next-engine-scanner.jpgHop down off the copy machine for a minute cause I’ve got a treat for ya. I talked with Dan Gustafson from NextEngine. Ya know, that company that makes the comparatively inexpensive and ultra-small 3D scanner?

If you’re intersted in 3D scanning, SolidWorks Premium comes with NextEngine’s ScanTo3D utility. But NextEngines own RapidWorks utility looks like the same thing. They use the same scanner, so what’s the difference? Here’s your answers.

Should I use ‘ScanTo3D’ by upgrading to SolidWorks 2008 Office Premium or should I get ‘RapidWorks’ instead?
We recommend RapidWorks. RapidWorks is a $2,495 design intent modeling solution allowing NextEngine customers to create a parametric solid model from scanned points. RapidWorks can process very large data sets (10M+ points) and is based on Rapidform’s flagship product, XOR, which sells for $20,000. It has a very rich set of smart tools to speed the process of creating a solid model (with a full feature tree) from scan data, and the ability to import the model as a native SLDPRT file in SolidWorks 2007+. The ScanTo3D feature in Office Premium has a Mesh and Surface wizard that lets users transfer NextEngine scan data directly into SolidWorks to aid design intent.

Do these two differ in functionality, ease of use, work flow?
Yes. RapidWorks has the unique capability to create a parametric solid model (i.e. including fillets, sketches, constraints, etc.) directly from the scan data. Importantly, RapidWorks has tools that make this process easy, by automatically recognizing features in the scanned part. Both ScanTo3D and RapidWorks have mesh manipulation tools and allow you to wrap NURBS surfaces onto the scan data. Rapidform has been writing code for 3D scan data software for over ten years, which means their mesh handling and surface fitting capabilities are quite a bit more robust than those in ScanTo3D. The NextEngine solution “RapidWorks” has the same deep set of tools and “intelligent mesh recognition” as Rapidform’s XOR product. The RapidWorks learning curve is quite fast if the user has CAD experience, especially SolidWorks experience.

Is there a comparison of these two options?
I did hear of a couple comparisons at SWX World. One example included a customer who spent over 12 hours reverse engineering a fire hose handle in ScanTo3D. A Rapidform A/E reverse engineered the same fire hose handle in about 30 minutes in real time at the NextEngine / Rapidform booth at SWW.

Is each better for different types of objects?
RapidWorks has a lot of horsepower, and can handle very complex shapes. Furthermore, you do not lose any detail or resolution when converting the scan data to solid models.

Just to keep some perspective, I’d also like to add that, even though Dan mentions the learning curve is fast, RapidWorks takes a little bit longer to learn. That makes sense if it has more capabilities.

With RapidWorks you import a part. With ScanTo3D you bring it directly into SolidWorks. One or the other of these may be more important to you. Think of the application your using it for, the accuracy of the data you need and how you’ll be using that data.


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.