3D scanning is the process of analyzing an object from the real world or the environment so as to collect data as its shape, appearance (i.e. color). This data is used to build digital 3D designs that have a great variety of applications.
A lot of different technologies are used to build 3D scanning devices. Each of them has its advantages and disadvantages but the common uniting thing of all the 3D scanning devices is that they collect the geometry data of physical objects with hundreds to millions of measurements.
3D scanning devices are classified in two main types: contact and non-contact 3D scanners. Non-contact 3D scanners can be divided into two main categories known as active scanners and passive scanners.
A widespread technology for non-contact scanning is laser triangulation. Scanners use a laser line or a single laser point to capture the geometry of an object. A special sensor picks up the laser light reflected off the scanned object. Then the scanner system calculates the distance from the object to the scanner by the use of trigonometric triangulation.
Trigonometric triangulation is used as well by structured light scanners. These devices project a series of linear patterns onto the object scanned. The edges of each line in the pattern are examined and distance from the scanner to the object’s surface is thus calculated.
The time-of-flight 3D laser scanners are active scanning devices that use laser light to probe the subject. Time-of-flight laser rangefinder is in the base of this technology. The laser rangefinder finds the distance of the surface of the scanned object by timing the round-trip time of a light pulse.
Technologies vary in accordance to the specific aim of scanning but the reality is that everyday thousands of companies and people use 3D scanning for creating CAD models of real parts, for quality control, production of mass customized products for fashion and medicine, prototypes, creation of precise 3D models of houses, complex medical procedures, exploring of historical artifacts, etc. 3D scanners and 3D designs are now here to stay.
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