In engineering, it is very typical to go from digital to physical. Engineers create digital mockups of their ideas in a 3D CAD solution, then use those mockups to create physical products. Manufacturers do not often consider the reverse process, however. Physical products can be turned into valuable digital models, and 3D scanning allows engineers to do just that.

Going from Physical to Digital

There are many reasons an organization might want to take a product from physical to digital. Companies can have legacy components with no digital data. Similarly, engineers may not have access to digital data for purchased products. And finally, engineers might want to inspect prototypes to ensure conformity with their design or create digital models by reverse engineering. Each of these situations could benefit from FARO Technologies’ 3D scanning and 3D metrology solutions.

Traditionally, manufacturers used metrology to compare the finished product to the digital model. This was primarily done for quality control purposes. But traditional metrology has evolved and technology has, too. 3D scanning has changed the way engineers approach product design and production engineering. This post discusses how FARO’s 3D scanning and metrology solutions enable engineers to improve their approach. Though there are numerous applications for 3D scanning, we will limit this discussion to its main applications in product engineering.

Let’s look at the impact 3D scanning technologies can make in the field of product design. We’ll focus on their applications in agile engineering and reverse engineering in particular.

3D Scanning in Agile Engineering

Agile methodologies, typically followed in software development,  allow development teams to be flexible and move fast. With the explosion of software in today’s smart, connected products, more and more hardware teams adopt agile practices from their software development peers. 

This process calls for developing concepts and prototyping them often, usually at a set frequency every two weeks. Early prototyping moves the product development process along as engineers learn from their successes and failures while ensuring everything still works. For mechanical hardware, this often requires rapid prototyping methods such as 3D printing. 

The rise of this methodology has created a need for 3D scanning solutions that can meet agile engineering requirements. Engineers want to verify that the parts that have been printed match their digital designs. But they can’t afford to get in line to use the quality department’s lab-bound metrology equipment. FARO’s 3D scanning solutions, such as FARO Quantum Max ScanArms, are lightweight, mobile, and easy to use. These solutions can be used anywhere, from an office setting to a production floor. 

A combination of hardware and software, FARO Technologies’ solutions allow users to quickly and easily take product measurements. There is no need for complicated setups or programming skills to use the scanners. These 3D scanning technologies are as simple as taking a picture with your camera. 

These benefits are even more apparent when compared to traditional 3D metrology solutions. Traditional technologies were big, stationary, expensive machines. Products had to be brought to the machine in order to be measured. But some large components simply can’t be moved to a traditional 3D scanner, limiting its use. Additionally, engineers waste precious time transporting prototypes that need to be measured. 

3D Scanning in Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is another application of 3D scanners. Engineers use digital data to create new prototypes. However, there are scenarios in which a physical part has no digital data. Components could be legacy parts, meaning these parts were developed before the digital models were commonplace. Purchased components may lack digital models if their vendors are unwilling to give up their digital data. Designers also create hand-made freeform designs like clay model. Thankfully, 3D scanning allows engineers to create a 3D model from a physical component automatically and accurately. 

FARO’s 3D scanners enable engineers to create digital versions of components of all sizes. These solutions are completely mobile and work for most components. After scanning the component, the data can be converted into any popular CAD format. Engineers can also modify the digital model if needed. The modified models can then be quickly 3D printed for use in a prototype. 

Traditionally, engineers would have to model the component in a digital rendering from scratch. This required the use of traditional 3D metrology tools to obtain component dimensions—a time-consuming, error-prone process. But thanks to innovations like those offered by FARO Technologies, engineers can spend more time working on their next prototype. 


Taking products from physical to digital is an impactful way to approach product design. 3D scanning is a powerful method for creating digital versions of physical products. This technology has a number of applications for manufacturers.

FARO’s 3D scanning technology allows manufacturers to improve agile and reverse engineering processes. Engineers are able to quickly scan prototypes to validate their dimensions. Engineers can create digital data for legacy or purchased components. 

Manufacturers can and do improve their product design processes by embracing 3D scanning technology.