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3D Van Scan Data - How It's Done

Here at Rapid3D we have seen a surge in requests from vehicle outfitters, both professional and DIY, for high-quality, high-accuracy data sets to help with custom design and conversions. The applications nowadays are endless, from custom cargo solutions, outdoor showers, bumpers, awnings, lighting, or a complete re-vamp of the interior. This idea has captured the hearts and imaginations of many people looking to make the most function out of a small and mobile space.

It all starts with capturing accurate data. The right tool for the job is the Creaform MetraSCAN Black Elite which has the volume, speed, data quality, and accuracy to ensure that the scans are appropriate for design and manufacturing purposes.

The MetraSCAN Black Elite System from Creaform, including the C-Track with tripod and MetraSCAN handheld 3D scanner.

The most recent addition to our online shop is the 2022 Mercedes Metris Passenger Van 126WB. It is an in-demand choice for conversion to a camper. Some popular modifications are adding a pop-up, lighting, full kitchens, awnings, cargo racks, storage and more.

The scanning process starts with a little setup; the seating is removed, the vehicle is cleaned, the scanner calibrated, and AESUB 3d scanning spray is applied to all windows, light covers, mirrors etc. Finally, large 12mm MetraSCAN targets are strategically placed across the entire vehicle to ensure easy scan to scan alignment and dynamic referencing (which means we don’t have to worry about whether the vehicle gets bumped, moved etc.).

The Mercedes Metris with 12mm targets spread across the surface. We place the targets on painter's tape for easy removal.

The targets are captured and saved as a global positioning model on which the MetraSCAN system can position itself as we move around and capture the scan data. This extra step takes a few extra minutes up front but saves us hours in post processing time, and it also ensures that we have a very accurate final aligned and merged data set.

A screenshot of the VXscan module in VXelements where the scanning technician is capturing the positioning targets.

The Exterior of the van is scanned at 2mm resolution utilizing a unique Creaform VXelements function called Smart Resolution, an algorithm that will increase the triangle size on edges and in high detail, high curvature areas. This keeps scans detailed where the resolution is required but keeps the file sizes smaller.

Scans are broken up into manageable sections with overlapping scanned surfaces to ensure full coverage. Scans are then merged using the global positioning model or overlapping geometry method in VXelements with the result being a complete exterior mesh. Scan coverage is checked for completeness and quality to ensure we have the best possible data for our customers to work from.

The Mercedes Metris exterior scans aligned together in the Merge Scans tool in VXelements. Each colour represents a different scan.

After the full exterior is complete, our technicians move on to the doors. We set the doors fully open and one by one capture the interior and exterior, along with a little overlap for alignment with the exterior scan set.

Each colour represents a different configuration of the van's doors and hatches. They are all aligned to one another to ensure accuracy.

With the exterior complete, we move onto the interior. Targets are essential for these scans as the scan technician will be inside the van causing movement. Placement is even more critical with the limited working room. Once all targets are captured a target positioning model is saved and the surface acquisition may continue.

The interior is scanned at a higher resolution to capture the finer details often required for mounting new structures and accessories.

Our scan technician, Anna, scanning the interior of the Metris van using the MetraSCAN Black Elite. Note the dynamic referencing targets.

A cutaway section of the internal rear panel of the Metris van. The MetraSCAN Black Elite captures high quality, high resolution data.

Once again scans are broken into manageable sections, merged using targets and coverage is checked before moving on to our last setup, the undercarriage.

The interior of the scan is merged based on the MetraSCAN targets. Each colour represents a different scan.

For the undercarriage, we drive the vehicle up onto ramps for better underside access and set our scanner’s C-track low to the ground.

The underside of the vehicles have full coverage. This example of the 2021 Dodge ProMaster shows how much detail we can get.

Following scanning, the process of scan cleaning, merging scan sets, and aligning to a coordinate system based on significant geometric features begins. Two versions of these final mesh files are available when our customers purchase the scan data, including a high-resolution version and a decimated low-resolution version.

The Metris scans available for download are in an STL format, which is a triangulated mesh surface. If you are working with scan data for your designs and want to use a professional Scan-to-CAD modeling package to help expedite the design process, we suggest you consider looking at some of the Scan-to-CAD modeling options Rapid3D offers. STL data is not easily handled by traditional CAD packages like Solidworks, Inventor, or Fusion 360, and we recommended specialized software to help with your design process.

Rapid3D offers a range of Scan to CAD modeling tools depending on frequency of design work, your budget, and experience. In order of cost and capability we offer Geomagic Design X, widely known as the "fastest path from scan to CAD", Creaform VXmodel, which is an excellent hybrid modeling solution for extracting features from the scan data, and Geomagic for Solidworks or Xtract3D which are both highly functional plug-ins for Solidworks. Both Design X and VXmodel have the ability to transfer features and a feature tree into Solidworks, Inventor, and other CAD packages. These products vary in capability and price but each of them will make working with scan data for design and modeling purposes easier, faster, and more fun.

The van scans are aligned to a coordinate system that is helpful for modeling and design applications using Geomagic Design X.

The Mercedes Metris marks our 14th commercial vehicle scan data set for sale on our website. Our scan van inventory is always increasing. If you would like more information on the files, the necessary tools or what can be done with the files email us at or call us at 587.352.0221.

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