Articles Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping takes virtual designs from computer aided design (CAD) or animation modeling software, transforms them into thin, virtual, horizontal cross-sections and then creates each cross-section in physical space, one after the next until the model is finished. It is a WYSIWYG process where the virtual model and the physical model correspond almost identically.
With additive fabrication, the machine reads in data from a CAD drawing and lays down successive layers of liquid, powder, or sheet material, and in this way builds up the model from a series of cross sections. These layers, which correspond to the virtual cross section from the CAD model, are joined together or fused automatically to create the final shape. The primary advantage to additive fabrication is its ability to create almost any shape or geometric feature.
The standard data interface between CAD software and the machines is the STL file format. An STL file approximates the shape of a part or assembly using triangular facets. Smaller facets produce a higher quality surface.
The word "rapid" is relative: construction of a model with contemporary methods can take from several hours to several days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Additive systems for rapid prototyping can typically produce models in a few hours, although it can vary widely depending on the type of machine being used and the size and number of models being produced simultaneously.

Articles 3D Laser Scanning

3D laser scanning accomplishes high-quality three-dimensional measurement of complex objects, generating both incredibly accurate geometric models and stunning photorealistic texture in less time than traditional recordation. For straightforward object recordation, metric analysis, reverse engineering and rapid prototyping, 3D laser scanning offers great flexibility and accuracy on a moderate budget. Objects from the size of a coin to full-sized vehicles can be quickly and accurately measured with sub-millimeter accuracy. Models created through 3D laser scanning can be imported into other mainstream 3D modeling, CAD/CAM, and engineering software applications for analysis, viewing, and manufacture.
A 3D laser scanner measures objects by emitting a laser line, which sweeps across the field of view. A digital video camera records the laser line, calculating the size and shape of objects within the field of view by analyzing the “bends” in the line as it sweeps non-flat surfaces. The measurement data is recorded to a CCD, and a color image of the scene is attached. By moving the object, or the scanner, multiple measurements are collected, which are then aligned and merged to create a solid model of the entire object.
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