To familiarize someone with 3D laser scanning, it helps to show them a document page laid flat on the glass of a photocopier. Through two-dimensional scanning, the data on the page is collected and can be altered for output. Basically, 3D laser scanning just adds one more dimension.
Or, you could compare a 3D laser scanning to the taking of photographs with a camera. Indeed, the lens of the scanner unit looks much like a conventional camera lens—and has a similar field of view.
Explanation of 3D Laser Scanning
What makes 3D laser scanning technology unique in relation to flatbed scanning or photography is the distance factor. Any object with surface contours will require the laser light ray to travel farther or less far to reach a given point, depending on the point’s location along the height and width of the object. This is how the software picks up surface shape. Of course, in 3D laser scanning the operator is only dealing with a portion of the three-dimensional object at any given time. In other words, the scanner cannot see around corners. Therefore it is necessary to either rotate the object or reposition the scanner multiple times, each time oscillating the light beam across the object.
The real achievement in the development of 3D laser scanning took place when engineers came up with software capable of merging and aligning a collection of scan data. This data was gathered by rotating the object and capturing its dimensions and surface features in a total 360-degree composite. One popular use for this technology is called reverse-engineering. In this process, a valuable object that already exists but was constructed without the use of computer-aided design (CAD) will have its exterior volume and dimensions captured digitally as though it were originally designed using computer software. Once the software file is cleaned up and saved, the data gathered via 3D laser scanning can be used to replicate the object—or first modify its design and then produce copies.