Joining the ranks for the summer!

Joining the ranks for the summer!

Physical Digital are excited to welcome on board our work-experience recruit for the summer. Courtney is an MEng Engineering student going into her third year at Cambridge University. Courtney approached Physical Digital last year, looking for hands-on engineering experience and we are thrilled to have her join us until September. We look forward to working with Courtney and educating her on all things 3D optical measurement!

Courtney will be writing posts about her time at Physical Digital, so find out what she has been up to as she approaches the end of her first week as part of the team:


"My first week at Physical Digital is my first experience working in an engineering focused workplace. After seeing friends from university take on internships in large companies where they were given very little training and banished to a desk to crunch numbers for 3 months, I endeavoured to seek out a small business that I could get involved in all areas of the company and really gain an insight into working as an engineer. In November, I was thrilled to hear back from Tim and Lucy after approaching them directly and met with them to discuss opportunities for the following summer. 8 months later, I am sat in the Physical Digital office approaching the end of my first week and excited at the prospect of spending another 8 weeks with the team.

On Monday morning, I was thrown right into training; Dan, the engineering manager here, gave me an introduction into photogrammetry and got me involved right away. I hardly sat down the entire day and absorbed more information than I thought I would all week! On Tuesday, I revised all this information by (almost independently!) setting up and scanning a household fan and started to learn how to use the program GOM Inspect in more detail. Wednesday was my first opportunity to get involved with a real project, working on scanning and inspection of a metal component, and I now realise just how much detail and precision is needed for even the smallest of components!

Courtney Web1

I have been surprised at just how much is going on around me; there is such a wide range of projects that are in progress at the same time. From aircraft engine components to medical engineering equipment, there are endless things to peak my interest around me and I can’t wait to get involved as much as I can in all sorts of exciting projects during my time at Physical Digital. I'll be providing regular updates via blog-posts about my journey and how I'm getting on."


Another week of my time as Physical Digital has passed, and I have had lots of things to keep me busy! I started out the week working on my individual project – inspecting a disc out of a historic jet engine to be used by the company as a verification artefact.  This involved me starting to learn how to use Siemens NX in order to create a casting model of the part. This proved difficult as I wasn’t able to get any reliable measurements by hand, so it will be interesting to see how the scan data compares to my estimates!

I have continued work on the client project this week and am beginning to understand some of the challenges you are presented with when scanning such small and intricate parts! One of the most essential things I’ve learned is how to ensure data is not lost from where it is held into place, which for such tiny parts can be quite tricky. The team showed me overcome this and ensure complete accuracy, but it highlighted how the process for different parts can vary depending on size and complexity.

I also had the opportunity to exercise my photogrammetry knowledge again; this time on a much larger scale as I got to scan a custom motorbike This was a  bit of a challenge as some of the surfaces were very shiny, but I managed to complete the photogrammetry with it computing first time.

On Thursday and Friday, I went out on my first site visits to two automotive design studios. They were both to scan clay models of cars which was beneficial to me to experience the same process on both visits as it allowed me to get familiar with the set-up and the process of taking the photogrammetry, calibrating and capturing data with the 3D scanner, as well as  aligning and processing the data. This meant  I could get more involved when out on site on the Friday.It was really exciting to be able to visit these leading automotive companies despite the very early morning starts for a student!


The past two weeks have been very busy; I have been involved in various projects which highlight just how many areas of engineering and manufacturing that Physical Digital influence. I have been getting involved with Reverse Engineering and have produced a CAD model of a powertrain component using Siemens NX. Previously, I have only used a different software package so to complete this task I had to get used to the way Siemens NX works and learnt about some additional features it provides. The most useful piece of information I have learnt from this task is to always think about how a component is manufactured from a start to finish and follow the same steps when building a model of the component. It has definitely inspired me to pursue any manufacturing and materials courses I can at university in the coming years.

This week, I was able to consolidate all the skills I learnt from visiting automotive design studios, meaning I am now quite confident in the process that is undertaken when customers require an aligned 3D mesh model of a component or product.

 I also was given the opportunity to visit a factory that manufactures satellite dishes and see how photogrammetry is used to capture the dish and identify areas of height deviation across each petal of the dish. It was interesting to see how the large variation of height was caused by the adjustments made and the very small tolerances that we were able to achieve.

I had my first meeting with a client to finish the component project I have been working on in previous weeks. This gave me a greater insight into the context for inspecting the part and allowed us to discuss our findings. I was then able to then produce a final trend report, export mesh files and produce statistics of each part as requested by the client. This was a great opportunity for me to experience a project from start to finish. I saw how the whole process of 3D scanning and measurement is orientated to the requirements of the client and how Physical Digital deliver this.

 Courtney 1653 Website


  • Heat transfer project
  • Car benchmarking
  • Create casting model for verification artefact
  • 5x scanning of verification artefact 

For the last two weeks, I have had the opportunity to work on a small project that I have found very interesting. The project involved investigating the process of heat soaking before the 3D measurement process begins. Standard practice is to leave any component for 24 hours at 20°C, which is the international measurement temperature. This project is to justify this claim by analysing the heat transfer process. This required me to look back at my university notes and look ahead to a module that I will be studying next year when I specialise in Aerothermal Engineering. There were many variables that I needed to consider, such as the material properties, geometry of the component, the possible temperature gradients across the component and properties of the air in the scan room. I was able to compile a process to estimate the maximum length of time the component needs to be kept in 20°C for it to be within measurement tolerance.

Another service that Physical Digital provides is vehicle benchmarking, which I had the opportunity to see on site at an automotive design studio. This was interesting as I was able to see what data a client may want to analyse in a competitor’s design and how we can produce the data in a clear and useful way that can then be used aid their own design process.

I have also been continuing with my verification artefact project by repeating the photogrammetry and scan process multiple times to produce a trend report. This is very important as the very small variations in the scan data proves that our systems are very repeatable and that we can produce very low tolerances for the whole data capture process. During this project I have also produced a CAD model by reverse engineering the artefact and then created a casting tool that could be manufactured to produce multiple parts.

Week 7, 8 & 9

Last week I started learning to use Spaceclaim, a different piece of CAD software which is a very useful tool for visualising parts and (as a complete novice to this software) creating simple components. I managed to build a clamp for a component with a complex 3D structure within this software and learnt how to set it up for 3D printing, something that I haven’t attempted independently before. It’s interesting to see how accurately the printer can produce your component and what you need to consider before the design is ready to print, such as larger radius, tolerances, making any holes slightly larger and further away from the edges to avoid cracking. Now that I have these skills, I will look forward to being able to use them in other applications at university!


3Dprinting Example

Design for 3D printed parts in Spaceclaim 

Fixture Web

Fixture design built with printed parts 

This week I have had the opportunity to scan and inspect an automotive engine component ready for our design engineers to reverse engineer it. This has been good practice reading the very complicated drawings – a skill that I know will come in handy in the future!

As a celebration of finishing my summer with Physical Digital, Tim invited me to Silverstone to watch the British Touring Car Championships, in support of West Surrey Racing team. We were able to visit and watch the races from the pit lane and go onto the grid before the races which was an incredible experience! 

 Courtney Grid Web

My time at Physical Digital over the last few weeks have been immensley helpful. I have learnt so much and am very grateful to the team for taking the time to broaden my understanding of 3D structured light scanning for metrology and for giving me the opportunity to get hands-on experience in an area of engineering I had no prior knowledge of. I will look forward to utilising all the new skills I have learnt in the future. 

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