3D Scanning used by NASA to lower drag on 757 fairings


A fairing is a cover on the exterior of an airplane designed to reduce drag. Examples of fairings are covers for engine cowlings, fin and rudder tips, landing gear junctions, and fillets between the fuselage and wing.
NASA acquired a Boeing 757 to use for aeronautical research. Part of the research was to address streamlining the airplane’s fairings to lower form drag. Fairing prototypes were to be made for testing using the airplane’s surface CAD data.
But, accurate CAD data to design the prototypes was not available.
Aerospace scanning
3D Scanning a Boeing 757

Problem: Generate timely CAD data to model and test optimized fairings

Without the accurate CAD data, NASA would have had to manually produce trial-and-error fairing prototypes. This approach would be time consuming, costly, and error prone.

Solution: NASA brought in a 3D scanning service

The service contractor used a portable handheld 3D scanner to scan the exterior surface of the 757. Data from the scan fit perfectly with the existing CAD data. Reverse Engineering of the 757’s fairings met expectations. Prototype fairings became readily available.

Result: Fairing Design Optimized, Costly delays avoided

  • Costly time delays taken to manually produce trial-and-error fairings was eliminated.
  • Rapid prototype development for the fairing was achieved
  • Final CAD data for fairings with an optimized design became available