The number of companies offering personalized 3D printed models of objects that have been scanned and designed in CAD software has been increasing at a rapid pace. Part of the attraction of this technology is that it can be printed to the customers’ requirements.
Furthermore, 3D models can now be purchased from online marketplaces and printed by individuals or companies using commercially available 3D printers.
3D modeling or CAD (Computer Aided Design) allows engineers and designers to build realistic computer models of parts and assemblies. These models can then have 3D printing used to run complex simulations. A wide range of parameters can be simulated, such as strength or temperature resistance, before any physical models have been created, enabling a much faster and cheaper work-flow.
3D means three-dimensional computer graphics. It is the process of developing a mathematical representation of any surface of an object, whether it is inanimate or animate (living) object in three dimensions by means of specialized software. The product is called a “3D model” and someone who works with 3D models are often called “3D artists.”
3D modeling software is a class of 3D computer graphics software used to produce 3D models. Individual programs of this class are called “modeling.”
3D can be displayed as a two-dimensional image through a process called “3D rendering” or used in a computer simulation of physical phenomena. The model can also be physically created using 3D printing devices. This means that 3D models can be the basis for physical devices that are built with 3D printers.
Models may be created automatically or manually. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to sculpting. In sculpting, artists create sculptures that consist of tens of millions of polygons that capture all the intricate details of a character’s face, for instance, in order for these to come alive in big budget movie productions.
Three-dimensional (3D) models represent a physical body using a collection of points in 3D space, connected by various geometric entities, such as triangles, lines, curved surfaces, etc. Being a collection of data (points and other information), 3D models can be created manually, algorithmically (procedural modeling), or by scanning. Their surfaces may be further defined with texture mapping.
3D models enable the designer to see the model in various directions and views, which can help the designer see if the object is created as intended so it can be compared to their original vision. Seeing the design this way can help the designer (or company) determine changes or improvements needed to the product.
3D models are used in a wide variety of fields, such as the following:
- The movie industry uses 3D models as characters and objects either in real-life motion pictures or in animation.
- The video game industry uses them for computer and video games.
- 3D modeling is used wherein products are 3D modeled before representing them to the clients.
- The science sector uses them as highly detailed models of chemical compounds.
- The architecture industry uses them to demonstrate proposed buildings and landscapes in the place of conventional, physical architectural models.
- The engineering community uses them as designs of new devices and structures, as well as other uses.
- The earth-science community is constructing 3D geological models.
- The medical industry uses 3D to create interactive representations of anatomy, with detailed models of organs, which can be created with multiple 2-D image slices from an MRI or CT scan.
Laser scanning is a technique which can be used to gather data about an object or environment, which can then be used to create a 3D model or detailed reconstruction. 3D laser scanning uses either phase-based or LIDAR technology to accurately and efficiently capture 3-dimensional data in a wide variety of settings, regardless of size and surface features.
There are numerous applications for laser scanning such as 3D scanning of objects of scientific or historical value which cannot be personally studied due to concern about possible damage. However these objects of historical value can be studied in a reconstructed form with the assistance of a laser scanner.
Several companies make laser scanners for various purposes. Raw data from laser scanning can be run through a computer program which will use the point cloud to establish a 3D model.
The following are some of the benefits of 3D laser scanning:
- A single laser scanner is fast as it captures up to a million 3D data points per second, providing incredibly accurate and rich detail of every aspect of your project.
- Laser scanning is the most accurate form of measurement available, delivering accuracy of a few millimeters or less.
- Because laser scanning assures accurate and complete information, thereby avoiding the cost of equipment rental, manual measurements, project delays, etc., it reduces cost significantly.
- 3D scanning can obtain measurements in hard-to-reach or hazardous locations while keeping workers out of danger. Since it is done from the ground without the need for harnesses, lifts or cranes, it is safe, and can thus save lives in otherwise hazardous tasks for employees.
The claim that the future belongs to 3D CAD modeling seems realistic when the improvements this technology has brought has shown such promise. This hi-tech (3D CAD) has brought about significant improvements and efficiencies in so many industries, such as construction, architecture, manufacturing, etc.