Scanning the Future

The Faro Arm Scanner & Polyworks at the AMC

Many visitors to our facility come to see the 3D printing, laser cutting and etching, vinyl printing, textile and CNC machines.  The potential of the technology at the IMRC labs exceeds the wildest dreams of any technophile.  Watching faces light up as visitors on a tour around the facility see the different spaces, machines, and what they have to offer is always a pleasure.  There are so many wonderful things all packed into one space trying to figure out what project to do first  is overwhelming.

Yet there is one item that will not be found there on a regular basis, the Faro Arm Laser Scanner.  We share this wonderful piece of technology with the Advanced Manufacturing Center.  Most of the time it will be in the AMC facility though we will have access to it when it is not being used.  If someone were to need it on a weekend or needed its awesomeness for a site specific purpose we can package it up and transport it to it’s on-site tripod.

The reason this machine is so special, if it isn’t already obvious, is the role it plays in completing the circle of the digital design and fabrication workflow.  Most of our tools and machines are based on output allowing a persons ideas to become a physical reality.  How ever the laser scanner can reverse the process allowing us to reverse engineer the architecture of a certain object or expedite the creation of 3D files to manipulate and output later.  Trying to create a 3D file from a life object is tedious and time-consuming and in some cases extremely difficult but with new technology complex objects are easily loaded into the computer within about 15 minutes!  This is light years faster than the older laser and light scanners of only a few years ago.   Using those scanners was faster and more accurate than measuring all the metrics of a part by hand and entering into the software but the process still took most of the day before the file ended up in the computer.  The Faro Arm Scanner is truly and amazing and will make attainable those big ideas that were once just beyond reach.

Another great feature of the Faro Arm is that it comes with the digitizing software Polyworks, donated to the AMC by GE.  This software quickly aligns files and uploads them. Also it can recognize features of an object and automatically align a facet to other data points, a process which was the reason digitizing 3D objects took so long in the past.  Polyworks also comes with another feature that makes it especially effective for reverse engineering and manipulation of files once digitized by interpreting point cloud information into feature based geometries that are editable by software like Rhino or Solidworks.  This exponentially increases the value of such a tool for not only engineers but artists and anyone wanting to become efficient in the prototyping design process.

-by Sean Michael Taylor