Switching from coordinate-measuring machines (CMM) to a laser scanner let Infinity Products, Minneapolis (www.infinity-products.com), get its aftermarket instrument-panel overlays and video products on the market four weeks sooner by reducing the time needed to define the geometry of mating interior parts. Auto companies usually give aftermarket manufacturers a short period of time to measure new models.

With CMM, Infinity engineers could only record a limited number of points, so it took several weeks to convert them into surface models. Recently, the company acquired a portable laser scanner that collects millions of points in several minutes. This slashes time necessary to produce finished CAD models to under a day. The greater number of points also improves model accuracy, which speeds up downstream design process.

Laser scanners project moving light onto surfaces while cameras continuously triangulate the changing distances and profiles as the light sweeps along. A dedicated interface card translates the video image of the light line into 3D coordinates, collecting thousands of points every second. And because there is no need to maintain contact with the workpiece, measurement accuracy is independent of operator skill. The scanner they use, the Surveyor PS-1100 from Laser Design Inc., Minneapolis (www.laserdesign.com), weighs only 4.5 lb, and measures 9 X 9 X 3 in. It connects to a laptop with only two cable connections and collects a 512-point stripe 60 times/sec. The device comes with Geomagic software that largely automates the process of converting point clouds into CAD surface models.