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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Handheld Scanning Goes Automotive With Artec Hardware and Software

October 16th, 2013 by Jeff Rowe

While 3D printing gets a lot of attention on the output side of the design process, going from digital to physical; just as important is the converse, going physical to digital, also known as 3D scanning. Like 3D printers, 3D scanners vary in object capture quality (resolution), and associated cost — ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. 3D scanners are also being used for a growing number of applications, including big-ticket industries, such as automotive and aerospace.

The automotive industry has been particularly fertile ground for 3D scanning with applications ranging from reverse engineering to inspection. I recently came across an interesting automotive 3D scanning application using Artec scanners.

Two different Artec scanners were used by Hyundai Motor Europe to visualize and modify, as necessary, automobile seats for new cars from Hyundai.

The Artec L scanner was used to create a 3D model of a car seat. It was scanned from different angles to capture the gross geometry of the seat — the “big picture” stuff. The smaller, intricate details of a seat were scanned with the Artec MHT scanner. The resulting data was combined with Artec Studio software for creating a complete 3D digital model of the car seat. The combined data was then exported for design refinement and other downstream purposes

Although the Artec MHT is no longer available, the Artec L portable scanner requires the following simple steps to scan objects:

  1. Point the scanner at an object and the scanning process begins immediately. Audible and visual aids via a tethered computer guide you through the process, and ensure that you are scanning correctly.
  2. Move the scanner around the object. Real-time surface alignment gives you a good understanding of what has been scanned so far and what still needs scanning.
  3. Make as many scans as needed to capture the whole object. If you need to turn the object over to acquire all sides of it, scan the whole first side, then stop, turn the object over and scan the other side.
  4. Align all scans together to get the full model. If something is missing, just scan that part again. To align many scans use the optimization capability in the Artec Studio software. As part of the optimization process, you can also place your model to the origin of a coordinate system.
  5. Fuse all scans together to get a single triangulated mesh, in other words, a 3D model.
  6. Optimize the model by filling holes and smoothing surfaces.
  7. Export the result into a 3D format, including VRML, OBJ, STL, Ply, ASCII, AOP, E57, PTX, E57, PTX) for working with 3D applications, such as Autodesk Maya, 3DMax, Autocad, Pixologic ZBrush, Blender, XSI, Mudbox, Geomagic, Rapidform and many others.

These are the basic steps followed by virtually all 3D scanning hardware and software combinations, but Artec seems to have simplified the process and taken a lot of the learning curve out and minimized guesswork for users who may not use the technology every day.

According to Hyundai, the outcome of the Artec process is very reliable as it is supported by precise measurements of the scanned object for further evaluation. The seat model is measured and compared with a prototype for meeting quality requirements, such as comfort and ergonomics, and then its shape or contour is adjusted to standards established by Hyundai.

Interesting stuff coming out of a small, but interesting company.

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