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Ford Reduces Crankshaft Weight and Machine Tooling With Optical 3D Scanning

Published: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 12:15

Ford Motor Co.’s Nondestructive Evaluation Laboratory (NDE) in Livonia, Michigan, is a leading facility for quality test inspection and failure analysis of automotive components. Historically, many of the automaker’s manufacturing programs depended heavily on coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) during their testing phases. That is, until Ford started using optical-structured light scanners.

Because point clouds rendered by a CMM can’t fully describe a part or visually display trends and dimensional variations, measurement results weren’t as accurate as Ford wanted them to be. A program would fail to meet its deadlines and also experience high scrap rates. 

Ford’s prototype V8 crankshafts, which experienced extreme out-of-balance conditions during launch, were one example where better measurements could save time and money. “CMM results showed all crankshafts to be within specification tolerances,” says Beverly Minicilli, a Ford manufacturing engineer. “Because CMMs only capture discrete predefined points, they failed to illustrate a significant imbalance scrap issue that an optical 3D scanner clearly identified.”

Now Ford maintains top quality inspection by using 3D optical scanning. The NDE techs evaluated various optical scanners in their quest to find additional inspection tools for crankshafts. Optical scanners were compared side by side, and after conducting several Six Sigma experiments, the lab techs decided that a Steinbichler 3D optical scanner met all accuracy requirements at one-third the cost of its competition. The optical-structured light scanner works as a camera, capturing images of the part in an organized data set. As the part automatically rotates using a rotary table, it displays the CAD model in comparison to the measured point cloud.

Ford Exceeds top-quality inspection requirements with optical 3D scanning technology

Ford’s goal was to purchase an optical scanner that was not only easy to use but also improved scan time and dimensional accuracy compared to the automaker’s high-energy computed tomography system, which Ford uses in addition to traditional CMM inspection.

“3D scanning has become the key tool in optimization of rough-part crankshafts for the machining process on 6.2L, 6.7L, and 2.5L crankshafts,” says Minicilli. “Today’s optical scanners exceed computed tomography’s ability to provide precise external dimensional analysis and are much faster. For dimensional analysis on crankshafts, external features are all we are required to scan. Steinbichler’s technology enables us to meet all our requirements in a fraction of the time.”

Although many Ford facilities use only traditional methods for part inspection, the NDE has realized the immediate benefits of incorporating an optical-structured light scanner for its reliable part inspection needs. “Over 500 crankshafts are scanned each year,” says Minicilli. “We see an average cost savings of over $50,000 per program by using results obtained from the optical scanner to significantly reduce rough-part weight and machine tool consumption.”

Steinbichler’s optical scanner has allowed Ford to easily identify the root cause of crankshaft imbalance and quickly implement corrective actions prior to production, ultimately accelerating the launch of its V8 crankshafts. “Optical 3D scanning has given us the ability to shift the entire part within profile tolerance, optimizing the balance much faster and more robustly than relying solely on discrete points provided by the CMM,” says Minicilli. “3D scanning is now a critical part of the Ford preproduction approval process for all programs and is used on a regular basis for root cause analysis and optimization initiatives.”


About The Author

Steinbichler’s picture


Steinbichler is a manufacturer and supplier of 3D scanning technology. Steinbichler develops and markets precise measurement systems with corresponding software solutions for a wide range of applications. Its 3D scanning products, COMET and T-SCAN, are in operation at well-known industrial companies and research institutes worldwide. As a technology oriented company, Steinbichler offers innovative and effective inspection solutions to address its customer’s needs.