01 February 2010
Aerospace firm reverse engineers ageing planes with hand-held scanner
Texas-based M7 Aerospace says that its maintenance, repair and overhaul services have been transformed since installing Z Corporation's portable 3D laser scanners.
The system, which can quickly scan very large objects on hand-held scanning equipment, means that M7 can now capture the entire surface of, for example, an old Fairchild Metroliner 19-seat commuter-class turboprop aircraft down to 0.1 mm resolution, within three days.
Joe Furnish, M7 Aerospace vice president of engineering services, says that means his company can now offer a new service to scan any aircraft – exterior, interior or both – creating precise, 3D portraits of entire planes down to one-thousandth of an inch to gain engineering data hitherto buried in out-of-date 2D drawings that also fail to reflect manufacturing variations, modifications, damage or wear and tear.
"Even if the [engineering] team is operating multiple scanners and laptops, the ZScanner brings it all together into one point cloud," explains Furnish. "No file repair is required. The software understands what it's looking at."
When the scanned file is complete, M7 imports the file into Catia as a parametric solid model that is editable, just like any other part designed in CAD. "At this stage, M7 has its engineering information in 3D, and ready to use for quicker, more accurate and more economical service," comments Furnish.
He sees a growing need for both government and commercial customers to keep older aircraft flying and productive. "This new scanning capability helps us do that. By automatically capturing deep engineering data, we can more quickly and efficiently reverse-engineer aircraft and components that were originally designed in the 2D era — before 3D CAD was readily available," says Furnish.
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