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The smart reason to “copy” an existing object with a 3D scanner

The smart reason to “copy” an existing object with a 3D scanner

We often hear: “now that people have 3D scanners, aren’t you afraid they will start copying everything?” First, 3D scanners are not an enabler here; it was possible to copy existing objects long before the venue of this technology; if anything, it only took longer.

There are however cases where you need to work with existing parts, components or assemblies where having a virtual image of your component will save you a lot of time. Think of people modifying existing equipment and changing or improving its use.

Take the example of Ben from EMI Conception, a company specialized in the manufacture of high-end digging equipment for excavators from 1 to 30 tons. They also do all sorts of mechanical projects. Before getting their peel 3d scanner, they would use traditional measuring (a mix of tape measure and caliper) to model different existing components. Things could get creative with the use of cardboard templates and what not but in the end, and with a few iterations, it always worked. Adding 3D scanning into the project was a way for them to get things right the first time with a high level of confidence.

Ben recently reached out to us about a project involving a metal casting for a component used in airplanes. These castings used to be available as bare and would get machined to their final tolerances to reach certain higher tolerances required by the industry and be used as part of the plane cockpit. Unfortunately, in our specific case, the component was discontinued and no longer available; there is also no drawing or existing CAD file for the component either… Luckily, the owner still had a bare casting.


As you can see from the picture, the component has a very organic shape with very few aligned surfaces making it particularly difficult to model using traditional methods. To use Ben’s words, this is where a 3D scanner comes in handy! He started by 3D scanning the raw component, to keep it as a virtual archive, should they ever need to produce additional castings.

The part was then machined to tolerance and scanned again, this time to create a 3D solid in CAD to create drawings of the components, used for machining of future components. This is how the same 3D scanner was used twice on the same part but for 2 completely different uses; now that’s smart!

This is how making a simply copy becomes innovative and takes engineering further. Of course, a scanner good enough to be used on mechanical components could do just as good in a museum to archive artifacts or to capture the shape of a residual limb in a medical clinic.

Going back to Benoit’s project, he also sent me a scan he did of a dirt bike; the scan took about a minute and provides a lot of highly valuable information that would otherwise be very difficult to get. This looks promising for his next project. 😊

Do you have an interesting story or project to share? Contact us, who knows, it might end up on this blog as well!