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3D scanning is the process of capturing digital information about the shape of an object with equipment that uses a laser or light to measure the distance between the scanner and the object. 3D scanning is also known as 3D Imaging, Laser Scanning, Laser Digitizing, and Digital Shape Sampling and Processing (DSSP). 3D scanning can capture data of very small objects all the way up to full size aircraft and buildings. It can be used for reverse engineering, computer-aided inspection, or simply documenting the shape for future use.

The "digital information" that is captured by a 3D scanner is called a point cloud. Each point represents one measurement in space.

The software tools that perform all of this have improved greatly over the last ten years. They can now handle massive amounts of data and perform operations at a very high speed. Their ability to clean up noisy point cloud data, smooth out rough scanned surfaces, and merge separate point cloud scans is more advanced and automatic. This is opening up new applications that were not possible or cost effective even five years ago. Computer-aided inspection takes thousands of times more measurement points than traditional CMM yet costs much less. 3D scanning is being used to document museum pieces or intricate architectural works. It is even being used to document crime and accident scenes. Imagine being able to revisit a crime scene years after it is gone to take exact measurements of the distance between a bullet casing laying on the floor and the hole that the bullet created in the wall.

Here is an article discussing how furtunate it was that the Notre Dame was 3D Scanned before the fire. Notre Dame 3D Scans

3D scanning is changing the engineering process. As engineers continue to rethink the way that they design and measure, its use will only increase.

The DDGT Department recently added the Trimble TX6 3D Laser Scanner into the program. 3D Laser Scanning has already been introduced to the students in the A.S. Degree program but there will be a separate new standalone course on 3D Scanning coming soon.

Trimble TX6 3D Laser
Firstlook - Trimble TX6 Laser Scanner