From atoms to bytes

Once we had the part off of the front of the car we evaluated it's suitability for replication. What makes a part a good candidate for scanning and printing? We look for complexity, how many features are external vs internal, are there moving parts within it. We look at the color of the object, and how reflective the material is. We also evaluate the size, as parts that are too small or too large can be outside our effective scanning area.

Since this part was about 10inches in length, had no internal features, and was of moderate complexity we knew we could get a good scanning result from it.

After placing the object in our desktop scanner, we let the machine work it's magic. How it works: Our scanners use a process called "Laser Triangulation Scanning." In essence the scanner fires an array of lasers at the object, and then using some complex trigonometry determines the distance of the object from the scanner. With enough points of distance it is able to determine the topography of the object, and with enough topography you get a 3D representation of the object.

Everything is better with lasers

Everything is better with lasers

Once the initial scan is done we place digital guide pins to allow the computer to properly align the scans in an accurate context, then trim any excess that we see. The computer then creates a proper mesh of the object and we are able to convert that to formats that we can use in 3D printing. 

Comparing original part to scan data

Comparing original part to scan data

Once that is complete we do a thorough checking of the end result to ensure it reflects the original as accurately as we can. While no scan is "perfect" we always try to make a replication indistinguishable from the original.

The time and accuracy of the process varies object to object, but in general the scanning process takes a couple hours with human involvement being a small portion of that. As you can see from this car scan, the results can replicate the real world quite accurately!

Owen TienComment
Automotive Parts

Every so often we get some time and can work on a personal or company print. With our teammate Steve being the proud owner of a "new to him" car, we had the perfect opportunity to put our processes through their paces and demonstrate the future of replacement parts.

Steve's car had one small flaw when he received it, a panel on the front facia was broken. 

After some preliminary inspection, he decided that this part was a perfect fit for replication using our 3D Scanning technology and subsequent 3D Printing. The process will go as follows:

1. Inspect part for suitability - Done! Looks fantastic

2. 3D Scan Part and clean up scan data

3. Choose appropriate material - Maybe a chance to go for some "bling" ? We will see!

4. Print using our FDM Technology - Due to the size and needed durability, using our FDM machines will be a perfect fit for this project

5. Post-Process - Clean up part and remove support material. Ensure dimensional accuracy

6. Install!

The largest potential pitfall we see with this project is the location of the part on the car. It will be exposed to a wide range of temperatures (this is Michigan after all), and will be subject to repeated impact by road debris. That said, we've seen our products go through some very large stresses, so we believe it will work out well.

Our plan is to document this project throughout these steps, so check back soon to see how the scanning goes!

 

Owen TienComment
Design thought and process in the months ahead

Over the past two years of working with our customers we've come to find design being a larger and larger part of what we do every day. Our goal, as with all things, is to take a complicated process and simplify it and make it accessible, usable, repeatable, and special. It's in this spirit you will see small changes around thingsmiths in the coming months as we work to integrate our design methodology into more of what we do. 

Curious about our design process?  Check out our new description here

Owen TienComment
2014 WebMD Health Hero Awards

You may have noticed that we've been exceptionally busy around the shop the past couple weeks. We've had to be mum about what we were up to until now, but we can now share that we were the sponsors and creators of the awards for the 2014 WebMD Health Hero awards.  We had such fun doing this, and will share more about the process in the coming days. For now, check out the link below to learn more about this great event.

 

2014 WebMD Health Hero Awards

Owen TienComment