Design Studio Scanning Case Study

Design Studio Scanning Case Study

Automotive Design Studio 3D Scanning

Clay modelling is an essential part of the automotive design process and has been utilised by car manufacturers since the 1930s, when it was introduced to General Motors by the then head of its styling studio. Physical Digital’s® remit is to use our industry-leading 3D scanning systems to scan the full-size clay models once they have been constructed. The captured data is processed into our software and produces highly accurate measurement information that allows the design team to develop the design further.

Car Clay Model

Clay model of a car to be scanned

Car designers invite Physical Digital in at an early stage to help them transfer a design from paper to clay model to prototype. Our services are particularly useful to car manufacturers because of the quantity of data we are able to provide compared with other measurement methods. Our industry-leading systems plot millions of points across the surface of a car, providing unrivalled data. We are able to accurately capture freeform surfaces, producing all the information our customer needs to take designs to the next stage.

Project Objectives:

•              3D scan of the car clay model using GOM TRITOP photogrammetry system

•              Reverse engineer from the scan data

•              Generate highly accurate CAD models

3D Scanning Techniques:

The following steps and systems are used to complete design studio scanning projects:

•              Photogrammetry:

The GOM ATOS TRITOP photogrammetry and scanning systems make the 3D scanning of design studio models a quick and accurate process.  The clay models make a perfect material for the optical scanners to capture large amounts of high resolution scan data.

The TRITOP photogrammetry system uses reference points positioned on the clay model.  These reference points are low adhesive and easy to remove so do not damage the model.  The optical scanning system uses the reference points to align each scan globally, monitor calibration, movement and lighting conditions.  This system can be used to scan exterior, interior and scale design models.

•              Reverse Engineering:

Using the scan data from the GOM 3D scanning systems, Physical Digital offers reverse engineering and surfacing support.  The two options for surfacing are NURBS surface or parametric high class. 

The NURBS (Non Uniform Rational Basis Spline) is a quick method of transforming scan data to CAD surfaces.  For this process Physical Digital uses the Geomagic software suite to generate highly accurate CAD models.

Design Engineer Dom Working

Design Engineer, Dom, reverse engineering a car

High class surfacing uses parametric patches to generate high quality surfaces.  This method generates smooth, design intent models which eliminate some of the surface imperfections of the clay. 

Physical Digital’s services are particularly valuable to car manufacturers because of the accuracy with which we capture freeform surfaces, producing all the information needed to move the design to the next level.

Project Challenges:

Our clients require fast and accurate measurement of the automotive scale models to be able to take the data into software and create CAD models within the shortest possible timescale. 


Clay surfaces make it easier for optical scanners to capture large amounts of high resolution scan data. High class surfacing helps generate smooth, design intent models which eliminate some of the design imperfections of the clay. This is an exciting and rewarding field to work in, giving us a fantastic insight into the creativity and flair that automotive designers possess.

Our specialist team is able to inspect and scan full-size clay models. Traceability and verified accuracy ensures full confidence in the measurement data. These same techniques can be used to ensure YOUR project is completed quickly and accurately to save you time to market. Contact us on 01483 750200 or email for further details.

Related Content