There’s a lot of talk about 3D printers and how they are the future of construction and manufacturing. Whilst it is still relatively early in their lifespan it seems fair to say that they will change the world in a great many ways. However, at this point they are still relatively niche products and either require an expensive outlay to use extensively or at the other end of the scale are little more than a novelty. 3D scanning is something which should really change how useful they are though. Rather than depending on someone else’s online models and recreating them with 3D scanning we are able to recreate anything we see or any part of it. This truly makes 3D printing a means to produce whatever you want from thin air, which was always the main premise behind it.

What Are They?

3d scanners are tools which are able to capture real-world items or spaces and then digitally re-create them as 3 dimensional models. By capturing the geometry of physical objects these models can then be printed out as is or altered and modified digitally to repair or improve an item before reproducing them. They can also be used for animation or visualisation purposes and for archival recording.

How Do They Work?

There are numerous methods of 3D scanning. Laser scanning is a method of producing a 3D model of an item by passing a laser line over it. As the laser passes over the object it then records the 3D space which has been scanned in a camera sensor which produces an incredibly accurate copy without there being any need to touch it. Another method used is digitising. This involves placing a probe into contact with different sections of the item you wish to create a 3D model of. This method is better at accurately recreating geometrical shapes and is generally preferred in reverse engineering. In contrast laser scanning is preferred to digitising when scanning an irregular or organic form. Other ways in which products can be modelled is through white light scanning and photo image capturing. The latter of the two requires the user to build up a series of images from various different angles which can then be constructed into a digital image through appropriate software.

What Can They Be Used for?

Now that’s a lot of technical information and shows that there are a number of different ways to 3d scan but what can these 3D models be used for? They can be used in technical industries and engineering such as site modelling, quality control, structural damage measurement, maps and geomatics. However, they can also be used for domestic purposes. You could, for example, capture the 3D model of somebody’s favourite car or whatever and then reproduce it through a 3D printer and give it to them as a gift. Or you could recreate a favourite object or functional item you want multiples of. They are fantastic for people who like to design and you could 3D model shapes and parts of other objects and combine these to make your own items and products. 3D scanning is the next step and allows us to start using our imagination and produce whatever we want ourselves at home. As the technology develops we can look forward to producing these things cheaper and cheaper and the idea is to have them in every home. The future of 3D printing is getting very exciting!