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NVision Inc.

Metrology

Reverse Engineering Key Impeller at Hydroelectric Plant

Handheld 3-D scanner prevents costly shutdown

Published: Monday, August 15, 2011 - 12:07

Engineers from NVision Inc., using the company's HandHeld scanner, were able to quickly reverse engineer a large impeller for a major hydroelectric facility, sparing the facility what would have been an extended shutdown had they needed to produce a replacement impeller from scratch. In less than one week, NVision scanned the original impeller and provided a computer model of it to the facility, which then used the model to manufacture a duplicate impeller for installation. In the end, only a relatively short shutdown was necessary to accommodate the scanning and reproduction of the impeller.

The turbines that move the water in hydroelectric plants employ massive impellers to get the job done. In this case, one of the facility's key impellers had suffered damage that forced the facility to replace it. However, the facility did not possess a computer model of the impeller, which was necessary in order to manufacture a replacement. Without a replacement available, the plant was facing an extended shutdown with potentially high losses in time and money.

The facility's management contacted NVision to produce a computer model of the impeller. Two days after the initial contact, with a refurbished impeller temporarily in use as a replacement, an NVision engineer was on site to scan the impeller using the HandHeld laser scanner.

The HandHeld scanner is attached to a mechanical arm which moves about the object being scanned, freeing the user to capture data rapidly and with a high degree of resolution. An optional tripod provides complete portability in the field. Intuitive software allows full model editing, polygon reduction, and data output to all standard 3-D packages.

"The HandHeld laser scanner was perfect for this project because its ability to move freely around a part makes it possible to reverse engineer components of virtually any size and shape," said Colin Ellis, engineering manager at NVision. "In this case, the spacing of the blades was large enough for the laser scanning head to fit through."

Scanning took eight hours, and included data from three locations situated throughout the part, with data being indexed into the same coordinate system using geometric features. After the data was collected and processed into an STL mesh, a SolidWorks model was created in two days. The facility received the completed model of the impeller just six working days after first calling NVision with their problem. The computer model was used to manufacture an exact duplicate of the original impeller

"By using laser scanning to reverse engineer the impeller the facility was able to avoid a lengthy and costly shutdown," said Ellis. "As a side benefit of the scanning, we found that the impeller being used as a replacement was greatly out of balance, with no easy way of manually checking the part to see where the problem lay. Fortunately, using our inspection software, we were able to rotate and compare the data virtually, allowing precise indication of problem areas."

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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.