With greater modelling and design functionality as well as part inspection that is two to three times faster, adopting 3D scanning technologies can have a profound effect on design and quality assurance processes. Contributed by 3D Systems Japan
When it comes to design and quality assurance innovation, companies tend to fall into two categories: those that wait until the last moment to adopt new technologies so they would not be left behind, and those that are always at the forefront, aiming at continuous improvement.
Asano, a Japanese metal-processing manufacturer serving the automotive and motorcycle industries, is clearly the second type of company, adopting 3D scanning technologies that have had an effect on its design and quality assurance processes.
A Business Mainstay
The company designs and manufactures a wide range of prototype sheet metal parts, metal moulds, jigs, machinery and other parts. The company also uses its technologies for projects such as reducing automotive weight through the use of carbon fibre-reinforced thermo-plastics.
Norimichi Abe, group leader of Asano’s general control group for CAD machine processing, began experimenting with 3D capture devices and software nearly 10 years ago. Mr Abe now considers reverse engineering a mainstay of the company’s business. He estimates that the company has completed more than 200 projects using such methods.
Such 3D capture devices typically use software such as 3D System’s Geomagic Design X to convert 3D scan data into high-quality feature-based CAD models. It is able to capture geometry for objects of all sizes and create manufacturing-ready designs, including automatic and guided solid model extraction, exact surface fitting to organic 3D scans, mesh editing and point cloud processing.
Mr Abe said that the reverse engineering software provides numerous features such as the ability to handle large point clouds, and a variety of modelling methods such as automatic surface creation.
Integrating Design For Greater Stability
A recent project for Spoon Inc, a Japanese company that provides tuning kits and specialised parts for Honda racing and street cars, called for Asano’s use of 3D scanning technologies.
The project involved designing a new plate for the front underbody of a Honda S660 sports car. The original part suffered from torsion during hard braking and rolling. The plate was designed originally as part of the complex base assembly of the car, which would have made it very time-consuming to redesign from scratch.
Instead of going back to the drawing board, Asano scanned the front underbody surface of the S660. The software was then used to process the scan data and design a new precision plate that could be mounted in place of the original.
“The redesigned plate could be attached to the car simply, without any processing, and it was so precise that the undercover could be mounted without alterations,” added Mr Abe.
The redesigned plate provided greater stability, according to Mr Abe, based on the fact that the suspension and body were integrated into a single box like a sub-frame.
Right The First Time
Beyond point capture and processing, the software can also be used by the quality assurance section to reduce the number of trial sheets for its prototypes and to produce an accurate mould on the first attempt.
“We are aggressively pursuing various new testing methods that are faster and more precise than the ones we have used in the past,” says Hiroshi Imai, section chief for quality assurance at Asano’s Gunma plant.
The software enables manufacturers to take measurements of parts from 3D scanners and compare them to digital reference data for first-article inspection and other metrology applications. The software subsequently generates 3D reports of measurements, tolerances and deviations.
Asano uses 3D scanning and the software to speed the parts testing process and gain more accurate data on deviations from the original design.
“During trial production, it is important to grasp the entire shape and surfaces of sheet metal parts,” said Tetsuya Matsumoto, who is in charge of testing the Asano quality assurance section. “Before we began using the software, if the results were not good enough when we pressed the prototypes and measured them with a laser, it was difficult to determine whether it was a problem with the shape or with the laser. This wasted a considerable amount of time.”
Two To Three Times Faster
Because of the time and effort required for capturing and processing the required data, Asano could only do product feature testing for mass-produced products.
“Except for the mass-produced products, the only testing methods available to us were to check the surface by 3D measurement to designate and measure arbitrary points on the surface,” said Mr Matsumoto.
This made it difficult to grasp the entire shape, and both time and labour were spent on clarifying product features. With a 3D scanning device and supporting software, Mr Matsumoto said that they could grasp the cause of deviations at a much faster rate.
“Our testing is two to three times faster than in the past, and we can aim for much higher manufacturing efficiency,” he added.
Adopting new technologies such as reverse engineering and 3D metrology is an ongoing process at Asano. “We anticipate needs and take up any and every challenge,” says said Akio Kishi, director of Asano’s management promotion office. “This stance is one of our company’s core strengths.”