3D scanning applications that will transform your aerospace manufacturing process

blogOqtonJuly 2, 20245 minute read

The aerospace industry is responsible for moving millions of people and thousands of tons of cargo every day. As a result, aerospace manufacturers and suppliers are held to extremely demanding standards for quality, precision and durability.  

Manufacturing aerospace components requires intensive planning, development, testing, and precise fabrication processes. 

The conventional way of conducting these is fraught with inefficiencies. To increase their speed and accuracy, forward-thinking players in the aerospace industry started embracing 3D scanning.  

The simple combination of a scanner and scan-data processing software can make a considerable difference in this environment. In essence, the solutions are used for two types of workflows: inspection and reverse engineering faster. The two approaches have numerous applications and create opportunities for time-savings and accuracy improvements. 

In short, 3D scanning is a game-changer for aerospace. In this blog, you’ll learn how companies are applying this technology in aerospace manufacturing to optimize their production.

Aerospace applications of 3D scanning 

1. Inspection 

Aircraft engine parts routinely undergo rigorous inspection because a malfunctioning part could result in a disaster. Scan-based inspection has the potential to enhance safety in this process.  

A scanner gathers millions of data points in minutes, which is a much richer data set than conventional tools can yield. In addition, the scan can be quickly analyzed in 3D inspection software to identify deformations and errors. 

Scanning brings a similar advantage to aircraft wing inspection. The wings can deform due to the difference in the pressure on the top and bottom of the wings during flight, which can significantly impact the aerodynamic performance of the jet. 

3D scanners allow you to obtain accurate measurements of width, length, and depth of the defect. Additionally, it’s easier to generate a report comparing the scan to the CAD model with 3D inspection software. The report contains a color deviation map showing the defect or dent, like width, length, and depth. 


3D scanning yields accurate measurements of aircraft wings more quickly than conventional methods, thereby greatly simplifying inspection.

2. Measurement 

The shape of the main body of the aircraft, or the fuselage, has an enormous impact on the aerodynamics of the aircraft. The fuselage is subject to regular measurement to ensure that the aircraft meets all safety and performance requirements. 3D scanners accelerate this process greatly by reliably generating rich point cloud data with every measurement. 

3. Creation of digital models of physical parts 

If you don’t have a CAD model of an existing part, 3D scanning is the quickest way to create one. Parts small and large can be captured with a 3D scanner to generate accurate models or analyze them for damage or restoration – without ever removing them from the aircraft. 

4. Reverse engineering existing parts 

Reverse engineering is the process of reconstructing a product as a 3D model when no original drawings are available. Using the 3D image of the existing part as a basis, you can design new parts based on the original instead of starting from scratch. If you have an aging aircraft and helicopters, 3D scanning allows you to capture a 3D image of existing components from working aircraft and replicate them.  

5. Reverse engineering for missing parts 

Reverse engineering is also an efficient method of creating a new part that needs to perfectly fit inside an existing assembly. First, simply scan the assembly, and then load the data into 3D reverse engineering software where you can generate the CAD model of the area of concern and design new parts that fit within the envelope. This keeps aging fleets in the air with updated features.

6. New product development 

Ideas for a new airplane or rocket design often come in the shape of hand-drawn sketches which then need to be converted into 3D models. With 3D scanners, you can quickly acquire 3D data of workpieces to create a 3D model ready for further design.

7. 3D printing or additive manufacturing 

If you want to 3D print a part, you need a 3D model. The process of creating the 3D model can require hours of work from specially trained professionals. 3D scanning, on the other hand, 3D scanning enables you to scan both small and large objects to create precise and printable 3D models. 

3D scanning for aircraft

Building aircraft of the future with 3D scanning 

Exacting quality standards are a hallmark of aerospace manufacturing, and they’re bound to remain in place to ensure the safety of passengers. Aircraft fleets must be regularly and meticulously inspected, and parts must be replaced and repaired. 

This means there is a pressing need to enhance efficiency of measurement, whether it’s for inspection or reverse engineering. 3D scanning has proven a vital help to the aerospace industry, and it’s likely to become an essential tool in its future. 

Download the white paper from Physical Part to Parametric Model to learn how 3D scanning is helping aerospace companies overcome manufacturing challenges and the real-world use cases.



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