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NVision Inc.

Metrology

Laser Scanning Saves Toilet Manufacturer $20,000 and Four Weeks

Reverse engineering and a few million point clouds sped new design to production

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 12:09

Aircraft Technologies Inc., a leading manufacturer of toilets for corporate jets, saved $20,000 and four weeks in reduced tooling costs and time for a new model by utilizing NVision’s laser scanning and engineering services. “By scanning an existing upper and lower bowl assembly and modifying the resulting CAD models to fit parts that we already had tooling for, we substantially reduced the tooling cost and got the product to market faster,” says Mark Riebesehl, owner and vice president of operations for Aircraft Technologies.

Aircraft Technologies provides single-source sanitary solutions for airframe manufacturers, completion centers, and maintenance and repair facilities. The company’s Series 90 externally serviced toilets are made of thermoformed Kydex and composites for a high strength-to-weight ratio. The user simply closes the cover for an automatic flush. The new variant of the Series 90 will be produced in volumes of about 70 per year for a corporate aircraft manufacturer.

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The main parts in the new design are the bowl cap, spray ring, and upper and lower bowl assembly. The normal approach to tooling up for a new toilet would have required designing all four parts from scratch and then building a new thermoforming tool for each part. However, Riebesehl noted that an existing bowl cap and spray ring from one toilet and an existing upper and lower bowl from another were all close to the new design and would work perfectly if modifications could be made to the upper and lower bowl to make them fit together.

“The upper and lower bowls were designed before we started using CAD, so there was no model that we could modify,” says Riebesehl. “I had heard about NVision’s laser scanning and decided to try reverse-engineering the existing upper and lower bowl tooling. We hired NVision’s Engineering Service Division to scan the two parts and provide us with the CAD models.

“The upper and lower bowl tooling was nearly irreplaceable so my partner and I flew to NVision’s facility in Dallas and stood there while they scanned the parts,” Riebesehl continues. “NVision’s team worked quickly and efficiently and we flew back with the scan data the very same day. NVision then sent us the CAD surface models via FTP.”

Laser scanning works by projecting a line of laser light onto the surfaces to be measured while a camera continuously triangulates the changing distance and profile of the laser line as it sweeps along. A computer translates the video image of the line into accurate 3-D coordinates of the object’s geometry. Engineers then create point clouds consisting of millions of points and use the scan data to create solid models and then output the IGES/STEP CAD surface models.

“When we got back, we modified the CAD models to mate up with the existing bowl cap and spray ring,” says Riebesehl. “Then we generated CNC programs and built the tooling on a machining center. Everything fit together perfectly, validating the accuracy of the laser scanning process. Using NVision’s scanning services saved us in the neighborhood of $20,000 from only having to build two tools instead of four. It also helped us get the new product into production four weeks earlier.”

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About The Author

NVision Inc.’s picture

NVision Inc.

Established in 1990, NVision Inc. provides customers with the highest accuracy noncontact optical measurement systems and services for reverse engineering and inspection. Focusing its expertise on the aerospace, power generation, and oil/gas industries, NVision provides both contract scanning services and systems sales to companies throughout North America. Its team of engineers provides customers with an unmatchable level of experience and is able to advise and assist with the most difficult engineering challenges.