The aerospace industry has long been a driver of 3D scanning and the implementation of this technology into its quality assurance systems.
As the accuracy of current 3D scanning technology has improved and data collection has become much faster, the viability of scanning full aircraft or component parts has seen a dramatic increase in demand from aerospace companies.
For example, scanning an airplane exterior can now be completed in a matter of days when, in the past, it would take up to a week. Additionally, data processing has also become much quicker with advancements made in software and data handling.
For scanning projects of this size, a combination of laser trackers and long-range scanners are used. The use of these high-precision metrology instruments allows quick scanning of large volumes as well as control of the scan-to-scan for fit and accuracy. Additionally, the alignment challenges that have long been present in the aerospace industry have been greatly reduced with the innovative capabilities of both laser trackers and today’s long-range scanners.
With aluminium continuing to be the most often used material in manufacturing aerospace skins and components, advancements made in metrology instruments now allow for highly accurate scanning both indoors in an environmentally controlled condition and outdoors when conditions are less than ideal. Newer technology can combat both the high reflectivity of chrome finishes and material expansion.
Due to scale and requirements, the metrology instruments used in aerospace scanning can vary. The levels of precision required for scanning panels or individual components are often much higher than those for scanning a full fuselage. For these tight tolerance areas, higher precision scanners such as structured light or laser scanners, and portable coordinate measurement machines may be used.
Highly precise and accurate data is very important for many aspects of the aerospace industry. Precise scans are allowing for more accurate reproduction of components in reverse engineering applications, while the same precision increases the confidence in part validation during quality inspection. Accurate representations also enable improved virtual testing such as finite element analysis (FEA) or computational fluid dynamics (CFD).
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