We have written a lot about the use of 3D printing technologies for rapid manufacturing in Formula One racing and airplane manufacturing. The other face of this approach is the use of 3D scanning to reverse engineer aircraft, in this case the MXS aircraft that the Breitling Race Team uses to compete in the Red Bull Air Race circuit.
In order to modify parts of the plane and optimise its aerodynamic coefficient, Breitling pilot Nigel Lamb uses a multitude of technologies to assist the design and air flow development across the surface of the plane. Since CAD assemblies of aircraft structures are kept strictly confidential by the manufacturers, Lamb turned to UK-based 3D scanning service provider Measurement Solutions.
The company was tasked to provide the Breitling Race Team with a full and accurate 3D scan of the complete aerodynamic shape of the aircraft, such that the shape of the aircraft could be truly represented in flow analysis testing. The data required needed to be of sub-millimeter accuracy, yet it had to be acquired with minimal interference in the run up to the season start.
Portable arm scanners and handheld laser scanners are limited in terms of accuracy over a large volume. The MetraSCAN 3D scanner by Creaform was thus used to provide a set of technologies that made it possible to produce an accurate mesh of the entire plane in under 24 hours.
Creaform’s TRUaccuracy technology, which is built into the 3D scanning system, assured optimal accuracy in all measurement conditions, even in the low lighting conditions of a cold hangar late into the evening hours. The MetraScan 3D system also combines handle laser scanning with position tracking by a dual camera system. This made it possible to extend the measuring volume, regardless of environmental interferences, or to re-position the tracking device without the need for complicated and time-consuming adjustments.
Finally, the system was used in conjunction with Creaform’s MaxSHOT 3D optical coordinate measuring system. This photogrammetry device generated an accurate reference map across the whole surface of the plane and minimized the time required to manually register the scan datasets together. This also enabled areas to be re-scanned as required, or for parts to be removed so that “hidden surfaces” could also be scanned in great detail.
In the end, the enhancements proved worth the effort, since Nigel Lamb went on to win the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. The revolution of 3D printing passes through full 3D scanning adoption, too.