We are a traditional New England manufacturer that forges specialty parts primarily for the aerospace industry. In 2009, we acquired an Escan laser scanner from 3D Digital to help streamline and modernize our inspection of production forgings. We were also interested in laser scanning as a way to optimize the value of our very extensive stockpile of previously used forging dies.
Our basic challenge is to scan dies that will generate the high-quality forgings our customers need. Our customers will send us a drawing of a part and state the quantity they need. Some are CAD drawings, but most are line drawings on paper.
Sub-contractors produce our dies then submit them for our okay. They submit a bill at the same time, so it’s our responsibility to detect any errors promptly and request any revisions needed. In the case of a replacement die we are now able to take an impression from the previous die (made when it was intact and functional), 3D-scan it, then scan a cast from the new die. If they match, we know that we’ve got a die we can start forging from.
We started using 3D scanners in March of lasts year. We did a survey of the vendors, had sales people perform demos for us. We found 3D Digital had the clear advantage. Satish made it work for us, with a scanner that did the job well and didn’t break the bank.
We found that the more complex the part, the more valuable 3D scanning was. Before, we would do hand layouts using mechanical measuring equipment—micrometers, calipers and height gauges, measuring to plus or minus 30 thousandths of an inch.
Also, with scanning, you get a representation of the entire surface, not select points, as with the hand layouts. You move from point to point in the hand layout. If there’s a bump in the middle of the part, you may never pick up that anomaly, but the scanner will find it.
Our laser scanner, which is the right model for our tolerances but is not the highest-end model, saves us time. It digitizes our design. There’s no need to keep and store the physical cast anymore. The software lets us reverse engineer and machine the die. Then we can hand it to the subcontractor for CNC machining. Because we are niche supplier, the dies we produce forgings from are often used for short runs and then set aside. We now have the ability to create a data library that gives us the power to “clone” the dies we commission.
Scanning in mid-run will be our next step in this conversion. Currently, we only do replacement die first-article inspection of casts. We would also like to introduce scanners into our customers’ shop. We hope in the future to use the 3D model as our inspection article for first piece inspection.
3D Digital has been a reliable vendor and partner, with personal service to get us through any obstacles.
- Director Quality Assurance