(Atlantic) The copy machine is one of those inventions that many workplaces find indispensable. Before the copy machine came along, documents had to be re-typed or printed multiple times, costing millions of dollars in time, energy, and money for companies.
But what if we weren’t limited to 2-D documents? What if we could make copies of any object we desired? The Design Technology program at Iowa Western Community College is taking the next step towards that goal.
With the help and support of local donors, a new piece of technology was purchased, with the goal of understanding how objects can be taken from the physical world, translated into a virtual image, and then reproduced (using a 3-D printer) back into the physical world. This piece of technology, made by FARO Industries, is commonly referred to as the FARO Arm and Laser Scanner.
By using a highly tuned laser scanner, thousands of points per second are reflected off of the surface of an object. The result is a collage of hundreds of thousands of points, (referred to as a “point cloud”), which is reminiscent of a 3-D game of connect-the-dots. The point cloud is then uploaded to specialized software that connects all the points to create solid surfaces. At this point, the object can be manipulated and altered to fit the needs of the Design Technology students. Once the virtual image is verified, the students can then hit the “Print” button and the design will spring to life, creating a copy of the object that was just scanned.
This technology now gives students the opportunity to recreate objects that may be too complex to measure with traditional hand tools. For example, during the spring semester of a Design Technology student’s first year, the class is asked to reverse-engineer a radio controlled car. This requires them to strip the car down to the nuts and bolts. After disassembling the car, the students then re-create each part as a virtual model on the Siemens CAD software. The majority of these parts are relatively simple. However, there are a few parts which have complex curves. With the FARO Laser Scanner, students can now capture all of these free-flowing, aerodynamic curves.
The tandem function of Design Technology’s 3-D printer and the Faro Laser Scanner gives the students a unique experience during their education. In addition, it creates a broad skill set that will earn them the opportunity to be employed in a wide variety of positions across a full spectrum of industries.
November 27, 2013