3d scanning

3D Scanning – is it the New Manufacturing Quality Control Process?

In Business, Business Insurance, Manufacturing by Kate Houlihan

We work quite a bit within the manufacturing world, helping with supply chain management, loss control and risk management.  In any business, Cash is King and Quality Control is a close second. When problems aren’t caught, recalls happen, inventory is lost and so do profit margins.

Whether you’re manufacturing your millionth ball bearing or your first foam seat cushion, your QA/QC system is only as good as its inspectors and analysts. And your quality control team is only as effective as the tools they use.

Manufacturing companies are tasked with not only producing higher quality products, but also keeping up with the rapid pace of innovation. Along with that comes tighter specification tolerances, a demand for faster production, in addition to minimizing costs, reducing waste, and improving time to market.

So how are manufacturers supposed to keep up? One way is by utilizing improved quality control methods – 3D Scanning. By having more complete and accurate part geometry, faster corrective action can be taken and faster decisions and modifications can be made. It eliminates the guess work and lengthy investigation process required when parts fail inspection.

The basic idea is that 3D scanning measures the geometries of a physical part and brings it into the digital world. Laser scanners have come a long way in the past 20 years. We can be incorporated into the QC process for first article inspection, part-to-CAD and in the growing area of in-process measurement. They can be used in applications like aerospace engineering and automotive manufacturing. 3D scanning data can be used throughout the design to manufacturing product life cycle – creating a CAD model, inspection analysis, reverse engineering, CFD/FEA analysis, rapid prototyping, and more.

3D laser scanners can be divided into two broad categories based on their method of capturing data:

White-light and structured-light scanners take single snapshots or scans of objects. White-light scanners offer great accuracy and precision, but require the tracker to have a clear and direct line of sight to the scanner. Structured-light 3D scanners have the advantage of offering excellent resolution, but they also typically need to perform multiple scans to cover all the angles on complex parts.

Scan arms and portable handheld scanners capture multiple images continuously. A scan arm can accommodate both scanners and touch probes. However, the arm needs to be bolted to a stable surface so, they tend to be susceptible to vibrations and other environmental factors and aren’t practical for scanning hard-to-reach areas. The main advantage of portable scanners is their ease of transport and use, with some high-end models acquiring more than 500,000 points per second. Unfortunately, portable 3D scanners are limited in scanning volume, with errors increasing as the volume grows.

Having a robust inspection process to improve quality control is critical in today’s environment.  With accurate scanning and inspection analysis, companies can quickly make time crucial decisions without slowing down their time to market goals.