More recently I saw another program about Mr. Leno's garage, and this time the program went into some more detail about the technical aspects of this new technology. In the short clip aired on NBC, Mr. Leno introduced a software program that seemed to take 3D design and printing to a whole new level; Mr. Leno himself called it "the Jetsons" of 3D printing, referring to the fictional futuristic family. And although I have no technical knowledge or background, even I could see that the technology being showcased here was nothing short of revolutionary. Basically, in the program, they took an oil pan, a part of an automobile engine and a large hunk of steel that was too corroded and damaged to be used. The car which the part belongs to seemed to be a hundred years old, and obviously new parts were not available. They were able to use a laser scanner to scan the part, which could then be drawn on a computer and be used for 3D printing to make a mold, which could then be used to make the final metal component.
Now, Mr. Leno and his associates in the program pointed out that laser scanners and 3D design and printing are technologies that are well-developed, but what made this revolutionary was a software called "Rapidform XOR", developed by INUS Technology as a "3D reverse engineering software". Mr. Leno explained how this software works: first, the laser scanner scans the existing material, which in this case was a small component. However, the part was very corroded with some pieces missing from it, and printing a new component from that scan would have just made another worn out and useless part. Mr. Leno showed that Rapidform takes the scanned data and uses intelligent algorithm to extrapolate the data to made the component whole and new, "determining the original intent of the designer". This is where the reverse engineering aspect of this software comes in. Rapidform doesn't just simply turn the results of a laser scanning into a 3D plan for printing. In the program, I was able to see the scan of the original part, with the corrosion and missing parts, and watch as the software processed each section of the part and determined where new pieces and materials should go. Mr. Leno also explained that Rapidform makes it simple to add other features or materials to the scanned part if needed.
Watch Rapidform XOR Intro, http://www.youtube.com/
I've long known about Mr. Leno's fascination with engineering technology due to his famous interest in classic and rare cars, but I had never seen him so impressed with a piece of technology as he seemed in the program. According to more information about Rapidform XOR that I was able to view on the company's Web site, Rapidform XOR is purpose-built to create usable 3D models directly from scan data. The main goal of this software program is to allow the user to go faster than any other solution from unprocessed 3D scans to complete, feature-based solid models, saving hours or days of work. In the program that I saw, for example, one of the technicians said he scanned the component, took it home, and worked on it during just one evening to bring to Mr. Leno's garage a finished 3D model of a brand new part the very next day. And even though I found out by chance about this technology by watching a program about Mr. Leno's famous garage, hundreds of companies and organizations around the world have already been using Rapidform XOR to create some amazing and innovative products.
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