Airfix uses LIDAR scanning in the development of its 2015 model range

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The model of the Heinkel HE111-P2, a primary Luftwaffe bomber during World War II, is slated for release in Q3 2015 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

Airfix, the oldest UK manufacturer of scale plastic model kits, has announced that it has used LIDAR (Light Radar) scanning for the first time in the development of key models in the 2015 range.

The announcement was made by the Airfix development team during a presentation at IPMS Scale ModelWorld 2014, an annual model show that took place in Telford on 8 and 9 November.

In essence, LIDAR scanning uses laser light to accurately map the surface of an object (such as a plane) in three dimensions, resulting in a high-definition 3D computer image of the object.
This image is then be fed into the Airfix CAD system, enabling the design team to produce incredibly detailed models directly mapped from a plane or vehicle, rather than recreating the shape from other sources such as blueprints or photographs.

For the Westland Sea King HC4 model the team travelled to HMS Sultan in Gosport to painstakingly LIDAR scan the real craft. Here you can see the high level of detail that was generated

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The laser scanner is placed around the asset in as many as 40 -50 positions, from both the ground and a raised platform such as a scissor lift, in order to get the best coverage. 

The scanner rotates, sweeping the area with a laser, which is constantly taking measurements throughout the scan. As many as 5 million points are mapped in each sweep, producing a 3D image with detail as small as a fraction of a millimetre.

The next step is to align all of the separate scans, then clean out all unwanted material, such as the surrounding area, people and any errors cause by reflective and refractive surfaces such as glass and mirrors.

Finally, this point cloud is then converted into a solid polygonal mesh object, ready for the team to use as a template for the Airfix CAD system.

The end result is a highly accurate model of the Westland Sea King HC4

The new Airfix 2015 range will be fully unveiled at the end of this December, however Airfix have released a few highlights. Apart from the Heinkel HE111-P2 and Westland Sea King HC4 shown above, there is also Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.1, a key interceptor aircraft used by the Royal Air Force in World War II, which will be launched in January 2015.

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The film shows a LIDAR scan taken for one of next year’s key Airfix releases


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