3D Scanning in the Foundry and Casting Industry with the FreeScan UE

June 16, 2023


Are you an expert in 3D scanning in the Foundry and Casting industry? You won’t want to miss Bruce’s recent webinar!

Bruce is an account manager at SHINING 3D with experience using measurement tools in the foundry and casting industry. In this webinar, he describes the differences between traditional manufacturing tools and 3D scanning. Bruce also shares examples of how metrology 3D scanners can be used and what kind of results you can expect.

With his tips and recommendations, you’ll be ready to choose the best 3D metrology scanner for your needs.

Bruce, account manager at SHINING 3D

Traditional measurement tools and their limitations

Foundry and casting are vital to manufacturing, providing essential components for almost every industry. Whether from the automotive, aerospace, construction, or consumer goods industry, most products have been through foundry and casting.

These processes implicate numerous manual tools. Bruce mentions that traditional industry measurement methods always involve a steel ruler, vernier caliper, caliper, and filler gauge.

Traditional tools in the foundry and casting industry

The advantages of these traditional measuring tools are that they are easy to use, inexpensive, provide immediate measurement results, and do not require batteries.

But, using such tools is time-consuming and, if misread or not used properly, can easily generate inaccurate results. As the industry evolves to require greater precision, these tools gradually fail to adapt to these stricter requirements.

That’s why many factories turn to 3D measurement tools like CMMs (coordinate measuring machines) and 3D laser scanning arms. These tools enable greater precision and eliminate some of the risks of manual measurements.

Other 3D tools in the foundry and casting industry

Nonetheless, CMMs and laser 3D scanner arms also come with their own drawbacks. They both represent a significant initial investment and can only measure what’s within their reach. For a CMM, that means it can only measure what fits inside its frame. For a laser measuring arm, that’s the length of its arm.

Industrial coordinate measuring machines present a few additional limitations. They imply high running costs, in part because they need a specific operating environment (e.g., low humidity and temperature, no vibrations). They’re also quite slow, and take a lot of time for full-scale measurements of large objects. Last but not least, they have difficulties measuring parts with confined zones (e.g., pockets, holes) or curved areas.

Metrology 3D scanners vs. CMMs and 3D laser arms

Taking the above into account, Bruced shares six benefits of using 3D scanning in the foundry and casting industry.

  • Faster speed: As the laser moves across the surface of an object, thousands to tens of thousands of data points can be recorded per second.
  • High accuracy: Metrology 3D scanners like ones from the SHINING 3D FreeScan series can offer an accuracy of up to 0.02mm.
  • Good environmental adaptability: Temperature, humidity, light, and vibrations have little effect on scanning, and 3D scanners can be used widely in the workshop.
  • Portable: Handheld 3D scanners are lightweight and compact. They generally come with a travel case, making them easy to transport even on a plane trip.
  • Cost-effective: Non-contact 3D scanning and inspection tend to be faster and smoother to carry out, all while providing certified quality and precision.
  • User-friendly: 3D scanners and their software are intuitive to use and set up. Plus, handheld metrology 3D scanners enable easier access to narrow, confined areas.

Main applications of 3D scanning casts and molds

Casting and mold factories leverage 3D scanning for numerous use cases. Most of them can be grouped into three common use case types:

  • Reverse engineering, 3D-scan-to-CAD, and 3D modeling
  • 3D inspection and quality control
  • CAE (computer-aided engineering) and virtual assembly

Reverse engineering and 3D inspection are the most popular applications. Factories use 3D scanners to reverse engineer or inspect a wide range of parts in all kinds of materials. These include foam or wooden patterns, metal molds, raw casting parts, fine milling parts, and more.

A typical 3D inspection workflow with the FreeScan UE series
A typical 3D inspection workflow with the FreeScan UE series.

The typical 3D inspection workflow for casting and foundry parts goes something like this:

  1. First 3D scan the part to obtain and export 3D data, usually in the STL file format.
  2. Then, import the scanned data to 3D inspection software – like Geomagic Control X or Verisurf – and align. There are several methods to do alignment, the most popular ones being best-fit alignment, RPS alignment, and 3-2-1 alignment.
  3. Lastly,create the deviation map, GD&T, or other inspection items and export the inspection report.

Real examples of 3D scanning in the foundry and casting industry

After sharing insights on 3D scanning benefits and describing its main applications, Bruce gave a few real-life examples. These should help you get a clearer view of how metrology-grade 3D scanning can be used in foundry and casting.

Lost foam pattern: 3D first article inspection

In lost foam casting, the pattern, made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), is coated to create a mold. The pattern is then vaporized or burnt away when the molten metal is poured into the mold, leaving behind a precise metal casting.

3D inspection of the foam pattern

Before casting, however, it is essential to measure the foam pattern’s deviation and compare it with the CAD model. This step is called “3D first article inspection”. In this use case, the client used a FreeScan UE 3D scanner to quickly 3D scan the pattern on-site. The results were highly accurate and presented an incredible level of detail.

Wooden Pattern: Axis Body Offset

Wooden patterns are widely used as prototypes for subsequent sand casting. Of course, like most prototypes and molds, their size and shape directly affect the quality of the final product.

Wooden pattern axis body offset in foundry and casting industry
3D inspection of a large wooden mold

The webinar screenshot above displays the wooden mold of a wind turbine’s main shaft. It’s 5 meters tall and 4 meters large. Due to its extra large size, the wooden pattern axis body can easily shift during the production process.

To determine whether there’s an offset and to what extent, the team decided to fully inspect it with the FreeScan UE Pro. This metrology 3D scanner features built-in photogrammetry to ensure consistent and reliable data when digitizing large objects.

The team was able to 3D scan the entire 4-by-5-meter mold in about 35 minutes, excluding climbing and wiring.

CNC programming verification

The mold in the image below was manufactured with a CNC milling machine:

CNC programming verification Foundry and Casting Industry
CNC programming verification

To make sure the part was correctly milled, and before mass manufacturing the part, it’s best to inspect the milled part. Here, by comparing the 3D scan to the original CAD design, the team was able to easily detect flaws (e.g., reference hole position deviation) and correct the CNC programming.

Other common use cases

Virtual assembly and wall thickness inspection

Virtual assembly is the process of assembling different parts of the same product in 3D and on-screen. The goal is to simulate the final assembly and verify that every part fits well with the others. Even if the parts fit well, virtual assembly can enable engineers and designers to further optimize their products.

This method is easy to carry out with a 3D scanner and the right 3D inspection software, which have built-in virtual assembly options. One of the main specifications that can be looked at, for the right fit, is wall thickness.

By wall thickness, we mean the thickness of the casting walls: mold and mold, mold and core, and core and core. It’s a critical dimension inspection element that can be looked at before launching the final casting process.

Virtual assembly wall thickness Foundry and Casting Industry

Virtual assembly and wall thickness inspection

Maintenance and Re-design

SHINING 3D scanners can generate accurate 3D digital files of different parts and components. In addition to being useful for reverse engineering and design optimization, these “digital twins” can be archived for future maintenance. This is a very popular workflow and application in jig and fixture design, for example.


In this webinar, Bruce explained the benefits and applications of 3D scanning in the foundry and casting industry. He highlighted the limitations of traditional measurement tools and alternative options like CMMs and 3D laser scanning arms. To overcome these limitations, metrology 3D scanners like the FreeScan UE series are introduced, offering faster speed, high accuracy, portability, and cost-effectiveness.

The main applications of 3D scanning in foundry and casting include reverse engineering, 3D inspection, and virtual assembly. Real examples demonstrate its use in tasks like first article inspection, pattern inspection, and CNC programming verification.

In conclusion, the webinar emphasizes the advantages of 3D scanning for precision and efficiency in the industry. The FreeScan UE series is thus recommended as an accurate and reliable solution for foundry and casting applications.

Are you seeking to implement 3D scanning in your casting or foundry business? Feel free to reach out to Bruce or his colleagues for guidance.