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.
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.
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!