Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time.
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or stops working in the vehicle, however, this special status quickly becomes a problem, as spare parts are no longer manufactured either. With the advent of Industrie 4.0, this is set to change: manufacturing is turning toward batch sizes of one and individualized production. This is sometimes also referred to as “highly customized mass production.”
New scanner works autonomously and in real time
Although this kind of individual manufacturing is still some way off, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD are taking the vision of batch sizes of one a big step closer to reality, with a new type of 3D scanning system. “The special thing about our system is that it scans components autonomously and in real time,” says Pedro Santos, department head at Fraunhofer IGD. For the owners of vintage cars with a broken part, this means that the defective component is glued together and placed on a turntable, which is situated beneath a robot arm with the scanner. Everything else happens automatically.
The robot arm moves the scanner around the component so that it can register the complete geometry with the minimum number of passes. Depending on the size and complexity of the component, this takes anything from a few seconds to a few minutes. Already while the scan is running, intelligent algorithms create a three-dimensional image of the object in the background. Then a material simulation of the 3D image checks whether a 3D print satisfies the relevant stability requirements. In a final step, the component is printed using a 3D printer and is then ready to be fitted in the vintage car.