10 Manufacturing Workflows that Utilize Reality Capture

10 Manufacturing Workflows that Utilize Reality Capture

Reality Capture was originally utilized in the Civil and Architectural arenas because  it's limited level of accuracy aligned with these disciplines.  But now, the precision of modern laser scanning has allowed many manufactures to embrace this technology and incorporate it into their design and manufacturing workflows.  In this article we will discuss 10 examples of utilizing reality capture in various manufacturing workflows.

01.  CAD Design vs. Production
The worlds of CAD design and Production are drastically different.  Our CAD tools are capable of producing highly accurate, perfectly precise 2D Drawings and 3D models. The reality of Production is quite different.  In the real world accuracy and precision comes at a great cost in both money and time.  The real world versions of our design will never perfectly line up with our original CAD designs. This is where the practice of dimensional tolerancing is so important. 

Modern manufacturing can now incorporate Reality Capture Laser Scanning to accurately record a real world component and bring it back into the digital arena where it can be compared to the original CAD design.  The following images show the original hand drawings of a old ship design overlaid on a scanned section of a rusted hulk currently being restored. This workflow allows manufactures to check and monitor design tolerances and confirm that the real world production accurately depicts their original CAD design.

02.  Greenfield and Brownfield Site Acquisition and Evaluation
Probably the most traditional use of Reality Capture is a typical Greenfield or Brownfield site acquisition and evaluation.  Manufactures often utilize Reality Capture Scanning to evaluate and acquire precise measurements and 3D representations of new or existing spaces where they have to interface or install equipment. The ability to visualize and interact with a digitally accurate version of the space you are working in allows designers to avoid costly collisions and interferences between the new equipment they are installing and the existing structure of the space they are installing into.

The Autodesk Factory Utilities provide a good example of this workflow. The Factory Utilities allow you to place a 2D drawing on a floor plane to place your factory assets.  But in reality, the space you are working with has many potential interferences from overhead infrastructure.  Adding a reality capture scan of the building space to the 2D floorplan allows you to place your assets without costly interferences or collisions with the existing structure.

03.  Reverse Engineering From a Scan
Many manufacturers deal with legacy components that were designed and produced long before the digital era. In many cases the original design specifications of these components have been lost through the years.  Making matters worse, these parts may play a crucial role in active machines and systems. I f one of these components ever needs to be replaced, where would you start?

Reality Capture allows manufactures to digitize these components with laser scans and place them in their CAD design software.  The surfaces and outlines of the part are then extracted and recreated producing the 3D models and 2D design documents that are used to produce the replacement part.  Modern scanners are much smaller these days and can often scan machine parts in place similar to the bearing block shown in the following images.

04.   Orthographic Image Development
There are times that a full 3D model is not required.  In some cases, simple 2D drawings can be developed by directly tracing the 3D scan.  Floorplans or Layout plans are good examples of this process. These workflows are enhanced by the ability to display the reality capture scan in orthographic mode.  This visualization removes all depth of field and displays the scan as it would be drawn in traditional orthographic projection.

The following image shows the same hoist gear and bearing in perspective and orthographic mode. The orthographic version can be used to develop the desired replacement gear.

05.  Hybrid Layout Design  -  Using Scans alongside 3D models for Facility Layout
Reality Capture can be quite useful for representing equipment in a facility layout project. Developing new, more efficient facility arrangements is difficult enough but then you realize you don't have the necessary 3D models of your existing machines and equipment. In cases like this designers are turning to reality capture and scanning existing equipment instead of developing traditional 3D models. These scans can be cropped down to show just the desired machine.  The scan can then be included in the CAD layout of the facility bypassing the need for traditional 3D modeling.  Including simple top down surfaces or sketch representations in the scan allows the creation of 2D layout drawings that include both the 3D models and the reality capture scans.

The following image shows a sample layout containing both traditional 3D models and reality capture scans.  The image also includes the resulting drawing document of the combined layout.  


06.  Hyper Accurate Measurements
One of the earliest examples of Reality Capture being used in manufacturing is the use of probe arms for hyper accurate measurements.  These arms extract coordinates from a variety of surfaces and objects and allow the numeric values to be analyzed and displayed in various CAD systems. Autodesk Inventor can import these individual points into a 2D or 3D sketch allowing the designers to create geometry or surfaces based on real world coordinates.

07.  Including Anatomical Forms in Mechanical Design
Modern 3D CAD applications can easily generate most any kind of mechanically traditional shape or form necessary for a design.  But they often fall short when trying to include a natural or anatomical shape like a human body or face.  Reality Capture allows these complex forms to be scanned and imported into your CAD application where they can be used to generate surfaces that interact with your mechanical design.  It is quite common to see a custom products manufactured specifically for a single individual based on the persons scanned form.

08.  Modeling in Context of the Scan
When we begin any new 3D design project we often have some existing drawings or documents that provide a starting point.  However, in many cases manufactures have to deal with existing designs that pre-date modern CAD applications and have no proper drawing documentation.  In these situations, Reality Capture is a great way to digitally record the existing state of the design and provides an essential starting point where the modern 3D design can begin.

Designers can simply create the new 3D model inside the scanned point cloud of the original design. Modeling in context of a scan allows manufactures to systematically reconstruct a new 3D model completely based upon the reality capture scan of the original.

The following image shows a water plant recreated in Autodesk Inventor solely based on a point cloud of the original layout.  In many cases, modern equipment and piping parts were substituted for out of date components.

09.  Spatial Analysis
When you are adding or appending an existing design with new components you need to ensure there is enough room to install the new parts and that they don't interfere with the existing layout. Modern spatial analysis often requires that both the new and old components be 3D modeled in way of the interference analysis.  With Reality Capture and spatial analysis tools like Autodesk Navisworks, manufactures no longer have to create 3D models of the existing designs.  They can use Navisworks to perform a clearance analysis between the new 3D design and a point cloud scan of the original layout.  The following image shows a clearance analysis between a new pipe run and an existing boiler layout.

10.  Hybrid Design - Point / Mesh / 3D Solid
Modern manufacturing deals with Reality Capture in various formats. Scans are usually delivered as a large set of points or a triangular based mesh surface. It is often necessary to translate a reality capture scan from one format to another based upon the 3D modeling or manufacturing requirements.  It is also important to note that many manufactures need a 3D solid model as their final deliverable.  The Autodesk Product Design Suite offers several ways to deal with point scans and mesh scans.  Autodesk ReCAP also offers the ability to translate point scans to mesh if required. Autodesk Fusion allows you to convert a watertight mesh into a solid body under the appropriate conditions.  It is also important to note that Autodesk Inventor supports all three scan states allowing hybrid designs of point, mesh and solid, in the modeling environment.

It is important to note, as we conclude this article, that there are many more Reality Capture workflows being utilized by manufacturing.  This list of ten workflows is honestly just "scratching the surface" of the possible ways Reality Capture is impacting the world of manufacturing today. There were numerous CAD applications mentioned in the workflows outlined in this post.  If you have any questions regarding the workflows or software mentioned in this article, please reach out to the IMAGINiT account manager or support representative in your area.  IMAGINiT has an incredible Reality Capture team waiting to help you with whatever questions you have.

About the Author

Rusty Belcher

Manufacturing Solutions Consultant<br><br>Rusty provides implementation, training, and support services at every level for all Autodesk Manufacturing products. His specialty involves the integration of 3D design practices into manufacturing production environments. As an instructor and mentor, IMAGINiT regularly receives outstanding reviews of his impact to their customer’s organizations.

Follow on Linkedin More Content by Rusty Belcher
Previous Article
Utilities for Revit 2024.1 update is now available with added functionality
Utilities for Revit 2024.1 update is now available with added functionality

Next Article
Revit Warning: “Wall and instance have different phasing settings. Automatic creation of the infilling wall fails.”
Revit Warning: “Wall and instance have different phasing settings. Automatic creation of the infilling wall fails.”

Getting rid of one of either the opening or cut(s) on the host element in the parent family will clear the ...

Need tech support? Let us help!

Learn More