Molds and dies wear out after producing large quantities of castings, leading to products that no longer meet customers’ specifications. Knowing that this wear is inevitable, quality control and maintenance of the molds and dies are required to avoid production deviation. However, inspection interrupts the casting production, resulting in a loss of money for foundries. Therefore, foundries and casting manufacturers are looking for ways to accelerate the inspection time in order to restart production as soon as possible.
This is the challenge we recently addressed at the request of a global leader in cast-iron engine blocks and heads for the automotive industry. Our objective was to reduce the time needed for inspecting the molds significantly with a better scanning solution.
Due to wear, molds must be inspected and repaired periodically. Because of the tooling’s complex surfaces and level of detail, the company was already using a scanner positioned on an arm to map the surface. However, the operators were facing different challenges on a regular basis:
- They needed to use white powder for structured light systems to break the shining effect on the surface, which meant a cost of USD 5,000 annually.
- They needed to disassemble the different parts of the mold to allow the arm-based scanner to reach the deep features, which required 30 minutes per tooling for the disassembly and another 30 minutes to reassemble the tooling after inspection.
- Due to these first two issues, the tooling inspection process became a bottleneck.
The company was therefore keen to find a better scanning solution that could allow to scan shiny surfaces without using white powder and also allow to reach deep features without the need to disassemble the tooling. This would eliminate the bottleneck effect induced in the inspection process and, therefore, gain efficiency.
In order to reach the company’s expectations, members of our team went on-site to offer operators the opportunity to test the HandySCAN 3D scanner. This way, they could generate meshes and create reports before and after the mold was repaired. As per the company’s request, Polyworks capabilities were also demonstrated as the operators had to deal with multiple parts and wanted to simplify the inspection before and after repair. The scanning process occurred directly on the shop floor of the foundry, close to heavy machines and cranes where temperature is high. Vibrations were significant and dirt was present in the air.
During the experiment, the operators had the opportunity to scan more than 50 parts and to generate six reports. For each of the parts scanned, the time needed for the measurements was compared with their current inspection process.
On conclusion of the experiment, the customer confirmed that the HandySCAN 3D could be used to scan the complete mold without having to dissemble it. Moreover, the inspection could take place directly on the shop floor. In addition, all of the customer’s requirements were reached, namely that no parts required white powder to attenuate the reflective effect, no parts had to be disassembled thanks to the extendable measurement volume (accessible without leapfrog), and that inspection time was reduced significantly, saving days in production downtime.
The case study described above refers to parts for the automotive industry. However, it is our expectation that portable 3D scanning solutions could be used to equal effect during the casting of components required by valve, control valve and actuator manufacturers. The benefits are clear: helps to avoid costly white powder, limits handling and dismantling, and keeps inspections on the shop floor. This reduces downtime and helps to optimize the production of better quality castings.