3D Scanning in Manufacturing

3D scanners are used extensively in manufacturing for applications such as: reverse engineering, quality inspection, design, and CAD modeling.  A 3D scan ensures parts fit together, CAD models match physical designs, or the physical part matches the CAD model.

3DScanCo - Check out the clients section, it is a pretty good collection of projects and demonstrates how 3D scanners are used in manufacturing. 

Reverse Engineering
A 3D scanner can be used to reverse engineer a product. That is not always as bad as it sounds. For example, imagine if you are Coca Cola and you have an old blow mold that you would like to incorporate into your new manufacturing process. 3D scanning can be used to capture the exact shape and size of the old blow mold and bring that into modern CAD software. Once in a modern CAD package, Coke can now use modern manufacturing enhancements like interchangeable screw tops or CFD analysis on the glass flow within the mold. They could even convert the old glass bottle to an exact match, just in plastic or aluminum. I call this application of 3D scanning and reverse engineering, Legacy Parts.

Reverse engineering is also useful to someone who manufactures cell phone accessories. It is important for them to have parts that fit very precisely and it is not always easy to get the cell phone CAD models from the cell phone manufacturers. Therefore a cell phone accessory manufacture will use a 3D scanner and reverse engineering to make their own CAD model of the cell phone as a basis for their cell phone accessory products.I call this application of 3D scanning and reverse engineering, Precise Part Fit.

Quality Inspection
3D scanners capture the size and shape of objects with extreme accuracy and precision.  Therefore 3D scanners are often used to analyze manufacturing processes.  This is called quality inspection.  Quality inspection, as it applies to 3D scanning, is the process of comparing an 'as designed' CAD model of a part to it's 'as built' manufactured result.  Quality inspection results are often displayed using a 3D scan color map that highlights regions where there is a difference between the as designed and as built.   There are standards in quality inspection called geometric dimensioning and tolerancing or GD&T.  3D scan software such as Geomagic or Rapidform now incorporates many of the standard GD&T functions.