FARO Releases a New 3D Scanning Arm

FARO introduces a new portable 3D scanner. Will it open up new avenues for onsite reverse engineering?

FARO Technologies has announced the release of its Design ScanArm, a portable solution for reverse engineering and CAD-based design.

According to FARO, the lightweight ScanArm uses blue-laser technology and rapid scanning speeds to ping light off of target objects, rendering them into digital versions of their real-world selves.

Although the ScanArm is capable of creating accurate point clouds of reflective objects without the need for spraying or masking, the scanner isn’t capable of meshing a point cloud to turn it into a “solid” 3D model. For that, engineers require a separate piece of software. Fortunately, for those willing to jump right into FARO’s ScanArm fast sell, such a piece of software can be had for free. And sure, though I am mocking their pitch a bit, the software that FARO is offering isn’t junk, it’s actually a very powerful industry standard named Geomagic, from 3D Systems.

Those unfamiliar with Geomagic should know that when it comes to working with mesh data, there’s no program around that’s better at repairing surfaces, decimating complex models and preparing a model for 3D printing or other manufacturing procedure.

But back to the ScanArm.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of the ScanArm has to be its portability. Given that the ScanArm can accurately grab the details from any real-world object, having the ability to bring it into the field is critical. With a tool like the ScanArm, any designer building after-market parts will be able to accurately sample any object and use it as the foundation of a new design. What’s more, the ScanArm’s portability also has the potential to put an engineer in direct contact with the people they’re designing for. Say a job requires an onsite scan—during the scan, a designer can meet the people they’re working for and receive critical design input that might have been lost in a less interpersonal transaction.

Sure, the last point is a bit of a stretch, but with the mass customization movement on the rise, tools like portable 3D scanners are going to put more engineers in direct contact with their clients, and that might just lead to more satisfying design.