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8 Things You Didn’t Know About 3D Printing and Scanning

3D printing has been around for some time now, with these types of printers becoming more and more common. At the same time, 3D scanning is also on the rise. 

This process typically uses lasers that are pulsed towards an object or site at a rate of thousands of times per second. The lasers distort or reflect when they meet an object or medium, giving extremely precise distance measurements relevant to these points. The measurements build what are known as point clouds, which have numerous uses — from creating 3D site models for use in design and construction, to creating digitized movie effects and even saving lives in hospitals.


Here are 8 more things that you might not know about 3D printing and scanning:

1. 3D scanning enhances the utility of 3D printing

Many early adopters of 3D printing technology had to rely on commercial or open-source platforms that offered designs to print in 3D. There are many different designs available now, and the ability to scan your own 3D objects increases the number of things that you can create using a 3D printer.


2. Your smartphone could be a digital scanner

Commercial 3D scanning equipment is increasingly moving into mobile, handheld formats. Fixed scanners are still the best solution for many applications, including long-distance measuring on a construction site. Handheld scanners can be more versatile for close-up object spinning, however, and it is possible that the smartphone in your pocket could soon double up as an effective 3D scanner. Some have 3D sensors already, which can scan spaces, people, and objects for use in virtual reality and augmented reality settings, as well as potential 3D scanning.


3. 3D scanners are useful for building information modeling

Building Information Modeling, or BIM, refers to a digital process involving the generation and management of information related to buildings and other structures. There are many different elements to BIM, but a particularly useful one is the ability to create a 3D site model using scanning methods. Scanners can create point clouds for processing into 3D digital models. This is useful in many aspects of the design process, whether it involves renovating existing structures or building new ones.


4. Education benefits from 3D printing and scanning

3D printing and scanning also have innovative applications within the education sector. The Smithsonian Institution, for example, is the world's largest museum and research complex, founded "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” It has been engaged in a program of scanning and archiving its artifacts and resources, which it then releases for schools, colleges, and others to download and print.


5. 3D printing and scanning have medical applications

This type of printing and scanning also has many medical applications. This summer, for example, doctors in Dubai used a 3D printed model of dilated brain arteries to plan complex surgery and save the life of a woman who had suffered a cerebral aneurysm. Bioprinting is also an emerging field of medical research, offering solutions such as “organs-on-a-chip”, which can test drugs without the need for animal testing. Eventually, experts could succeed in printing whole organs and other body parts for use in transplants.


6. Moviemakers use 3D scanners

Many of the movies that you have seen utilize 3D scanners. CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) movies are an obvious example. It is often easier to scan a real-life object such as a glass of water and insert it into the computer animation rather than drawing or modeling it from scratch. Animators can also introduce digital objects into live-action films, and 3D scanning techniques have enhanced the likes of World War Z, the Harry Potter franchise, the Pirates of the Caribbean series and numerous others.


7. Manufacturers are adopting 3D printing and scanning

Increasingly, people are using 3D scanners and printers in manufacturing and industrial processes. One example involves tooling and quality assurance, in which you start off with digital information that shows what the item should be like in its perfect condition — whether said item is a tool, product or anything else. You can scan the actual item and compare the created point cloud to the schematic, removing faulty goods and checking or replacing damaged tools as needed.


8. 3D scanners can reverse engineer objects

Technicians and engineers can use 3D scanners to reverse engineer various objects and physical parts. This can be useful if, for example, there is no spare, schematic or CAD that already exists for a physical part that needs reproducing. A situation such as this may occur because a part is damaged or worn. The reverse engineering process can even assess a product made by a competitor. You can scan the object itself and end up with digital information from which you can fabricate a duplicate item.


There’s no denying that 3D scanning and printing technology really does have diverse applications. To learn more about how 3D scanning could help improve your firm, download our free ebook: 3D Scanning at a Glance.