How To Bridge 3D Scanning With 3D CAD

   By on April 13, 2020

Did you know that 3D scanning has been around since Egyptian times? Okay, maybe not so much in the way we think of 3D scanning today, but they developed the early concepts of reverse engineering by creating 3D plaster-cast replicas. Fast forward to today’s scanners, which use laser and structured light technology that can capture highly accurate scans that range from very small, intricate objects to much larger objects in a fraction of the time! It’s easy to appreciate how far this technology has come over the years and the many different industries that 3D scanning is helping revolutionize. In this article, we’re going to cover some of the ways you can get your 3D scanning data into a 3D CAD environment where you can interact, manipulate and make the most of it.

Starting with the raw scan data

As a TriMech Application Engineer, I am fortunate that I not only get to use some amazing powerful products, but I get to experience how those products are used by our customers.

3d Scanning applications

Some of the products that I really enjoy working with are the Artec 3D scanners! These amazing tools provide customers with the ability to capture point cloud data, are easy to use and are a tremendous asset to anyone needing to capture data quickly and easily. They interface with the Artec Studio software so you can easily export a variety of mesh data file types such as STL, OBJ, PLY or WRL, to name a few.

Artec Space Spider

Working with Mesh Files

The challenge with mesh files is that they cannot be edited with standard SOLIDWORKS CAD features. They are a series of connected triangles (also known as tessellations).

This is not to suggest that mesh files are not useful. While you can 3D print directly from the mesh file, there are options available that allow you to convert the mesh into workable features, such as surfaces and curves, which can be referenced for 3D solid modeling.

These options include:

ScanTo3D (SOLIDWORKS Professional/Premium Add-in):

  • Capability of editing and cleaning up mesh
  • Creating surfaces or curves


Mesh Modeling Tools (SOLIDWORKS 2018 and newer)

  • Importing directly
  • Converting to mesh body feature
  • Combining mesh bodies (Add, Subtract, Combine)

    Mesh modeling too in SOLIDWORKS 2018

Direct Editing of Mesh Bodies (SOLIDWORKS 2020)

  • Directly edit tessellated geometry
  • Trim operations
  • Delete and Fill

Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS

  • Create mesh from scan data
  • Advanced mesh edit/repair
  • Advanced mesh cleanup tools
  • Feature extraction capability (Extrude, Revolve, Sweep)

Using Scan Data for Reverse Engineering

Do you have a part that needs to be replaced, but you don’t have a CAD model or documentation from which to fabricate? No problem! If your goal is to reverse engineer from your mesh data, Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS is the best integrated 3D Scan to CAD solution we’ve found that bridges this gap.

Geomagic for SOLIDWORKS Toolbar

Using a history-based modeling workflow, a user can extract geometry, create sketches and model features all while referencing the original imported mesh data. Utilize a hybrid modeling approach by also using the existing SOLIDWORKS features you know and love.

hybrid model in Geomagic for SOLIDWORKSYou can even extract complex surfaces!

Complex surfaces in Geomagic for SOLIDWORKSBut what if your geometry is much more complex? If your design consists of freeform, swoopy surfaces, then you can take advantage of the Auto Surface command which does the mesh-to-surface conversion for you. Can you image trying to extract features for this dinosaur model? Me either!

3d scan into solidworksConverted data with Auto Surface feature in SOLIDWORKSFully converted data using the Auto Surface feature took less than 3 minutes!

>> Learn more about using 3D scanning for reverse engineering

The different options to work with mesh data allow you to create amazing designs. With these different options, you can edit geometries and add and edit design features to perfect your models.

If you’re looking to expand your engineering capabilities to 3D scanning and want to see the Artec Eva and Space Spider capturing object geometry and color, check out our on-demand webinar.

Related Products

Browse the TriMech web store for SOLIDWORKS software to design, analyze and manufacture your products on your desktop.

Ralph Gillis

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