Utilising 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies in engineering and manufacturing
13 June 2017
Three-dimensional (3D) technology provides innovative solutions and improvements to existing methods of design and manufacturing. While cutting-edge advancements in 3D tech are announced on what seems like an almost daily basis, existing applications already merit considerable excitement.
There are many ways in which companies in Ireland can benefit by implementing 3D services into their workflows. 3D technology makes for an overall more efficient engineering process, as it not only improves design and saves money, but also facilitates the good time management that is so crucial to many projects. 3D Printing Ireland is an Irish leader in providing 3D solutions to firms looking to modernise their processes.
While 3D printing tends to get all the glory when it comes to news headlines and discussions about innovative technologies, it is actually 3D scanning that currently has the most practical applications. There is a close and complementary relationship between the two, in part because one is essentially the reverse process of the other.
3D printing brings a digital concept into the real world, whilst 3D scanning converts a physical object into a digital format. But there are also numerous uses of 3D scanning that stand completely independent from its 3D sibling, many of which present significant benefits to an engineering setting.
How 3D scanning works
3D scanners are tri-dimensional measuring devices that quickly and accurately capture information about a physical object. This information is represented as cloud point data which, using powerful algorithms, is fused into a high resolution polygon mesh.
This resulting 3D mesh model is immediately usable for 3D printing, visualisations and quality-control testing. The poly model can also be manually converted into a NURBS (non-uniform rational basis spline) or solid object, and exported out as a .STEP or .IGES file, ready to import into any CAD software. This is one of the fastest and most accurate ways to reverse engineer complex or tiny parts.
Like 3D printing, the accuracy, resolution and overall quality of a 3D scan varies hugely depending on the grade of the 3D scanner, the software and desired output requirements. Additionally, in 3D scanning, the proficiency and experience of the technician carrying out the scan and post processing will have a considerable effect on the end result.
Employing the services of a 3D scanning bureau negates the need for expensive investment in equipment, software and training, while at the same time guaranteeing higher quality outputs. 3D Printing Ireland uses the high resolution Artec Spider 3D scanner, which some boasts impressive specifications:
- 3D point accuracy of 0.05mm
For parts with complex or curved shapes, a 3D scanned model will give far more precise measurements than attempting to physically take measurements with a callipers.
- High resolution of 0.1mm
Very high resolution scans will show every tiny detail and imperfection on an object’s surface, ideal for analysing slight deviations or wear on a part.
- Scanning speed of 7.5fps
3D scanning can capture an entire object’s dimensions in just minutes, reducing the need for a part to be taken out of use and saving many hours of painstaking manual measuring.
Artec 3D scanners use structured blue light technology which is completely non-invasive and safe to use on any object, even people.
When parts are too delicate, large or permanent to be moved, 3D scanning can take place on-site.
Applications of 3D scanning for engineering
- Quickly and accurately capture all physical measurements of any object;
- Fastest method of reverse engineering existing parts;
- Speed up prototyping by reducing the number of design cycles;
- Incorporate modern manufacturing optimisation into older, pre-CAD designs;
- Ensure that designed parts will fit together;
- Deviation analysis of ‘as designed’ vs ‘as built’ models;
- Replicate optimisations and hand modifications of tools and parts;
- Evaluate the wear and areas of weakness on a part to improve upon the design;
- Enables precise designing of new parts around an existing one;
- Perform CAE, CDF, FEA and other engineering analysis on modified parts;
- Use as part of a QA/QC system, for first article inspection and part-to-CAD analysis;
- Evaluate tool wear during production to predict or prevent failures;
- Pre-mould precision verification.
The term 3D printing encompasses a wide range of additive manufacturing techniques. These include many different methods, machines and materials, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
The official name of ‘additive manufacturing’ distinguishes it from traditional ‘subtractive’ methods of production such as CNC and tooling. The resolution, accuracy, functionality and material properties can vary significantly depending on the quality of the machine, materials and operator. However, the overall common perception of a simple plastic phone cover, with clearly visible layers, is so elementary in comparison to what is currently being achieved with this cutting edge technology.
Each process offers its own advantages and possibilities to particular applications, but there are several clear benefits of adopting additive manufacturing technology on a global scale:
- Customisation as the new standard
Traditional manufacturing methods rely on mass production for economies of scale. Tooling and moulds are expensive to create, therefore a large number of end products must be made to offset the cost. 3D printing allows for rapid manufacturing where every single iterations can be unique or customised, and batches can be as large or small as required.
- Superior end products
Often a 3D printed part will be stronger, lighter or more precise than the part it is replacing. Complex geometric designs that were previous difficult or impossible to create are now being achieved with ease.
- Faster turnaround
Prototyping, material testing, quality control, and end product production workflows that utilises 3D technology benefit from quicker product development or part replacements.
- Local manufacturing
Products and solutions that can be created near or on-site bring the manufacturing process closer to the end user. This reduces the need to outsource internationally, boosting the local economy and giving greater design input to companies and consumers.
- Environmental impact
As the name suggests, additive manufacturing by its very nature results in less material waste than a subtractive alternative. When combined with the concept of production on demand, rather than pre-emptively creating stock, this results in less waste being created overall. Localised manufacturing also reduces the consumption of fossil fuels by not needing to ship products long distance.
Applications of 3D printing in engineering
- Production of usable end products and parts;
- Rapid creation of realistic and functional prototypes;
- Create replacement parts for older equipment;
- Make customised and optimised complex parts;
- Produce high resolution, highly accurate parts for fit, form and function testing of designs;
- Offers design flexibility, efficiency gains, and reduction of raw manufacturing materials;
- Produce moulds in days instead of weeks;
- Overcome common challenges such as complex geometry, small batch quantities and likely design changes;
- Possibilities of new component designs for equipment like pumps, compressors, impellers and more;
- Precise and impactful way to visually represent data, e.g. planned infrastructural development.
For further information about how your company can incorporate these 3D technologies into your workflow and processes, please check out 3DPrintingIreland.com or give us call on 01 849 9476 to discuss your ideas. 3D Printing Ireland is a fully comprehensive 3D Bureau, specialising in 3D design, scanning, printing and visualisations. We offer high resolution 3D scanning, 16micron polyjet printing, full colour powder printing and a range of 3D design services.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2017/06/13/utilising-3d-scanning-3d-printing-ireland-engineering-manufacturing/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Engineers-Ireland-Featured-image-1024x576.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Engineers-Ireland-Featured-image-300x300.jpgSponsored3D,3D Printing,design,manufacturing