is referred to as a point. The conglomeration of all these points is referred to as a “point cloud.” Typical format for point cloud data is either an ASCII text file containing the X,Y,Z values for each point or a polygonal mesh representation of the point cloud in what is known as an STL file format.

There is a wide range of 3D scanner technologies available to address a multitude of different applications ranging in size from an individual tooth to one of our national monuments. For this discussion we will confine our scanning parameters to product development and manufacturers.

There have been many studies that have shown that the company that delivers a product 1st to market captures the lion share of the revenue. With this goal in mind, product development and manufacturing companies are implementing 3D scanning solutions in an effort to reduce the time and costs associated with their Concept through Sustaining Engineering Product Life Cycle. There are many different points of entry in this product life cycle where an accurate As Built digital definition can add value.

Key capabilities of a 3D scanner will be its ability to effectively capture an as thorough as required digital definition of the part or assembly with the required accuracy and data clarity to support the required deliverable. 

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