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Federici said that scanning is the bridge between the real word and the computer, but you still need a way to get that data into the computer. At Scanform, they use different in-house software applications that they have developed, as well as software from Geomagic, another major vendor in the industry.

And there are probably more scanners out there that capture the data as there are software systems to process that data. Already mentioned are the companies NVision and FARO, but there is also Trimble, Leica Geosystems, Hexagon, NextEngine, Creaform and more.

Scanform has used many different types of scanners over the years. "We've used just about every scanner on the market," Federici said. "We've used lasers, and then we've used sound wave scanners," and they have even used data from CAT scans and MRIs. Right now they are using ATOS structured light scanners.

What the future holds for this technology, as with any, is hard to predict. But a continuation of the growth and advances we've seen is likely. "The future is that more people are going to be doing it, and needing it, and being aware of it," Kersen said. Charron said that along with easier to use scanners, "we'll see prices coming down. On the software side, we've gotten over the hurdle of giving people solids instead of surfaces, the next big step is to automate this as much as possible."

(For other examples of how scanning is being use check out these case studies. Revealing the Secrets of Stonehenge Through 3D Digital Modeling and Motorola Accelerates Product Development; 3D Scanning and Software Saves Time, Money)

Brock Haroldson is a graduate of New Mexico State University where he received a degree in journalism and mass communications with honors. In his free time, Brock enjoys playing bluegrass and folk music, mountain biking, photography and cheering for the Denver Broncos.

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Published 2012-05-14 00:00:00