It isn't hyperbole to say laser 3D scanning has the potential to change the face of the marine industry. Traditional approaches to shipbuilding, upgrading, and retrofitting are beset with problems. Many revolve around how long it takes to get things done and how expensive it is.

Whenever you have to work on a ship, you have to measure things. Shutting the boat down, measuring by hand, and taking things apart so you can bring them back to the shop add-up.

With 3D laser scanning, you can measure everything with unparalleled speed and accuracy. You can stop relying on old and outdated plans or the accuracy of manual measurements on a changing ship. Instead, everything can get digitized and worked on with minimal interruptions.

It saves time, resources, materials, and, most importantly—headaches. Read on for a complete guide to how laser 3D scanning is revolutionizing the marine industry.


What 3D Scanners Do

It might be helpful to go over what precisely 3D laser scanners do. This will help guide the discussion on how useful they can be for the marine industry in general. For starters, 3D scanners are data-gathering tools.

A 3D laser scanner uses light to determine the distance between objects. Usually, this might be the distance between itself and whatever object it is scanning or pointing at. By scanning multiple points, all the measurements can get collected and thrown together.

This provides a cohesive vision of the larger object. For example, you might start by measuring the diameter of a cylinder. That might be one measurement or data point.

Next, you'd use the 3D laser scanner to get measurements for that piece's height, thickness, and other dimensions. You'd do that for any connective pieces or spaces as well. It sounds kind of long and troublesome, but it isn't.

You can move the scanner around the object and space to get real-time measurements all at once. With current laser scanning tech, it's possible to record millions of measurements in mere minutes. This ends up making what might be a slower analog process super accurate and super-fast.

The data collected by a 3D scanner can then get thrown into a 3D modeling program like AutoCAD. This will let you see an accurate 3D version of what you scanned. You can refer to this whenever you want or need to do troubleshooting.


The Huge Potential of 3D Laser Scanning

The applications of this kind of 3D scanning have huge potential. With 3D scans like these, you can have an accurate reference point outside the real thing. You don't have to keep pulling out physical parts to measure or double-check them.

This can be handy on something like a ship, where tight spaces can make that a hassle. Scan all of the spaces, parts, and pieces first. Then go and work out what to do from the computer instead of the equivalent of a marine crawlspace.

You don't have to rely on old and outdated blueprints. It's also way faster than measuring everything by hand. This is especially noticeable with oddly shaped bits.

If you're interested in all of the basics of how 3D laser scanning works, we have a whole article dedicated to that.


How 3D Laser Scanners Help the Marine Industry

We talked a bit about how laser 3D scanning can help the marine industry. If we're being frank, upgrading and retrofitting ships is a pain. You need to do it for a host of reasons.

These include safety, efficiency, environmental, and of course, regulatory reasons. Even building a ship in the first place can be a hassle. So how can a 3D laser scanner help?

The answer to this question lies in what 3D scanners are great at and what they replace. 3D scanning allows a variety of industries to save time and money. We will go into specifics soon, but in general terms, it's easy to understand.

These are the four areas that take up the most time and resources.

  • Measuring the parts, spaces, and things you need to work on
  • Manufacturing the pieces or parts in the exact ways, you need them
  • Installing those pieces
  • Creating new and accurate drafts of the work and the ship post-project for future work

3D scanning makes every one of these easier. It speeds up the measuring process and increases accuracy. Not only does this mean less time spent measuring, but also making things the right way in the first place.

If everything is correct, then the installation is a cakewalk. All the digital data from the 3D scans go straight to the computer, which also makes drafting easier. That said, it's worth diving into how things used to be to appreciate this tech even more.


How Measuring in Traditional Shipbuilding Works

Working on building, upgrading, or retrofitting ships requires one important thing. These are measurements. The more accurate, the better, and in fact, inaccuracy can spell huge disaster.

If you're lucky, being an inch off means the piece you need to install needs to get sent back or adjusted. If you're super unlucky, nobody will notice the mistake until the ship is out at sea.

The Problem With the Traditional Approach

If you want to avoid the ships you build ending up in the same conversation as the Titanic, then accuracy is king. So how do you do that? You get into every nook and cranny you can and bring a trusty measuring tape and notebook.

Anyone who has worked on a ship will know the problems with this right away. A ship is a treasure trove of tight spaces and intricate parts that aren't easy to get to or measure. A lot of the time, you'll have to dock the ship and shut everything off for safety and practicality.

Dismantling or disassembling things to get better measurements takes time and resources. You can't work on the ship this way while it's running. When you put all the final measurements together, you can't even be sure that you aren't a bit off anyway.

Let's not forget exactly how long that might take anyway and what it would cost. For massive projects, you must bring in specialists and hope they can make accurate plans for you. You'll need before and after drafts, and you might need to do it again in a few upgrades.


Using 3D Scanners as Practical Tools for Shipbuilding

With a 3D laser scanner, take all those problems above and throw them out the porthole. You could take millions of measurements in mere minutes with the right application. We forgot to mention how small and accurate these can be.

It's a fact that 3D scanning is more accurate than hand measurements with the naked eye. It's also more convenient. You can even use 3D laser scanning in traditional small boat building.

A more specific example of how it can help in the marine industry might help illustrate the point.


How 3D Laser Scanners Can Make Shipbuilding Easier

Let's say you need to install or upgrade some pipes in your ship. You could send a team down there to measure the area by hand. You might also shut the ship down and safely remove a section of pipe to serve as a reference.

This whole process has the potential for inaccuracy and wasted time.
Something that happens a lot with shipbuilding and retrofitting is field welding.

No matter how careful your manual measurements are, you end up being off at some point. The pipes you prepared in the shop and brought onto the ship will need adjusting and/or re-welding.

Imagine if you could scan that whole space, pipes and all, and bring that data back to the shop. You could fabricate something in-house that was perfect down to the millimeter. You could bring completed sections aboard and slot them right where they need to go with minimal adjustments.

What's extra great about 3D scanning is you can use the data to create a comprehensive blueprint. You could do this in a fraction of the time it would take to do this manually. Even updating the blueprint becomes easy with more 3D laser scan sessions.

3D scanners are already used in manufacturing for a variety of industries. Therefore, it makes sense to apply the technology to the marine industry as well.


Everything You Need to Know About Laser 3D Scanning in Shipbuilding

When it comes to marine industries like shipbuilding, a lot of things can impact cost and efficiency. Manual measurements and drafting consume a lot of time better spent elsewhere. Inaccuracies also contribute to wasted time and resources, which only make things worse.

Laser 3D scanning can make all the difference if you know how it works and how to use it. Of course, having a place you trust to learn about and order the latest 3D scanners from makes a big difference. Contact us today to learn more.