Aug 22, 2011

ZScanning Helps Tier 1 Auto Supplier Navigate Today's Trickiest Engineering Challenges

As automobiles change, so do the demands on suppliers of parts – right down to the rubber hoses that carry air into the engine, coolant to the radiator, and fluids to brakes and windshields.

Compact engine compartments crammed with components make engineering for hoses more precise than ever, which is why Mackay Consolidated Industries Pty Ltd of Victoria, Australia, invested in a ZScanner® handheld 3D laser scanner from Z Corporation.

Mackay, a Tier 1 auto supplier for OEMs such as Ford, GM and Toyota, produces hoses in progressively intricate shapes and sizes to deal with the shrinking margin for error under the hood. The ZScanner helps the company better perform quality assurance to document that its products precisely match design specifications.

Instead of creating complex fixtures to set up every scanning project, the user in most instances can simply point the ZScanner like a flashlight at the target object, which can be handled and moved during the process to easily capture every surface angle. The resulting image — triangulated mesh in STL format — is downloaded into PolyWorks® inspection software, which aligns the image with the customer-approved CAD model. This process produces a highly detailed “heat map” chart pinpointing where the part complies with the specification, and most importantly, where it does not. It’s now quick and easy to spot areas that are outside specification and revise designs accordingly.

“We’ve dramatically reduced the time it takes to scan new hoses,” says Arch Tatas, Mackay’s quality manager. “It takes us half the time it used to. We just place the item on a bench and go to work. This has helped us transform our quality assurance procedures to save time, improve quality and increase customer satisfaction. These are all valuable results for us.”

No more laborious, imprecise hand measurement

Until recently, the company evaluated specification compliance by measuring its products by hand. Engineers used squares and gauges to compare the manufactured product to a two-dimensional printout of the CAD drawing. This process was time consuming, costly, laborious and inaccurate, primarily because of the complexity of the shape and flexibility of the material.

At one point, the Mackay team tried a conventional computerized measuring machine (CMM) for inspection. A CMM requires extensive set up and an absolutely fixed target. The more cramped engine compartments became, the more difficult and time consuming it was to measure their parts with a CMM. Neither hand measurements nor CMMs provided documentation support Mackay needed.

“ZScanning greatly reduces the time it takes to determine hose specification and, more importantly, provides a far greater degree of accuracy — both essential in today’s competitive environment,” said Tatas. Mackay can include the heat map images in its customer documentation to objectively demonstrate the quality of the finished product. This capability has helped the company win General Motors’ business in the Asia-Pacific region.

ZScanning is part of Mackay’s ongoing companywide technology upgrade program, which has been under way over the past 12 months. “This world-class technology provides a real leap forward in improving measurement and inspection, and in enabling the highly detailed reports our customers increasingly require,” said Tatas. “This is where this technology comes into its own.”