Everyone has heard of 3D printing, but 3D scanning is often overlooked. Whether you realize it or not, you almost certainly already know a few examples of 3D scanning. It is an increasingly ubiquitous technology.
What Is 3D Scanning?
3D scanning is exactly what it sounds like. It involves using specialized scanners to scan an environment with light, or electromagnetic radiation, and using this scan to build a 3D image. By doing this at different scales, we can use 3D scanning to discern the structure of buildings or of babies in the womb.
3d scanning services are becoming more accessible and affordable by the year. There was a time when 3D scanning technology was reserved for the wealthiest and most well-connected businesses. However, it is something that is now available at a price point and level of portability that makes it a viable tool even for smaller businesses. In fact, there are now consumer-grade 3D scanners available to pair with 3D printers for enthusiasts.
For businesses, 3D scanning is now used in a range of contexts to build accurate 3D models that can be quickly and easily fed into other software. The ability to rapidly construct accurate maps of various structures has endless uses, especially if we can scale the technology up or down.
One industry that has made extensive use of 3D scanning ever since it was first available is the aerospace industry. Not only is the industry one of the longest-standing customers for 3D scanning services, but it still accounts for a significant chunk of the market today. Aerospace components need to be manufactured to a very high standard. Using laser-based imaging enables manufacturers to identify even the tiniest of defects in the pieces they produce.
Since then, 3D scanning has proliferated through the manufacturing sector and is now a relatively common sight. 3D scanning has also proven invaluable for manufacturing fields that involve working with hazardous environments. 3D scanning allows for accurate measurements with minimal exposure.
The potential uses of 3D scanning within medicine are endless. There are a multitude of techniques that we can use to build 3D images, each of which involves a different frequency of electromagnetic radiation. All EMR, whether visible light, radio waves, x-rays, or microwaves waves, is made of the same ‘stuff’. The only difference between them is the frequency of the radiation.
We can also use sound waves to build 3D images. This is the basis of ultrasound scanners that are best known for enabling us to see fetuses as they develop in the womb, although ultrasounds are used in a variety of medical contexts.
Museums around the world are increasingly embracing 3D scanning technology as a means of forensically examining artifacts while minimizing their exposure to radiation. Taking highly detailed 3D scan data that can then be processed later means that artifacts only need to be scanned once. There have been a number of advances in 3D scanning technology driven by its use in museums.
3D scanning already has a wide range of both mainstream and niche business uses. This is going to be an important technology to watch going forward.