End-to-end solutions: Accurate, timely and cost-effective.

Regular users of CNC machining and digital scanning are often surprised at the range of ‘end-to-end’ solutions possible as a result of combining what’s possible with each service.

Styrotech CNC often work closely with FormScan 3D, who specialise in 3D scanning and digital modeling of a wide range of different subjects. By working together on projects its proven possible to combine the strengths of each service such that the ‘whole’, or complete service, offers considerably more value than the simple sum of the parts. 

Here are a few examples of what can be achieved, and who stands to benefit from combining the strengths of 3D scanning with CNC machining.

ARTISTS and DESIGNERS are easily able to digitise their ideas, and use FormScan 3D and Styrotech CNC to help turn their initial concept, or idea, into a commercial reality. Starting with the designers idea for a ‘piece’, a prototype is designed and created (i.e. carved, or handmade) with few limits as to what the artist can do in terms of its shape. Once satisfied with the desired ‘look’, the prototype can be scanned by FormScan 3D, thus creating a digital ‘master’ CAD file. This CAD file can potentially be further manipulated digitally (i.e. while it’s still a CAD file), before the design is finalised whereby Styrotech CNC take over and the file is converted to AlphaCam (this is the format of CAD file that the machines use to cut jobs). Using the now complete CAD file, which, due to the 3D scan reflects the original design exactly, Styrotech CNC re-create the object using our CNC machines in virtually any form or using pretty much any material (with a tolerance of 0.01mm of the original design) – either as a male plug, or a female mould depending on the customer’s requirements. Using this process as an overall guideline makes it possible to commercialise an idea quickly, accurately and cost effectively.

BOAT BUILDERS can not only use 3D scanning to verify the accuracy of a job (compared with the original design), but also use it as a tool that can be used to design ‘subsequent’ parts. By ‘subsequent’, I mean parts or components that are destined to be installed inside a boat hull, and require a high degree of accuracy (hence their ‘subsequent’ to parts already made). The area of the hull that is to feature the new parts is scanned and a digital model created. The parts that are intended to be installed in this space can then be designed and in turn is CNC machined, hence the components created fit exactly into the space intended. This technique is also used extensively in the automotive and aerospace industries; for example V8 Super Cars (which race in Australia) are designed in this way.

Combining scanning and CNC machining creates a skill particularly appropriate to RESTORATION, as was the case in building a new transom for the 1939 ‘A’ class yacht Ngataringa.

In late 2010 Styrotech CNC was approached asking if it was possible to re-create the transom of an ‘A’ class yacht as part of a larger restoration. The challenge was that the original transom of the yacht, “Ngataringa” had been extensively damaged, and large parts of it (the transom) simply weren’t there, and the transom itself was a complex shape that had been custom made, by hand, to fit the stern of the yacht. This made it virtually impossible to use the original, damaged transom as a template to make a new one. Combined with the fact that the stern of the yacht had also been damaged meant it would be difficult to make a new part that would fit, was as correct in shape as possible, and matched up with the existing, but damaged stern of the yacht.






The solution was to remove the damaged transom and take a range of measurements of the stern. The original transom was then bought to FormScan 3D, who 3D scanned it (above left & right) and then, using the measurements supplied, modeled a new transom that would not only reflect the original design of the boat (critically important for this project), but as best as possible ‘match’ the shape of the damaged stern in order that it fitted.

Once approved (by the client), the CAD file (images above left, showing the upper side of the transom and above right, showing the underside) were passed to Styrotech CNC.





Using a large piece of Kauri(this was laminated together and supplied by the boat builder), Styrotech CNC machined a new transom using the CAD that had been supplied by FormScan 3D. The 'new' transom was in turn matched up with and attached to the largely rebuilt stern of Ngataringa.




In a similar way to that which boat builders apply these technologies, the combination of scanning and CNC machining can be utilised to make moulds for different applications, particularly where it’s important that the parts made using the mould fit exactly into a given space, or as a one of an assembly of parts.

Both 3D scanning and CNC machining are used in the AUTOMOTIVE industry. The customer in this case has an existing kitset car, whose structure, including the body, is supported by a frame which was in turn made on a jig. This jig needed replacing. Firstly, the original car frame, and jig it was made on were scanned in order to create ‘new’ CAD files which were then manipulated to the clients’ satisfaction. Once approved, the updated file was passed to Styrotech CNC, who CNC cut the frames, which were in turn assembled and used to build an entirely new jig which was then used to create ‘new’ kit car frames. Following this process ensured not only a cost effective solution, but an extremely accurate result as well (which would have otherwise been difficult).

Each one of these examples demonstrates the possible ‘real-world’ outcomes when the attributes of 3D digital scanning and CNC machining are combined. This process can not only create a solution from where one was not readily apparent, but a cost effective, efficient not to mention accurate one that will ultimately improve all aspects of a particular job. If something like these examples relates to the challenges you’re facing with projects your either contemplating or may be working on, please feel free to contact us as follows:

To contact Styrotech CNC, please click here or, to contact FormScan 3D please click here


About the Author

Jonathan Squires With a background in business and product management both in New Zealand and internationally, Jon is currently working with Styrotech CNC as Sales and Marketing manager.

Having toyed with product design for some years I entered the Formica Formations competition to test my blue sky design process, and was delighted to have won and had Beehive fully realised.


Graham Roebeck - Structural Integrity

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