Figuro3D LLC, a startup maker of 3D scanners that scan a physical object and make a computer CAD file, is partnering with rotational molder Elkhart Plastics Inc.
Figuro3D was created in 2016 by a team of faculty scientists from the University of Notre Dame. The university is just a few miles from Elkhart Plastics' headquarters in South Bend, Ind. Figuro3D got initial seed funding last year from Elevate Ventures Inc. an Indianapolis business advisory and venture capital firm.
The partnership with Elkhart Plastics came after Elevate Ventures gave Figuro3D the opportunity to present its technology to local chief financial officers at Notre Dame's IDEA Center. Elkhart Plastics' CFO Jon Wyngarden was there and they made the connection.
"Basically, the primary reason we're involved with it is because we feel like partnering with a local startup involved with Notre Dame is going to stretch our employees and is going to get us thinking about future technologies," Wyngarden said.
Figuro3D's goal is to make 3D scanning as quick and simple as taking a picture.
Robert Kuang, Figuro3D's chief operating officer, said 3D scanning is the opposite of 3D printing, where you build a physical model from a CAD file.
"Ours is taking a physical image and making a digital model out of it," he said. The process uses high-resolution cameras that can create photorealistic 3D models nearly instantaneously.
Originally, the Notre Dame researchers developed a large-scale scanning technology while they were working on a project to digitize World Heritage sites, such as the Taj Mahal.
After realizing the potential of 3D scanning, Figuro3D officials began looking at industrial uses. The scanners for that application are small, desktop-sized units. Several scanners could be linked together in a network for larger products.
In an Aug. 23 telephone interview, Kuang said Figuro3D currently is debugging the industrial system after about a year of development. Officials expect to start running tests on rotomolded parts sometime in September, he said.
Kuang said the partnership with Elkhart Plastics will help Figuro3D develop the technology specifically for a factory environment.
"We need to better understand the exact needs of manufacturers," he said. "One of things that we're trying to do is to work with somebody very, very closely, so we can go out to their plants and use these prototypes once we have them."
Feedback from the rotomolder will help Figuro3D identify and make changes faster, speeding up the development process, he said.
Wyngarden said Elkhart Plastics can use 3D scanning for measuring molded parts for quality, and during the customer approval process. There are other uses for 3D scanning, some of which will become apparent after the units are running in Elkhart Plastics plants, he said.
"We could work them to grow it to different areas that we could make use of it," Wyngarden said.