From prototyping to quality assurance, 3D scanning has become an integral part of the manufacturing process. Here are ten current uses from New Equipment Digest:

1. Prototype Design – With a 3D scanner like the HP Sprout Illuminator, a designer can quickly convert a physical object on the scanning pad into a digital model on their screen. Sprout also has an optional 3D Capture Stage to rotate the object to scan at a 15-deg tilt. Once scanned, the object can be resized or altered, and then 3D-printed to create a tangible prototype.

Sprout Illuminator by HP
Sprout Illuminator by HP (Source:

2. Inspection & Verification – Turbine blades have to be flawless to perform as engineered; any defect can disrupt the hydro- or aerodynamic flow. Laser Design Global Services says that using contact measuring doesn’t create the necessary surface profile of the blades’ irregular shapes. Their non-contact Surveyor WS-2030 3D laser scanning system hits the entire part’s surface, with cameras triangulating the changing distance during the sweeps, thus reducing the risk of missing data points.

3. Detailed Fabrication – Since the time of Egyptian pharaohs, it’s customary for leaders to get life masks and busts fabricated, some for posterity, others to house their souls when they die. The problem is how long they’d take. President Abraham Lincoln had two life masks created, one two months before his assassination. He had to get his facial hair greased up and breath out of a nostril straw while the plaster cast dried. Flash-forward to 2013. The Smithsonian Institute had an idea for a much faster, less sticky way to capture President Obama’s visage: 3D Scanning. After a quick burst of photos taken from eight mounted DSLR cameras to get a high-res 3D model, the team used two Artec Eva 3D scanners to capture the president’s digital likeness. The whole session lasted just 90 seconds. The digital rendering, comprising 15 million triangles, was then 3D-printed, a process that took 66 hours total to print and cool.

3D Scanned and 3D Printed Bust of President Obama
3D Scanned and 3D Printed Bust of President Obama (Source: Smithsonian Institution)

4. Fabricating Custom Parts – EMS, Inc., a commercial 3D printing and scanning solution provider employed two types of 3D scanners to develop new products for a 2015 Lamborghini Huracán, including a front and rear spoiler and side skirts. The first was a long range Surphaser 100hsx 3D scanner, which has a scan range from 1 to 50 m and scanning speed up to 1 million points/sec. Then, the company used a mobile Creaform MetraSCAN scanner hard to reach places such as underneath the car. The MetraScan data and the Surpahaser scan will be combined to create the finished products.

5. Metrology – Gardner Aerospace uses the Steinbichler L3D Comet 5M Blue Light Scanner, made by Zeiss, for a host of metrological services, from individual features to solid models. The COMET L3D comes in four models uses a LED pulse mode that delivers high light output to get scans in as fast as 1.5 sec (2M model) and up to 3296 x 2472 resolution (8M model).

Gardiner Aerospace Using a Steinbichler L3D Comet 5M Blue Light Scanner
Using a Steinbichler L3D Comet 5M Blue Light Scanner (Source:

6. Digital Archiving – Using an Artec Eva scanner, 3D company Miniyours scanned a sunken Nazi Biber from WWII. It took one day to scan the mini-sub for a Dutch maritime heritage foundation. Once a manufacturer scans its physical infrastructure and machinery, it can then interact with it digitally, using the Microsoft HoloLens or other augmented reality hardware.

7. Bulk Material Scanning – The BinTech Scanner accurately measures grain inventory via a precision laser rangefinder and high-precision 2-axis positioner, demonstrating accuracy up to 99.5%. The historical data can help a manager of bulk material to keep track of inventory and understand production trends better.

8. Quality Assurance – Creating a scan with the Keyence VR-3000 Wide-Area 3D Measurement System allows the analysis of height, roughness, curvature, and warpage, so a circuit board manufacturer, for example, can perform batch analyses between multiple samples simultaneously under the same condition and compare with CAD data to quantify surface shape differences.  The VR-3000 uses three double-telecentric lenses to measure areas up to 100mm x 200mm, and a 30mm span in 4 sec. The machine automatically determines if a part is good or bad based on user-defined tolerances.

Willman Industries in Wisconsin uses the Artec Eva scanner for quality assurance on their castings, which can be as heavy as 15 tons. “We’ve made numerous improvements to our process with it. Our dimensional control has improved not just from measuring the castings but from checking multiple process inputs with the Eva,” says Randy Parker, Willman’s quality manager.

Willman Industries scans castings with the Artec Scanner.
Willman Industries scans castings with the Artec Scanner. (Source:

9. Digital Tailoring – There’s a myriad of reasons to scan the human body, and some have nothing to do with sex. One of these is for clothing manufacturing. Nike and Cornell teamed up to test the fit of T-shirts and shorts by having participants scanned in the clothing and then filling out a survey. Tests like this aid Cornell in its made-to-measure research, which focuses on the growing trend of mass-customized apparel.

10. Production Line Simulations – Wouldn’t you want to know how your production line will run well in advance of launching a new product? No one wants to find out a few weeks into the workup that there’s a safety issue or chance for collision.  Andreas Nüchter, a German computer science professor, has found a solution to this. Just scan the current production line, as he has done with Volkswagen for the Tiguan and Crafter models, and create detailed simulations off that real data to make sure the line will run smoothly. He says with the Crafter that because of 3d scan findings, the production hall had to be changed to prevent collisions.

Section of an automotive production line and a simulated model as a 3D cloud of dots. The places where collisions would occur after a change of model are highlighted in red.
Section of an automotive production line and a simulated model as a 3D cloud of dots. The places where collisions would occur after a change of model are highlighted in red. (Picture: Andreas Nüchter)
Ten Ways Industry Uses 3D Scanning