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Creaform Inc.


3D Measuring Technology in the Plastics Industry

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 11:06

Innovative technologies, mobility, and flexibility in measurement technology are playing a major role for more and more companies. In addition to fixed coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) or traditional measurement arms, optical systems are increasingly becoming established in measurement technology. Measurement technology is even in demand at high-tech polymer specialist REHAU.

For energy-efficient construction, use of renewable energies, water management, mobility, and future living, polymer specialist REHAU initiates sustainable contributions to meet the environmental and economic challenges of the future. Expertise, love for innovation, and passion for the fascinating and unlimited potential benefits of polymer materials are fundamental to the company’s success as a system and service provider of polymer-based solutions for the construction, automotive, and industrial sectors.

In the past, REHAU used traditional 3D CMMs and FARO measurement arms, or external service providers were commissioned for metrology tasks. Today, optical measurement systems are increasingly being used in addition to these methods.

Measurement system requirements

Mobility, flexibility, and ease of use played a role when it came to selecting a solution at RENHAU, because it should be possible for measurements to be taken in various departments at the plant, as well as in different measuring environments, without affecting measurement accuracy. With Creaform, REHAU finally hit upon a solution. “The optical MetraSCAN 3D scanner offers the best price/performance ratio for our specified applications as well as extremely high flexibility and mobility,” explains Matthias Meiler, prototypes and gauge construction team leader at REHAU.

Measurement in the plastics industry

As a rule, plastics manufacturers using processes such as injection molding, extrusion, and the like must come to grips with physical phenomena such as shrinkage and spring-back effects that make it difficult to achieve CAD geometry. Using 3D scans to carry out comprehensive surveys of the plastic parts and tools makes it possible to find out to what extent these phenomena influence the affected parts. The results of a 3D scan provide a good indication of this during the repetitive tool design process. Closely monitoring the shape geometry and production of the relevant parts also helps to prevent design steps that are often unnecessary and repetitive. In addition, a 3D scan represents a valuable solution for the reverse engineering of original tools.

The MetraSCAN 3D works together with the C-Track optical camera system and can also be used in combination with the HandyPROBE probing measuring system as required. The 3D scanner offers unrestricted freedom of movement, and its measurement volume can be expanded quickly and easily without loss of precision by moving the C-Track.

The C-Link functionality from Creaform allows up to four C-Track dual-camera sensors to be linked together. These sensors can be used at the same time as the portable, tactile HandyPROBE coordinate measuring equipment or the MetraSCAN 3D scanner. C-Link represents a mobile measuring solution that allows a virtual measurement room to be set up at any location for quick and easy tactile or contact-free testing of complex setups, devices, tools, or prototypes. The integrated TRUaccuracy technology guarantees a high degree of accuracy independent of the measurement environment (e.g., instabilities, vibrations, thermal differences) or the skill of the user.

The MetraSCAN 3D, the HandyPROBE, and a C-Track 780 are used at REHAU for process engineering in injection molding, painting, and assembly technology as well as probing and contact-free measurement of prototype components and series measurement.

Distortion analysis of a component before and after painting

One task for which Creaform measuring technology is used at REHAU is distortion analysis of a component before and after painting. For this purpose, the MetraSCAN 3D optical scanner is used to scan injection-molded raw parts to make a target/actual comparison of the data and identify any deviations from predefined critical component areas before painting. The injection-molded raw part is then painted and rescanned. Another comparison of the target/actual data is made to identify deviations in the predefined critical component areas. During the final stage, the component distortion “after painting” is compared with “before painting” and analyzed.

Without the Creaform measuring technology, the component would have to be measured on a 3D CMM. This would have required additional images to be captured for the component. In addition, the static immobilization of the component and the kinematics of the 3D CMM restrict the measuring process, potentially resulting in higher expenditure of time and costs. The TRUaccuracy technology integrated into the Creaform systems enables dynamic referencing of components, and the MetraSCAN 3D system can be placed on the component, thus eliminating the need for transportation and confidentiality agreements. Allocating the measuring task to a service provider would also have been a conceivable alternative. However, this would also have been associated with logistical complexity and costs.

“After letting go of traditional measuring technologies and their limitations, our experiences have been positive in every respect,” says Meiler. “The Creaform MetraSCAN 3D system meets our specific requirements extremely well. The scanner is easy to use, even if a degree of practice is required for larger orders. The evaluation software reports can be designed on an individual basis. Our internal clients are extremely satisfied with the quality of the measurement results and are even placing follow-up orders with us.”


About The Author

Creaform Inc.’s picture

Creaform Inc.

Creaform helps companies seamlessly create, simulate, verify, and collaborate in 3D, significantly enhancing their turnaround times and profitability. In addition to designing and selling its 3D laser scanners/systems, 3D digitizers, portable CMMs, dual camera sensors, and distributing other 3D measurement systems and software, Creaform offers design and engineering services, reverse engineering, finite element analysis, 3D and long-range scanning, inspection, training, and staff outsourcing.