Q-Plus Labs

Sitemap | Contact Us 

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.

New Call-to-action


Read More

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.


dimensional measurement assessment


Read More

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.


dimensional measurement assessment


Read More

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

3D Scanning Basics: How Structured Light Scanning Works

Posted by Mike Knicker on Dec 16, 2014 10:00:00 AM


One of the most common types of non-contact 3D scanning is structured light scanning. Used for both dimensional inspection and reverse engineering, structured light scanning employs projected light and cameras to measure the three-dimensional surfaces of an object.

How Structured Light Scanning Works

The most basic principle behind structured light 3D scanning is triangulation. Light is projected in a pattern (usually a series of parallel lines) that becomes distorted on the surface of the object. Cameras capture this distortion from multiple angles, triangulation calculates the distance to specific points on the object, and the three-dimensional coordinates are used to digitally reconstruct the object in great detail.

The types of light used in structured light scanning include both white light and blue light. Although both options are effective in terms of accuracy and speed, blue light offers some benefits over white light in certain situations because it typically has:

  • More portable equipment
  • An LED light source that lasts longer
  • A cooler operating temperature than white light
  • Higher tolerance for scanning in a room with other light sources

Regardless of whether you use white light or blue light, the concepts behind the technology remain the same: A light pattern is projected onto an object, and cameras measure the distortions caused by the surface details of the object.

When to Use Structured Light Scanning

You might use this technique when contact scanners are not appropriate. For example, if the object is elastic, delicate, or otherwise difficult to handle, structured light scanning can be used without impacting the surface of the object.

Because they project many points of light at the same time, structured light scanners operate with great speed and precision relative to some other scanning methods. This efficiency is one of the reasons that this type of scanning is becoming more commonplace. Structured light scanning can also be used from the micro scale all the way to large objects such as airplanes, thus making it one of the more versatile 3D scanning technologies available.

The type of structured light scanning you should use will depend on other surface characteristics such as reflectivity, transparency, and roughness. In some cases, structured light scanning is not an appropriate method because diffraction and reflection can affect the measurements. The best way to decide which type of scanning makes the most sense for your application is to work with a qualified 3D scanning provider that has extensive experience with multiple scanning techniques.

If you are interested in learning more about structured light scanning and other 3D scanning techniques for a practical application, contact the experts at Q-PLUS Labs. We'll work closely with you to determine the type of scanning that makes the most sense for your application so you can get useful results within your budget. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

What other types of 3D scanning are you curious about?

New Call-to-action

Read More

Topics: 3D Scanning

The 3D Scanning Checklist: What to Look for in a Provider

Posted by Mike Knicker on Oct 7, 2014 9:00:00 AM


Selecting the right 3D scanning provider is always important, but it is especially critical if your applications require a certain level of accuracy and traceability. The first step is to identify a short list of qualified providers that offer the type of scanning you need, and then you must select the one that is the best fit for you and the application at hand.

If you have decided to outsource 3D scanning services, use this checklist to help determine which provider is right for you.

What to Look for in a 3D Scanning Provider

  • Expertise - This is the most obvious item on the list, but it is still important to ask whether the provider has expertise in the particular type of 3D scanning you need. For example, a lab that works mainly with contact sensors such as coordinate measuring machines might not have the level of expertise you need for 3D laser scanning.
  • Experience - Although expertise in 3D scanning is an obvious necessity, you also want a provider that has both broad and deep experience in the field. Look for a lab that has not only provided services for other companies in your industry, but who also has experience in other types of applications. The more experience a lab has across a range of applications, the deeper its knowledge base will be.
  • Versatility - There are multiple types of 3D scanning equipment, but not all of them are appropriate for all applications. Make sure your provider offers multiple types of scanning options so you can be confident that they have access to the best solutions for you.
  • Certification - Look for ISO 9001 registration and ISO 17025 accreditation in any provider you select. If you work in specialized areas such as the nuclear or defense industries, make sure the lab you employ has the appropriate certifications in these fields.
  • Testimonials - A good provider will have plenty of happy customers who have offered positive testimonials about their experiences. You can also ask for references to contact former and current clients to ask about customer service and any other questions or concerns you might have.
  • Industry involvement - 3D scanning is a dynamic field, and you want your provider to be on the leading edge of it. Look for a lab that stays involved in the industry through trade organizations to ensure that they are up on the latest technologies available.
  • Confidentiality - Whether you represent a government agency or are developing a proprietary prototype, you must be confident that your provider closely protects your intellectual property.
  • Collaborative process - If you have experience with 3D scanning, you already may know exactly what equipment you want to use. But more often than not, you will need your outsourcing provider to tell you what will work best. Look for a lab that engages in a collaborative process to help you decide what type of scanning will best meet both your requirements and your budget.

Q-PLUS Labs meets all of these criteria and more. Since 1987, we have been providing scanning services to several different industry types for a broad range of applications. Contact us today to learn more about how we work and to get a free assessment of your dimensional measurement needs.

New Call-to-action

Read More

Topics: 3D Scanning

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


dimensional measurement assessment


Read More

Topics: 3D scanners, 3D Scanning

7 Predictions for 3D Scanning in the Next 5 Years

Posted by Mike Knicker on Aug 19, 2014 10:00:00 AM


3D scanning is a burgeoning technology in the realm of metrology, and for good reason: It often allows you to achieve faster, more accurate measurements for applications such as first article inspection and reverse engineering.

As the technology evolves, so does the industry surrounding it. Although the scientific concepts behind 3D scanning do not change, its evolution as a metrology resource is far from static.

The Future of 3D Scanning

As more and more metrology professionals adopt 3D scanning, we can expect to see some changes in both the technology and in the industry. Some of our predictions for 3D scanning in the next five years include:

  1. It will become more accurate - High-end 3D scanning devices are approaching the accuracy of CMM and, in some cases such as micro-scanning, actually are surpassing it.
  2. It will get faster - 3D scanners are already quicker than CMM for data collection, but we can expect them to become even faster as processor speeds and computer memory increase. In fact, some machines are already so fast that the scan can complete in the same time that it takes to snap a photograph.
  3. Costs will go down - With almost any technology, prices tend to decrease with new advances in technology and widespread adoption. This is expected to also occur with 3D scanning.
  4. Pixel density will improve - The resolution of digital cameras has skyrocketed over the years, and the same will happen for 3D scanners. One of the most advanced scanners, the Steinbichler Comet 6, features a 16-megapixel sensor, which provides better detail and larger fields of view.
  5. It will get easier - As the technology improves and software becomes more user-friendly, 3D scanning will become more accessible. We are already starting to see the beginnings of this trend with products such as the Steinbichler colin3D, which has almost no learning curve.
  6. It will become more widespread - For all of the reasons already listed, 3D scanning will become more available to large enterprises, small businesses, and even consumers.
  7. New technology will be introduced - This growing field is getting a lot of attention not only from end-users, but also from the scientists who are developing new technologies and uses for existing technology. Expect to see cutting-edge solutions in high-end products and disruptive technologies that can help bring 3D scanning technology to the consumer market.

Of course, nobody can predict the future, but because Q-PLUS Labs uses 3D scanning every day, we have unique insights into the potential of this technology and the many applications it can offer.

If you are interested in learning more about 3D scanners or how they can be used for your business, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

How do you think 3D scanning will evolve over the next five years?

New Call-to-action

Read More

Topics: 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?

New Call-to-action


Read More

Topics: 3D scanners, 3D Scanning

5 Requirements for Selecting a 3D Scanning Services Provider

Posted by Mike Knicker on Oct 24, 2013 12:20:00 PM

3d scanning service requirements

If you have determined that 3D scanning services are the best solution for your reverse engineering or first article inspection needs, selecting a qualified provider is the next step. Like any type of outsourcing, you must be sure that you are working with a provider that will produce accurate results in a timely manner. However, accuracy and timeliness are not the only two factors to consider.

5 Essential Qualities of a 3D Scanning Services Provider

Look for these five important attributes when selecting a 3D scanning services provider for your application:
  1. Expertise - 3D scanning is still a relatively new technology in the realm of metrology, and not all providers are equal. Ask potential providers how long they have been using 3D scanning, how many types of 3D scanners they use, and what types of applications they are experienced with.

  2. Diversity - The more applications, industries, and scanning technologies a provider is experienced with, the more qualified it will be. Using different types of scanners across multiple industries gives technicians the ability to choose the right type of device, troubleshoot problems as they arise, and avoid mistakes in the first place.

  3. Flexibility - If you need a fast turnaround for first article inspection or for any other reason, select a provider that is flexible enough to fit you into its schedule. If you know in advance that you will need to move quickly, the provider should be able to accommodate you and even work closely with you to prepare as much as possible before the part arrives.

  4. Technology - You want a partner that uses the latest technology and offers a broad range of scanning capabilities. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to 3D scanning. The more options a provider has available, the more likely it can find the solution that best matches your needs, even as they change over time.

  5. Certifications - ISO certification and accreditation are indicators that your provider is compliant with regulatory bodies and committed to quality. ISO certification is not a requirement for every industry, so be sure to ask any potential providers about their status.

Q-PLUS Labs offers a vast array of 3D scanning services for a broad range of industries. Whether you want to reverse engineer an aerospace part, inspect the first object off a new manufacturing line, or scan a body part to create a medical device, we have the solutions you need. Contact us today for a free customized quote or to learn more.

What are you looking for in a 3D scanning service provider?

dimensional measurement assessment

Read More

Topics: 3d scanning services, 3D Scanning

Pros and Cons of Color Mapping for First Article Inspection

Posted by Mike Knicker on Sep 18, 2013 10:15:00 AM

color mapping

Color mapping is commonly used as a profile analysis tool in first article inspection primarily because it allows you to quickly visualize the differences between the scanned part and its nominal CAD model specifications. After an object is scanned, point cloud software highlights the differences using a color map. Each color represents a different degree of variation between the scanned part and the original design so that manufacturers are better able to understand what the part's actual condition is and refine and improve the corresponding manufacturing processes.

Color mapping is beneficial in many cases, but like any other technology, it does have some limitations. The key to effectively using color mapping for first article inspection is understanding these limitations and the applications for which it is best suited.

Color Mapping for First Article Inspection: Pros

Color mapping is employed because it provides several benefits, including:
  • Ease of use - Color mapping allows you to use 3D scanning to get a big picture sense of how well the part conforms in one easy-to-understand visual display. At a glance, you can see areas where the part does not conform to the design and by how much.

  • Flexibility - You have the freedom to control the color spectrum. If you want to see only the differences within a certain range of accuracy, you can adjust the display so that only those deviations are highlighted.

  • Visibility - Color mapping can be conveyed in a number of ways. This includes free viewing software, dynamic HTML files, and 3D-interactive PDF files that allow you to move the 3D analysis result within it. This means that you can view the color map from multiple angles to get the most complete picture of the deviations on the entire part.

Color Mapping for First Article Inspection: Cons

The advantages of color mapping are many, but there are also some potential disadvantages worth mentioning.
  • The dazzle effect - Undoubtedly, color mapping produces impressive results. However, a visually interesting result is not a certain indicator of measurement accuracy. Looks can be deceiving, and confirming accuracy is important, even when a colorful map seems to indicate good results.

  • Inadequate data - Although color mapping is an effective way to determine where deviations are, it alone does not give you the hard data you need for process control. Further quantitative processing is required.

  • Invalid analyses - 3D profile analyses are only valid when the specifications stipulate a profile callout. Inspections must still be performed in accordance with engineering requirements. In such cases, a 3D analysis serves only as a visual aid.

One perceived disadvantage of color mapping is that it is too subjective because you can't use it to compare across multiple parts. This is a myth. You can actually extract points for part comparison, turn off outside geometry, and take 2D sections. All these features allow you to objectively compare the deviations between multiple parts, allowing you to more effectively refine processes.

If you are interested in learning more about color mapping or any other dimensional inspection technology, work with the experts at Q-PLUS Labs or download our free guide to selecting the right dimensional inspection equipment.

Have you ever used color mapping for first article inspection? Tell us more about your experience in the comments section.


dimensional measurement assessment
Read More

Topics: first article inspection, 3D Scanning, color mapping