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The Future of 3D Scanning – An Expert Opinion

Metrology News recently sat down with Dean Solberg, Vice President-Metrology, at Exact Metrology, for a discussion on the future role of portable 3D scanning and its role in smart manufacturing. Exact Metrology offers contract measurement & scanning services, metrology equipment solutions including hardware and software rentals from multiple locations across North America.

Q: Your company were pioneer marketers of portable arm CMM equipment. Do you believe that the market for arm based technology is now saturated or are new applications and markets still being uncovered?

A: Yes- in general we feel the arm market has matured to the point of maintenance level. Meaning as arms get past their support life they are replaced with a new ones and most people have an understanding of the capabilities of this technology. Although some recent advancements, like IP54 rating and unique end of arm devices will broaden the user base.

Q: 3D scanning has evolved over the past decade such that there are numerous competing technologies chasing the same customer application. How do you guide your customers through the 3D scanning maize?

A: Each scanner has a unique fit. We have offered different brands and technologies of scanners for many years. Some are more accurate, others can scan shiny machined parts better, some can probe and scan, and price/accuracy are a consideration as well. We focus on the specific criteria established by the customer. We always say if there was one scanner better than any other there would only be one scanner.

Q: There has been an exponential growth in the market demand for 3D scanning services. What has been the catalyst for this growth, and do you see this growth tailoring off in the future?

A: Education. As more people discover what 3D scanning can accomplish they find more need.  It can be for inspection, reverse engineering or reality capture. In general 3D scanning can be an expensive investment and take some time to master.  That is why some people choose services over owning the hardware and software.

Q: Most people associated 3D scanning with reverse engineering and digitization of existing assets. What will it take for 3D scanning to become common place in production measurement applications?

A: First is understanding what 3D scanning can do and how much information you get in a very short period of time. Next is automating that process which can reduce manpower. More information, less time and less manpower are all critical needs for most production facilities.

Q: With Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing coming to fruition where measurement process become integrated into adaptive manufacturing processes; how do you see the future for portable, hand-held 3D scanning solutions?

A: The handheld scanner will become the caliper of the 21st century. Profile tolerancing will drive the need to capture more data faster on the manufacturing line.

Q: Your company entered the computed tomography market recently. How receptive have you found the market to CT scanning technology for industrial measurements and what are the typical industries and applications you have been servicing?

A: We have found the market to be extremely receptive. The ability to see inside of parts for both accurate dimensional inspection and defect detection has been a game changer. Some industries adopting the technology are injection moulding, additive manufacturing, aerospace, diecasting, and medical companies. A great win for CT is the fact you can achieve 100% inspection on a part (or multiple parts) at once. This eliminates several processes like first measuring on the CMM then cutting the part then placing on the vision machine.

Q: Exact Metrology was recently acquired by InPlace Machining. How do you see this new strategic partnership evolving.

A: The acquisition allows us to expand our reach not only in the USA but also Canada. It has opened doors to customers we did not have access to before. But most importantly it gives our customers a wide range of services such as onsite machining, diamond wire cutting, and alignment which goes hand in hand with our expertise in the metrology world.

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