3-D Scanning: Technology With Unlimited Application

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More specifically, 3DCAD's Robinson said his Atlanta-based company is focusing on the medical, engineering, military and education industries. "We've even been talking to NASA. They want to know if we have a printer small enough to work in the space station to print small parts," Robinson said.

If every necessary component to a spacecraft and its equipment is scanned before being sent into space, astronauts would be able to easily recall the digital file and reproduce it from the space station in the event something is damaged.

Bob Gaare, CEO of AlphaGraphics, also based in Atlanta, entered the business of digital printing on paper over 20 years ago. Gaare has recently teamed up with Robinson to add 3-D scanning and printing capabilities to AlphaGraphics.

"I've had architects and engineers look at the technology," Gaare said. "All of my customers are B2B so far; they see the potential to develop prototypes and 3-D models in order to visualize development."

Artec's Zevelyov specified that the company's resellers are generally focused on a few major industries. "Most of the businesses investing in our scanners focus on industrial applications such as prototyping, reverse engineering, product design and quality control. Many resellers approach medical clients in various sub-specialties like orthopedics, prosthetics, plastic surgery, oncology and wound care," Zevelyov said.

The capabilities of 3-D scanners that are already being utilized can easily spill over into industries that have not yet fully tapped into the technology.

One example Zevelyov gave was specific to the IT industry. "A scanner could be used to fit a new video card from one vendor into a laptop developed by another. A scan of the card could be used with CAD drawings of the new laptop to make sure the design, casing and other components work in such a way that they do not interfere with one another," Zevelyov said. Zevelyov said scanners are already being used in the design phase of some IT products like computers. As evidence, the things that can be accomplished by possessing a digital 3-D model of an object are really open to the owner's imagination. Manipulating, repairing, replicating, archiving -- the list is just beginning to form.

As Gaare put it, "3-D scanning and printing is now where regular printing on paper was 20-25 years ago. Speed and capability is going to go up and the cost is going to rapidly decline. Now, it's just a question of application, and the applications are everywhere."


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