3D scanning multiplies the benefits of additive manufacturing
Product development requires increasing amounts of accurate information about product application area so that products can be produced as efficiently as possible and that they meet the requirements set for them. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, and 3D scanning are complementary technologies that are coming strongly to the fore to make this possible. By combining these two technologies, lighter and more complex products can be produced quickly. Another significant advantage is the ease of manufacturing spare parts.
Green values and ecological thinking are accelerating the development of lightweight and efficient structures, while new generations are placing a lower burden on the environment by consuming less energy and materials. In optimized structures, it is of particular importance to have thorough knowledge of the surrounding environment, as a part or a product can be included in a complex or cramped entity.
Traditionally, boundary surface management and shape measurements have been demanding and labor-intensive tasks. The advent of 3D scanning has solved this problem.
Increasingly complex shapes extremely fast
3D scanning can produce highly accurate measurements of complex shapes in a fraction of the time required by conventional measurement techniques. Additive manufacturing (AM), on the other hand, is a production method that allows more complex and free shapes than traditional production methods.
This means that design can strive to deliver optimal features for a product, for example, being lightweight and flexible, while at the same time taking life cycle loads into consideration. Even flow demands can be better met. If the product is used in a flow or heat transfer environment, its flow resistance and heat transfer properties can be optimized.
Another great benefit can be gained when all the AM structure’s functions are combined into a single part. Brackets, grips, and supports are typical examples of customized parts of products.
3D scanning produces accurate information for design
Scanning makes it possible to create a 3D model of an existing part or its environment. The digitized part can be used in producing a replacement part or in creating a better optimized entity in design.
Hand-produced prototypes can also be digitized into production models, while shape analysis can be conducted by comparing scanned parts with the design model. Furthermore, scanning and shape analysis can be used to evaluate production success or quality or to identify errors.
As a measurement method, scanning is at its most efficient for measuring double-curved surfaces. Even complex parts can usually be measured in an hour. The point cloud surface model is usable practically immediately after scanning. Often a point cloud model is sufficient and surface and solid modeling is not required at all.
Technical analysis is fast today
The design process of optimized, AM products is more complex than that of traditional design methods. This is because the goal is to develop a product that meets the increasing number of requirements more closely, and more information is produced and used. The product’s physical demands are met through technical analysis, which strives to gain the clearest possible picture of the load levels to which the product will be exposed during its life cycle.
The duration of optimized product development project is not greater than with traditional products, as designers and analysts nowadays have extremely efficient tools at their disposal. The technical analysis project, which took days in the 2000s, can now be completed in a matter of hours.
What optimized product design requires are designers with a higher level of know-how to get the right information at the right place at the right time.
In the end, products need to be tested even if they were analyzed and developed with the help of technical analysis. This is because the material characteristics are dependent on the AM process and materials used. To control the quality of AM products, the manufacturing environment, material, and the part orientation in the printer are optimized.
Combining the methods facilitate warehousing and logistics
By combining 3D scanning and additive manufacturing, great cost and time savings can be achieved. For example, tools that wear out during use can be additive manufactured cost-effectively on demand. Therefore, no large quantities of spare parts are required for storage, and long delivery times can be avoided. Price of the part of an individual tool does not change significantly as production volume increases.
Another example of the use of additive manufacturing is vibrating feeders that transfer small components to assembly stations. They can be optimized one at a time instead of producing a large series that is kept in storage. Because the tool can be tested quickly, its development cycle is markedly faster than that of a casting.
Parts produced with this method fit within a millimeter’s accuracy, even in double-curved shapes. Material losses can also be considerably reduced in lightweight and demanding structures.
3D scanning and 3D printing video
Authors: Teemu Launis, Samu Sundberg and Martti Tryykki