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Dimensional Measurement Blog

Q-PLUS Labs' Case Study: 3D Scanning of USS Freedom

Posted by Mike Knicker on Jul 28, 2015 2:42:00 PM

Q-PLUS Labs Case Study: USS Freedom

Lockheed Martin required Q-PLUS Labs' measurement expertise to generate quick results via 3D scan data of the rear doors of the USS Freedom in San Diego, California. As a new breed of warship, the littoral combat ship (LCS) was designed to be a fast and formidable surface combatant with warfighting capabilities such as mine clearing, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.


USS FreedomAt 378 feet in length and composed of a high speed, semi-planing steel monohull with an aluminum superstructure, the USS Freedom is a unique ship. It is the first-in-class littoral combat ship of its kind and is able to operate in a variety of environments and assignments from dangerous shallow water and near shore missions to minesweeping and humanitarian relief.

Our Process

USS Freedom Scanning

Q-PLUS Labs went onsite with portable measurement equipment, using a range scanner to collect massive amounts of data in a highly time sensitive assignment, then post process it into the needed readings and analyses. Collecting data with the Faro Photon range scanner, which is capable of measuring roughly the length of a football field in every direction, Q-PLUS Labs' engineers were able to overcome the scanning obstacles involved with measuring onboard a currently active warship. One of the challenges in the scanning process was collecting scan data of exterior doors which involved attaching a harness an engineer as he maneuvered the equipment overboard.

engineIn order to quickly move the USS Freedom out of port, Q-PLUS Labs was required to acquire the data rapidly and accurately, delivering results which would be used to improve the design of the ship's rear doors. These doors are located near waterline level to allow safe launch and recovery of watercrafts while the ship is in motion. The accuracy of the doors' measurements would allow for improved design to resolve the problems being caused by the shape and position of the currently installed doors.  

Case Study Update (11/19/15): Q-PLUS Labs is completing a very special and unique 3D scanning project on the USS Freedom's sister ship, the USS Independence! Look for the upcoming case study.

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Topics: 3D scanners, 3D Scanning, 3D scanning equipment, case studies, Faro, Photon Scanner,, Ship, USS Freedom

Three Types of 3D Scanning Methods for Non-Contact Nano Measurement

Posted by Mike Knicker on Feb 18, 2015 2:50:00 PM

Three Types of 3D Scanning Methods for Non-Contact Nano Measurement

Dimensional inspection includes many types of scanning devices for a broad range of applications. In the realm of 3D Scanning, the level of detail that can be captured makes it the method of choice, especially for measuring very small objects requiring non-contact measurement methods.

Whereas contact 3D scanners collect measurement data by physically scanning the object with a device that comes into contact with every point on the surface, non-contact 3D Scanners collect immense amounts of data quickly without altering the geometry of the object. This is also an advantage for collecting measurements on the nano scale.

3 Types of Non-Contact 3D Scanning Methods

Laser-Scanning Confocal Microscopes
A confocal microscope uses a process called optical sectioning to collect images from various depths. These images can be reconstructed with a computer to create a 3D model of complex small objects. Unlike other laser systems, a confocal microscope only sees one depth level at a time, which allows it to generate a highly controlled depth of focus for very small objects with tight tolerances.

White Light Interferometry
This non-contact measurement system allows you to obtain surface measurements at the nanometer level. The technology behind white light interferometry uses wave superposition to measure distances based on data collected about reflected wave interactions. Interferometers can also be combined with microscopes to measure very small objects. Because they rely on the detection of waves and not optical images, interferometers are also useful for measuring objects with reflective surfaces.

Chromatic Confocal
Like interferometry, chromatic confocal also uses white light to collect measurement data. However, whereas interferometry uses the superposition of waves after they are reflected off the object, chromatic confocal measures the wavelength as it hits the surface of the object. This method produces more reliable results when measuring surface roughness or step-height depth, due to the minimum mathematical calculation required. The tolerances of large objects may allow the use of a thin whitening spray to facilitate scanning but the geometry of very small objects could be potentially buried by it. Fortunately, all of these methods work well with various types of surfaces from reflective to absorbent.

If you require any of these types of 3D Scanning methods, or if you're not sure what you need, the experts at Q-PLUS Labs are here to help. We'll work closely with you through every step of the process to ensure that you get the best results for your application. Contact us anytime if you have questions, or if you're ready to get started, call us today.


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Topics: dimensional measurement, 3D scanners, 3D Scanning, CMMs, articulating arms, 3D scanning equipment, case studies, engine, Faro Arm, Faro, SAE, race car, Fullerton SAE

Q-PLUS Labs' Case Study: California State University, Fullerton SAE Race Car Engine Dimensional Analysis

Posted by Mike Knicker on Jan 27, 2015 10:55:00 AM

Q-PLUS Labs Case Study: Race Car Engine

California State University, Fullerton's Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) chapter chose Q-PLUS Labs to aid them with the challenge to compete in the Formula SAE, a competition which encompasses designing, building, and competing a mini-formula style race car that will be evaluated for its potential as a production item.


chassisFullerton's SAE uses a Yamaha R6 Motorcycle engine, a large displacement choice for the 610cc class. The car's design utilizes the R6 engine as a stressed member to connect the drivetrain to the cockpit. This type of engine design requires the chassis to work with the engine as an active structural element of the chassis to transmit forces and torques, rather than using standard anti-vibration mounts to passively contain it. The R6 engine was chosen based off its high power output and ability to be used as a stressed member. In conjunction with suspension design and tire selection, the engine weight works well to keel the tires while heated under the track's conditions.

Our Process


Because the race car's design is based on the integrity and precision accuracy of the engine's measurements, Fullerton's SAE sought the expertise of Q-PLUS Labs' dimensional inspection engineers. Using a Faro Arm CMM, Q-PLUS Labs provided a dimensional analysis of each mounting point for the engine. These points are integral not only to the race car's design but also to the safety of the driver.

Given the engine's exact 3D measurements, Fullerton's SAE could confidently proceed with their design. They were able to retrofit and reverse engineer the chassis to properly fit onto the race car's engine. Currently in the manufacturing stage process, in a few months they will produce the assembled chassis to compete in the Formula SAE® Lincoln this June.


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Topics: dimensional measurement, 3D scanners, 3D Scanning, CMMs, articulating arms, 3D scanning equipment, case studies, engine, Faro Arm, Faro, SAE, race car, Fullerton SAE

Q-PLUS Labs' Case Study: Creosote Bush Scanning for Harvard University Graduate School

Posted by Mike Knicker on Sep 23, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Q-PLUS Labs Case Study: Creosote Bush


This unique scanning project came to Q-PLUS Labs as a result of a client needing a 3D scan of a creosote bush’s root system for his graduate project.

The creosote roots initially posed a challenge to scan due to the irregular geometry of their structure. Q-PLUS Labs’ engineers were faced with the mission of accurately scanning this organic form while mainly concentrating their efforts on scanning the center of the root system.

Our Process

The scanner must be able to project a light grid which creates a target platform for the camera to capture the image. The two work together to digitize the entire image to create the scan. However, due to the freeform of movement of the roots combined with the depth of the bark’s many crevices, this project posed a difficult target surface to scan.

The engineers at Q-PLUS Labs began the process by stabilizing the root system at the base and maintained a static scanning environment which required carefully maneuvering the scanner around the suspended object. Trimming back the roots to get the base of the root system also demanded scans at multiple angles.

The final step involved intensive surfacing which called for creative approaches and commitment to quality. The small geometry plus high levels of curvature on the many root tendrils made surfacing very complicated making attention to every detail imperative for the integrity of the completed scan.

Project Features

  • Intensive surfacing process
  • Organic thin and winding shape
  • Scanned using many camera angles
  • Creative & detail oriented scanning techniques


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Topics: 3D scanners, 3D Scanning

Four Powerful Benefits of 3D Scanning

Posted by Mike Knicker on Jan 2, 2014 5:01:00 PM


3D scanning is an increasingly popular measurement method for applications such as reverse engineering, first article inspection, and process control. In addition to being one of the latest technologies on the scene, 3D scanning offers several benefits for manufacturing, research, medical devices, and many other industries.

Four Benefits of 3D Scanning

One of the reasons 3D scanning is becoming more popular is that it performs as well as, and often better than, other measurement technologies and produces faster results. The following four benefits combine to make 3D scanners an excellent choice for many measurement applications:

  1. Speed - Manual measurement takes a long time and is limited by the amount of data that can be practically collected. 3D scanning offers a fast way to automatically collect millions of data points, in some cases as fast as thousands of points per second.
  2. Accuracy - As the technology has improved, the accuracy of 3D scanning has increased over time. Although modern scanners provide a high degree of accuracy, they are only expected to improve as the ability to collect more and better data points increases.
  3. Coverage - In just a matter of minutes, 3D scanners can collect and measure millions of data points on the surface of an object. This efficiency was not possible before the technology was introduced, which is why it has seen such explosive growth in such a short period of time.
  4. Cost - The price of 3D scanning is competitive with other dimensional measurement technologies, especially when you factor the time savings. Many 3D scanners are also easier to use, which helps lower training costs.

Having a cost-effective solution that is also accurate and versatile is changing the landscape of the the metrology industry. However, even though 3D scanners offer many benefits, they are not right for every application. When 3D scanning is determined to be the best technology for the job, you still have important decisions to make.

The best way to maximize these benefits is to ensure that the 3D scanner you use is the best one for the application at hand. Size, shape, surface characteristics, and other factors play a role in determining which type of 3D scanning technology makes the most sense.

If you're not sure which equipment or software is right for you, get in touch with the experts at Q-PLUS Labs. We'll help you select the most appropriate equipment, or we can do the scanning for you in our own labs. Contact us today to get started.

Which of these 3D scanning benefits is the most important to you?

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Topics: 3D scanners, 3D Scanning

Outsourcing Reverse Engineering? Answer These 7 Questions

Posted by Mike Knicker on Jul 19, 2013 5:59:00 AM

reverse engineering 3D fan

If you have decided that outsourcing reverse engineering services makes the most sense for your project or business, you still have some decisions to make. Not all reverse engineering applications are the same. You must decide what type of equipment to use and what kind of output you need, as well as consider a range of other factors.

This checklist is designed to help you get started.

7 Questions to Ask When Outsourcing Reverse Engineering

  1. What is the objective of reverse engineering? Your provider will need to know your end goals in order to help you make the most cost-effective decisions.

  2. What type of reverse engineering makes the most sense for your application? You can decide between design intent, verbatim (as-built), or a hybrid of the two. When reverse engineering for design intent, the measurements of the original object may be adjusted to correct for imperfections so that the final product will function in the desired way. The verbatim approach aims to create an exact replica of the original object, including imperfections, and the hybrid approach can be used in cases when the original object features multiple types of surfaces.

  3. How should you process measurement data? When gathering measurements to reverse engineer an object, you can use a dimension-driven approach, shrink-wrap surfaces, or a combination of the two.

  4. How accurate do you need to be? Depending on your objectives and the reasons for reverse engineering, your application might need a certain degree of measurement accuracy. For example, in the case of an object that must meet regulatory specifications, accuracy is extremely important. However, if you are replicating a statue for sale in a gift shop, some minor differences are acceptable. 

  5. Does the original object need to remain intact? In some cases, in order to get the most accurate measurements, the original object will need to be disassembled or even destroyed. If this is not an option for your application, your provider must know that at the beginning of the process.

  6. What type of equipment should you use? Many different types of measurement equipment can be used for reverse engineering. Your provider will consider the level of accuracy required, surface characteristics of the original object, and many other factors when deciding how best to take measurements.

  7. Do you need to measure the object in a constrained state? For some applications, measuring the object while in a state that simulates how it's shape will conform in assembly makes more sense. You might also need to measure other objects or parts if you are reverse engineering an item that is part of an assembly.

Your provider can (and should) help you answer many of these questions, so don't be afraid to ask.

One of the greatest advantages of outsourcing reverse engineering services to providers such as Q-PLUS Labs is that we operate across multiple industries. This means that we offer a broad range of equipment types and the expertise to handle almost any reverse engineering application. Contact us today to learn more or to get started on your next reverse engineering project.


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Topics: dimensional measurement, dimensional inspection, reverse engineering, outsourcing, measurements, criteria, 3D scanners, metrology, 3D Scanning

10 Types of Dimensional Inspection Hand Tools and When to Use Them

Posted by Mike Knicker on Apr 30, 2013 5:55:00 AM

dimensional inspection hand toolsThe simplest solution is often the best. This old adage applies to almost anything, including dimensional inspection. In a room full of high-tech equipment like 3D scanners, coordinating measuring machines, and high-precision devices that can measure on a nano scale, sometimes the only thing really you need is a pair of calipers.

Dimensional inspection
hand tools are sometimes the best answer when you need to take measurements. They are both portable and precise, are generally cost-effective, and they can be used for a broad range of applications.

10 Types of Dimensional Inspection Hand Tools 

  1. Calipers - There are several different types of calipers designed to measure length, depth, internal, and external dimensions. Calipers can also be used to transfer dimensions from one object to another.
  2. Bore gages - Take an internal diameter measurement or compare to a pre-determined standard.
  3. Fixed gages - Used only to compare an object to a standard, fixed gages can measure attributes such as angle, length, radius, bore size, thickness, and other parameters.
  4. Micrometers - These dimensional inspection hand tools can use mechanical, digital, laser, dial, or scale technology to precisely measure length, depth, thickness, diameter, height, roundness, or bore.
  5. Protractors - Measure angles with a variable protractor or compare the angle of an object to a standard with an angle gage.
  6. Indicators and comparators - The precision movement of a spindle or probe is amplified so the results can be displayed digitally or on a dial or column.
  7. Air metrology instruments - Thickness, depth, diameter, roundness, taper, and bore can be measured by calculating changes in pressure or air flow.
  8. Ring gages - Typically used as a pass/fail test, ring gages can be threaded, smooth, or tapered to test the size of pins, threaded studs, and shafts.
  9. Length gages - Electronic or mechanical, these devices are used to measure or compare the length of an object.
  10. Thread gages - The spacing, shape, size, and geometry of a thread can be verified or measured with a thread gage.

Although dimensional inspection hand tools are frequently a simple and elegant solution, they still must be treated with the same care as a machine that uses more advanced technology. Some devices must be calibrated or regularly cleaned to ensure that they provide consistent, accurate results. It is also important that the operator is appropriately trained to prevent human error.

Whether you have a simple measuring problem or a complex quality control requirement, come to Q-PLUS Labs for all of your dimensional inspection needs. We'll help you select the right equipment and either train your staff to use it or perform the measurements in-house. Want to learn more about selecting the right dimensional inspection equipment for your application? Download our free e-book today.

Which dimensional inspection hand tools have you used?


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Topics: dimensional inspection, 3D scanners, metrology, 3D Scanning, hand tools