Truth is it feels great to hit a home run, but if you are trying to always knock it out of the ballpark you are going to have a lot of strikes. In working with a lot of people trying to come up with ideas for new products, it seems like we focus too much up front on trying to hatch a unicorn, and not enough on just having something that works. “Everyone wants to find the next great idea, what is wrong with just a good idea?” explores this and gives some examples of how trying to just solve a problem ended up being disruptive.
Product innovation doesn’t always start with a blank sheet. Many times our customers need to begin with an accurate representation of their existing products, or a piece that theirs interfaces with, or even a competitive solutions. That is why we offer scanning and reverse engineering services that take real world parts and convert them into an accurate and useful CAD model.
What is Part Scanning
Part scanning is a process where we use machines to measure geometry. Before scanning someone would use rulers, calipers, and other measuring devices dating from the industrial revolution to get critical dimensions off of a part and painstakingly document what they find. That got better with Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) where you could accurately measure key locations on the geometry. The problem with this approach was that it only gave you data where you measured. Fine for simple parts like a flange with bolt holes. But not good when you have crazy free-form surfaces or many features. Another approach was to section the parts and project a shadow onto a piece of paper and trace it. If you needed more measurements, cost went way up.
To solve this problem, people found a way to measure lots of points easily: scan the part with some sort of optical sensor and measure points on the part as you go. Early scanning systems used lasers, measuring the beam that bounced back. This worked well, especially for very large objects. But was tricky on some surfaces and produced a lot of noise in the data. So researches figured out that they could project patterns of light and dark onto an object and measure how the edges of that pattern bent and warped. This is called Structured Light Scanning, and Wikipedia has a good article giving more details on how it works. We use the “blue light” version of this process here at PADT for our optical scanning services.
The other process we use is Cross Sectional Scanning. As the name implies it scans the cross section of parts, and it does it by actually shaving off material one layer at a time and then taking a picture of the 2D cross section that is revealed. Although you consume the part in the process, it is a very accurate and fairly affordable way to measure complex internal geometry.
What you get from both scanning approaches is what we call a point cloud. What is a point cloud? A file with millions of points defined as an X, Y, and Z position in space that represent locations that sit on the surfaces of the object. You can measure critical dimensions, compare different geometries, and use it as a basis to create a computer model. The key thing to note is that PADT uses precise scanners and leading software, combined with the experience of our operators to produce an accurate and usable point cloud.
For most projects, getting the point cloud is just the first step. In order for our customers to redesign, update, simulate, or interface with the part we scanned, they need an accurate computer model. Instead of millions of points, the computer model contains a more concise mathematical representation of the surface defined by the points. The simplest thing we can do is simply fit triangles through those points. This is refered to as a faceted model because it is made up of triangular facets. This data is used for 3D Printing, rendering, and for design in some cases. Most often we deliver an STL file for this type of model. If a more accurate representation is needed, our engineers can convert those facets into an actual Computer Aided Design (CAD) model. It can be just a dumb solid, or we can even make key features parametric. The geometry can be handed over in many different formats, including IGES, Paraolids, STEP, SolidWorks, SolidEdge, NX, or CREO.
How Part Scanning with PADT Different
To be blunt, the reason why we added scanning to our capabilities was that we had always outsourced this service for our customers. We found plenty of people with scanners, but they just scanned a part, ran the software, and provided OK data for our customers. The problem was they were not experts in the technology behind scanning, they lacked a theoretical understanding of math behind 3D computer geometry modeling, and they were not experts in product development. It turned out that scanning the geometry was the easy part, what our customers needed was someone who knew how to scan it right and produce useful information. Information they didn’t have to spend time cleaning and massaging. Our engineers combine all of these skills along with a firm understanding of quality requirements, GD&T, and most of the major CAD systems. In addition, PADT is ITAR compliant and can deal with your confidential geometry and data requirements. The fact that PADT is a recognized expert in Additive Manufacturing is often useful as well. We could not find a service provider that had all of the things our customers required, so we decided to do it ourselves.
Leveraging PADT’s Part Scanning and Reverse Engineering Services
Getting parts scanned by PADT is actually fairly easy. Step one is to contact PADT and talk to our engineers so they can produce a quote. Ideally it is best for you to bring the part or parts in to our Tempe office. If that is not feasible we will need some basic pictures of your part and key dimensions like maximum length, width, and height. They will then talk with you to understand what you actually want to accomplish by scanning. Armed with this information they will provide a quote for scanning and any geometry creation or other activities you need completed including cost, schedule, and a list of deliverables.
In most cases, you will ship us or drop off the part or parts, and our team will go to work. If needed, we can also come to where the parts are located and scan them there. The deliverables vary from job to job, and are negotiated as part of the quoting process. In general we will provide you with an STL or CAD file with the level of accuracy and detail that you ask for. If needed, we can also provide you with the point cloud itself. We can also complete inspection reports and provide comparisons between datasets.
Reach out to Give it a Try or Learn More
Our team is ready and waiting to answer your questions or provide you with a quote. You can email us at email@example.com or give us a call at 480.813.4884 or 1-800-293-PADT.
Still want to learn more? Here are some links to more information:
- Download or scanning brochure
- A more detailed blog post on scanning from early 2017, including a “Scanning 101” section with some great background on the technology
- The 3D Scanning Wikipedia article. This has lots of basic information as well as more links to greater details.
- Information on the Geomagic Capture Scanner, an easy to use, compact, and very portable blue light scanner that we use for a lot of projects.
- Details about the ZIESS Comet optical scanner, a professional and highly accurate blue light scanner that we use for our more demanding projects.
- An overview of Cross Sectional scanning.
- A brief summary of the Geomagic Software we use to create useful models from point clouds. It also has links to more in-depth information.
- An article in Additive Manufacturing magazine about how PADT used our scanners to create a replacement part for a P-51 Mustang airplane. It includes a great video as well.
When Nathan Huber moved to Arizona from Colorado to join PADT he learned a lot, and one of the things he learned fast was that the inside of cars get very hot in the summer here. In fact, the shift knob on his car was untouchable in July. This coincided with his learning more about metal 3D Printing and an idea occurred, what about 3D Printing a metal shift knob designed to cool off faster, and that looked cool. Oh, and use ANSYS to drive the design.
He blogged about it before (here and here), and Additive Manufacturing online picked up the story and added to it on their blog post “3D Printing a Metal Shift Knob for Faster Cooling” Check it out, they did a nice job of explaining what we did and how Nathan used several of our tools like ANSYS Mechanical and our Concept Laser metal system to realize the design.
We are very pleased to announce the launch meeting of the newest New Mexico Technology Council peer group: 3D Printing. After the success of other peer groups, and a similar committee in the Arizona Technology Council, PADT is partnering with the NMTC to start a group focused on all things Additive Manufacturing, which is the more technical name for 3D Printing. Schools, businesses, and individuals who have any involvement or interest in this exciting and transformative technology will be able to network and organize to get greater value from 3D Printing. This includes understanding the technology, working together on research projects, and getting to know what services are available locally. It will also serve as a platform to coordinate the use of 3D printing in STEM education.
We will kick off the meeting with introductions around the room, then listen to Rey share his views on what is new and interesting in this industry, then talk about the peer group, answer questions, and start planning our next activities. At around 6:45 or so we will commence with the networking.
Please contact PADT at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions before the event. We hope to see you there.
Don’t forget to register, and please let anyone else you think might be interested know about the event.
One of my engineering idols is Clarence “Kelley” Johnson. He led the design of many of the coolest aircraft ever made, and he was a pioneer in managing large engineering projects. In “Remembering Kelley Johnson, aircraft design icon and project management superstar” I talk about why he was such an important figure in technology, and some rules he developed for effective project management. Even if you are not an airplane person, it is worth getting to know his work and his methods.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it is one of those positions where you sometimes have take a different path to end up where you should. I “Why medical startups should not focus on patients” in order to in the end, deliver better products and better outcome to their patients. I’ve observed too many good ideas fail because the creators are not paying attention to the people who will pay for and deploy the solution.
Artificial intelligence has been a Science Fiction staple for decades, and has been the focus of much marketing hype more recently. While all this was going on however, AI sort of happened. It is here, it is part of our every day, and “Are you ready for artificial intelligence to change your business?” This is one of those fundamental technology shifts that impacts everything, and smart business will understand and adapt.
People talk about automation, mostly with respecte to manufacturing, like it is something that is comming. But “Automation is here and we need to pay attention.” If you don’t understand how computer software, robotics, and sensors are changing every aspect of our lives, odds are you will miss how it will change your business.
Like so much else these days, the way that we deliver training to employees has changed over time to take advantage of new technologies. This is especially true for technical training on how to use hardware and software. The traditional classroom approach has been replaced with online and on-demand training. In “Technical training for employees is changing, is that a good thing?” I put on my curmudgeon hat and talk about why the traditional way has advantages that outway the negatives.
If you have ever implemented a Database appcliation at your business you know it can be a pain. In “5 things to think about when implementing a database product at your business” I go over some lessons that we have learned over time to make the whole process and outcome better.
The project to keep a 1944 P-51 Mustang flying was covered again, this time in 3D Metal Printing Magazine (Pg 23-33). Concept Laser worked with PADT to reverse engineer and print the exhaust manifold from a P-51 to keep it flying. Unlike the other article and video on the project, this reporter used this example as a great way to look at the readiness of military aircraft, and not just antique planes.
As PADT’s Rey Chu says ““This was a great exercise that’s suitable for numerous military applications and very relevant to the future use of 3D metal printing to maintain fleets in the field,” Chu says. “Maintaining spare-parts inventory has become a significant challenge, for example, to the Air Force. Additive manufacturing could be the solution.”
Mostly we make boxes. Pretty boxes but the bulk of what we 3D Print is some sort of plastic box that people stuff electronics in to. Most of the time we also don’t really know what customers do with the objects we make for them. But every once in a while you get involved in a project that really makes a difference. That could not be more true than two recent medical applications for 3D Printing that we worked on with Intermountain Healthcare (IHC) in Salt Lake City, Utah.
KSL, a local TV station, did a story on our IHC was deploying 3D Printing to produce better outcomes for their patients. You can view the story here.
PADT was fortunate enough to be part of two of the cases mentioned in the story. The first was a St George man who was feeling some pain in his back. He had a scan and they found 12 kidney stones. On top of that, his kidney was not in the right place and was distorted. PADT helped print a model of the scan so that the doctors could just get a real feel for what they were dealing with, and then plan the surgery.
The second situation really pulled at our heart strings. A 10 year old boy needs heart surgery and its a complicated problem. They need a model fast so we worked with Stratasy to quickly print an accurate model so tha the surgeons could come up with a plan. We still have not heard how it went, they are scheduling things, but the feedback from the team was that the 3D model was extremely helpful. We are talking life saving.
Both of these recent situations build on years of examples where we have worked the doctors and their technical assistance to convert scans of patients into usable 3D Models. If you are in the surgery or surgery planning space and want to learn more about how accurate 3D models printed directly from scan data can be used to improve patient outcome, contact PADT at email@example.com and we will connect you with our 3D Printing team.
Everywhere you drive in Phoenix you see autonomous cars being tested. These are cool and all, but they also are a sign of a whole new boom in technological change. In “Self-driving cars are driving big changes in tech” I go over some of the key disruptive innovations that will be driven by these new vehicles.
When Cox Communications asked us to be part of its local Smart Home Tour I said yes for one simple reason: I wanted to see a truly connected home. in “3 keys to success for smart home devices” I discuss some of the lessons I learned about IoT devices that actually work in the home.
When I was asked to take part in a demonstration put on by one of our local communication companies, Cox Communications, showing off what a “smart home” looks like, I of course said yes. I love gadgets, and smart gadgets more. On top of that it was another chance to evangelise on the power of 3D Printing. And I got to hang out in a brand new luxury condo in Downtown Phoenix, a post kid lifestyle change that is very appealing. Plus we deal with customers designing and improving Internet of Things (IoT) devices all the time, and this is the perfect chance to see such products in action.
So I packed up one of our Makerbots, none of our Fortus machines fits in the back of my Prius, and headed downtown. The first thing that shocked me was that I had the printer, my iPhone, iPad, and laptop connected to their network in about one minute. The printer showed up on the Makerbot Print app on my iPad and I was printing a part in about three minutes.
The whole point of the demonstration was to show how the new high-speed Internet offering from Cox, Gigablast, can enable a true smart home. So I was focused on the speed of the connection to the Internet, which was fast. What I didn’t get till I connected was that the speed and bandwidth of the WiFi in the house was even more important.
When everything was connected, we had 55 devices on the local network talking to each other and the Internet. At one point I was downloading a large STL file to the printer while on a teleconference on my iPhone and my “roommate” was giving a violin lesson to one of his students in Canada.
Oh, and the roomba started to vacuum the floor. On the balcony someone was giving a golf lesson and a doctor was diagnosing a patient in the master bedroom. That was on top of the smart kitchen gadgets. And it all worked. Yes, it all worked.
I’m trying to convey shock and surprise because the reality is that nine times out of ten when I show up for some event, at a customer, or at a friends house and we try and connect things to the internet… it doesn’t work. If you are a technical guy you know that feeling when your vacation or visit for dinner turns into an IT house call. All I could think of was how awesome it was that everything worked and it was fast.
So I went to work printing little plastic Arizona style houses with COX on the roof. And then a reporter showed up. “3D Printing, interesting. Hmmmm… they are cool and all but really, what does that have to do with a smart house?” Damn reporters and their questions. I was still reveling in the fact that everything worked so well, I hadn’t taken to time to think about the “so what.”
Then I thought about it. 3D Printing in the home is just now starting to take off, and the reason why is actually high-speed internet connections. If you wanted a 3D Printer in your home in the past you needed the printer, a high end computer, and some good 3D modeling software on that computer. Basically you had to create whatever you wanted to make. Unless you are a trained engineer, that may not be so easy.
But with a well connected home you have access to places like Thingiverse and Grabcad to download stuff you want to print. And if you do want to create your own, you can go to Tinkercad or Onshape and use a free online 3D modeler to create your geometry. All over the web, even on a pad, phone (I don’t recommend trying to do modeling on a phone, but it does work), or on a basic computer. The files are stored in the cloud and downloaded directly to your printer. No muss, no fuss. All you need is a reliable and fast connection to the internet and in your home.
High speed internet and a smart 3D printer makes anyone a maker.
And when we had a three hour break, I went downstairs to a coffee shop on the ground floor of the condo and worked, while monitoring my builds using the camera in the smart 3D Printer.
Pretty cool when you step back and think about how far we have come from that first Stereolithography machine that PADT bought in 1994. We had to use floppy disks to get the data from our high-end Unix workstation to the machine. Now it sits on the web and can be monitored.
This may be what we have been waiting for when it comes to 3D Printers in the home moving beyond that technologists and makers.
I’ve been focused on my experience with the 3D printing in the smart home, but there was a lot more to look at. Check out these stories to learn more:
I also did a piece for the Phoenix Business Journal while I was at the event on “3 keys to success for smart home devices” based on what I learned while playing with the other devices in the smart home.
All and all a good day. Oh, and being a 10 minute walk from my favorite pub made the idea of living downtown not such a bad idea, which doesn’t have much to do with high speed internet, connected devices, or 3D Printing. But one of my goals was to check out post-child urban living…