The quick answer is anyone in manufacturing, engineering, design, development, surveying or testing. 3D scanning technology can be applied at any point in a typical manufacturing cycle, saving time, money and material. 3D scanning results in higher quality, better fitting parts that are less costly to manufacture. The cost of a typical manufacturing design cycle is reduced by 75% by utilizing 3D scanning. The illustration below outlines a typical manufacturing product cycle.
Use physical objects to conceptualize the idea; this is typically done by an industrial designer in clay lead design or foam lead design. 3D scanning can also be applied at the idea concept phase by digitizing objects, then using them as renderings in concept illustrations.
3D scanning can be applied at the design phase by starting with a physical object and using it to design a CAD model. Oftentimes, designers need to design around or fit their design to existing objects. These mating parts can also be scanned and incorporated into the design, resulting in parts that fit better on a consistent basis. The process of using an existing manufactured part to create a CAD model is often referred to as reverse engineering or reverse modeling. By utilizing reverse engineering, new designs can incorporate and improve upon engineering optimization already inherent to the manufactured part.
3D scanning can be applied at the prototype phase in many ways; the most common is actually to reduce the number of prototype design cycles necessary. A part designed using 3D scan data often only requires one or no prototypes since it is designed utilizing precise measurements of the physical world. 3D scanning can also be used in combination with prototyping to scale physical objects.
By using 3D scan data, a physical object can be translated directly to the engineering phase of a project and moved on from there. 3D scan data is often used to perform CFD, CAE, FEA and other engineering analysis on objects that have been manufactured and then physically modified.
3D scanning can be used to capture changes to tooling or parts that occur on the shop floor. Tooling is often "hand tuned" to achieve the final desired look and finish of a part. Using 3D scanning, hand modifications and optimizations can be transferred from tool to tool to ensure all manufactured parts match after production. 3D scanning can also be used to analyze and characterize tool wear during production, and if used correctly, to predict or eliminate tool failure. In the event of tool failure, 3D scan data can be used to recreate the optimized part.
3D Scanning is used to analyze the "as-built" condition of parts after they have been manufactured. Typically, non-contact technology is used to quickly inspect the overall shape and size of parts, quickly detecting issues such as part warpage or overall scale issues. Contact inspections are well suited to analyze bolt-hole locations, bores, bosses and other prismatic features. 3D scanning is used in combination with statistical analysis software to maintain and predict quality in manufacturing.
Vision systems are commonly used in shipping and distribution centers to track and sort packages. 3D scanning is also used before and after shipping to certify product integrity during transport. 3D scanning is used in packaging as a reliable means of increasing packing density and is also used to quickly create casing and support structures.
Quickly capture all of the physical measurements of any physical object
Save time in design work
Ensure parts will fit together on the first try
Capture engineering optimizations inherent in manufactured parts
Utilize modern manufacturing on parts that were originally manufactured before CAD
Compare "as-designed" model to "as-built" condition of manufactured parts