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MicroScribe FAQ

Last Updated: Apr 06, 2017 11:40AM EST

Please find below common questions related to MicroScribe portable CMM. If you have further questions, please contact us at

When using a laser scanner with a MicroScribe, what do we do with the data in Geomagic Software?

Laser scanners collect millions of points very quickly and we need to manage these points to a usable working model. We use several software packages such as Geomagic, Rhino, SpaceClaim, and others to help with this process. Each package has its advantages for specific needs so please contact us to help you decide which package is best for you.

What is the thread specification for the center hole of the base plate (used for the tripod mount)?

The thread specification is 3/8th – 16. To avoid damage to the internal electronics, ensure that the screw being inserted does not extend more than ½” up into the base of the MicroScribe.

I want to make my own stylus tip. What is the thread specification?

The thread specification is #4-48. Before fabricating a custom tip be sure to read the Nonstandard Tips document in the Support section.

My computer only has USB ports, but no serial ports. Can I still use a MicroScribe?

Although serial to USB adaptors have reportedly worked, we cannot guarantee that the MicroScribe will communicate properly with the host machine using such an adaptor.

For Macs: Should you choose to use a serial to USB adaptor, do so at your own risk.

For PC’s: You have the option to upgrade your MicroScribe to a MicroScribe G2 model, which is USB compatible. Check to make sure your software supports USB connection to the MicroScribe. Contact us for more details.

Does the MicroScribe G2 work through the USB ports on the new Mac machines?

No. Unfortunately, there is no software on the Mac that currently supports the MicroScribe G2 through Mac USB.

Can I use MicroScribe Utility Software (MUS) with an application that is not specifically listed as a supported application?

MUS basically emulates keyboard strokes. If there is a dialogue box that accepts coordinates in the application in question, then MUS can probably be configured to support that application.

What is the Home Position?

The home position is the proper startup position for the MicroScribe. If the MicroScribe is not powered on or homed in this position, inaccurate data may result. To learn more about the Home Position see the support section.

What if I have the MicroScribe connected through both the serial and the USB ports? Will it cause any damage to the MicroScribe?

Connecting through both the serial and USB ports will not damage the MicroScribe in any way. The USB port will simply override the serial connection.

Do I need to use the external power supply if I have the MicroScribe connected to the USB port?

If the MicroScribe is connected to a non-powered USB hub, then you will need the external power supply. If the MicroScribe is connected directly to the computer or to a powered USB hub, then there is no need for the power supply.

Are there any tutorials or technical documents I can refer to for my application?

You can find tutorials and technical documents for several applications here.

What is a format string?

A format string is used by MicroScribe Utility Software (MUS) to format data coming from the MicroScribe so that a 3rd party application can accept and use the data. A set of standard format strings for popular software packages is included with MUS, and a user can also create custom format strings. See the MUS help file for more information on format strings.

Where is the origin of the reference frame for the MicroScribe located?

Upon pressing the “Home” button of the MicroScribe G2 or powering on of a MicroScribe 3D a default coordinate system is established. The default origin is at the center of the base joint axis, in the middle of the threaded insert/tripod mount, flush with the bottom of the base plate. The X-axis runs parallel to the “tombstone”, with the positive X in the direction in which the counterweight points. The Y-axis runs perpendicular to the tombstone, with positive Y extending straight out from the front of the tombstone.

My MicroScribe is not connecting to my PC. What do I do?

There are many reasons that your computer may not be ‘talking’ to your MicroScribe. Our Connection problems between the MicroScribe and your PC document outlines them all.

I think my MicroScribe is giving inaccurate data. Why is this happening?

A MicroScribe may be transmitting inaccurate data for a number of reasons:

The Home button is being pressed while the unit is not in the home position.

It is imperative that the MicroScribe in the home position when the “Home” button on the back panel is pressed, as it is calibrated at the factory to calculate the position of the stylus tip based on known (arm) segment lengths and the specific, known joint angles in this position. For more on the home position see Accuracy Check #1

It is not being homed with the standard tip in place.

This will also cause the initial home position calibration to be disrupted, resulting in inaccurate data. To learn more about using nonstandard tips properly with the MicroScribe download our “Using a non-standard tip with the MicroScribe” document

Something internal may be damaged.

The MicroScribe may have received a shock or bump that caused the internal components to become loose and not function properly. Or, sometimes a MicroScribe that has been used almost daily for several years just needs a “tune-up.” The best way to check the encoders is to run through Accuracy check #2. In both cases the unit would need to be sent back to GoMeasure3D for repair and recalibration.

My MicroScribe is acting strange, I think it needs to be sent back for repairs. What do I do?

Any time a MicroScribe needs to be sent back to GoMeasure3D for repair and/or recalibration the unit needs to be issued a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) number. Together we can figure out what the cause of the problems may be, if the unit is still under warranty, and discuss your options.

Can I power up the MicroScribe with the Ball Tip Inserted?

No. You must power up the MicroScribe with the Standard Point Tip, while in the home position. If you do not, you will get inaccurate point data. See our Nonstandard Tips document for more information.

What are some examples of software solutions that work with the MicroScribe?

You can find our list of CAD/CAM and 3D Graphics software solutions here. Many of these software solutions offer plug-ins for the MicroScribe. MicroScribe Utility Software (MUS) is our free application that allows entry of X, Y, Z coordinate values directly into many Windows applications.

I want to implement the MicroScribe into my application. Do you have a SDK for it?

Yes, GoMeasure3D has a DLL that consists of standard “C” functions that will work on most Windows systems. You can request a copy of the SDK from our web site.

How does the MicroScribe work?

A series of optical encoders inside each of the five joints help a microchip in the base dynamically calculate the position of the stylus tip in 3D space.

How long does it take to create a model?

This is dependant on your familiarity with the application you are using. What might have taken hours or, quite possibly days, to model from scratch can be accomplished with the MicroScribe in at least half the time. While other types of scanners, especially laser, may create models quickly upfront, there is generally significant clean-up and postproduction time involved. With MicroScribe, the user has direct control of the data going in, so it’s possible to get it right the first time and avoid a clean-up step later.

How many points do you have to take?

This is dependant on what the final model is being used for. If the final model needs to be very precise, more data will need to be collected, and the resulting model will be that much more accurate. If accuracy is not an issue, models can be created with a relatively low number of points.

Do you have to click the pedal/hand switch for each point?

This depends on the software you are using MicroScribe with. Some applications, including MicroScribe Utility Software (MUS), feature Auto Plot features that take points automatically as the MicroScribe stylus is moved across a model. In some cases it is necessary to take individual points, which is done by clicking the input device of the MicroScribe.

How large of a model can I digitize?

By “daisy-chaining” pieces on an object together to form a complete version, there is no size limit to what can be digitized with MicroScribe. Some MicroScribe customers have digitized real-size cars and boats!

Do you have plans to make a larger/longer arm?

There are no immediate plans to make a larger or longer arm for the MicroScribe.

What do people use the MicroScribe for?

People use the MicroScribe to capture the physical properties of three-dimensional objects and accurately translate them into complete 3D models. Designers and manufacturers also use the MicroScribe to reverse-engineer objects they do not have drawings for. See the Case Study for a full overview of how MicroScribe is being used today.

What formats does the MicroScribe save as?

MicroScribe works with many different standard software applications, so it has no special format. Whatever formats the software application in use with MicroScribe saves as can be used with MicroScribe. For a complete list of compatible packages see the Software Solutions page.

What is the difference between MicroScribe 3D and MicroScribe G2?

The MicroScribe G2 was released in July 2002 and has dual USB/serial support. MicroScribe 3D models only have a serial port connection and have been available since 1996. MicroScribe G2 is available in a “Slate” finish, while MicroScribe 3D units are available in “Bordeaux”.

What are the advantages of using a MicroScribe digitizing system instead of traditional modeling methods?

The advantages include an accurate recreation of a physical model in 3D software. If a user wishes to model an exact replica of an object, the MicroScribe will save time and remove the need for tedious measuring. The digital version will also be a very accurate representation of the original, up to +/-0.009″ depending on the model of MicroScribe that is used.

The MicroScribe is also easier to use than modeling with a keyboard and mouse. The user simply starts a tool that can utilize 3D data, then moves the MicroScribe stylus over the surface of the object. Users with minimal 3D software experience can create complex models quickly and easily.

What kind of models can be digitized? Are there any requirements or preparations need to be made on the model before digitizing?

Any type of model with a relatively hard surface and can be fixed down may be digitized with a MicroScribe system. Preparations for digitizing can include drawing lines or dots on the model to trace with the digitizer, but these are not necessary. We have customers that digitize very rare antiques, bones and other types of models that would be unsuitable to mark on and they digitize without these preparations.

Can I digitize hard to reach areas on a model, for example the bottom side of a car?

Yes, the MicroScribe is a 5 degree-of-freedom articulated arm that can get into many hard-to-reach areas of a model. There is also an optional extra fine tip that allows the stylus to reach into cracks and crevices.

As for the bottom sides of objects, or the portion that rests on the table, a process called daisy chaining can be used. The MicroScribe is used to digitize all the reachable parts of a model from a particular position. Then, a set of reference points is taken that will also be reachable from the new position. The MicroScribe or the model is then moved to the new position and the reference points are re-taken. The geometry from the two positions is then matched up in the software’s workspace.
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