3D Scanning Helps with the Design of Engine Block Mounts

Man in a black polo shirt with yellow Zeppelin logo and black trousers scanning a yellow-colored engine block with the HandySCAN BLACK 3D scanner. On the right in the foreground is a laptop on a blue work trolley on which the scan can be seen.

Zeppelin Baumaschinen GmbH has been a German based sales and service partner of Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction machinery, since 1954. Zeppelin Baumaschinen GmbH has in the interim developed into the largest business unit in the Zeppelin Group, and today it is Europe’s leading sales and service organization in the industry.

The company has been using conventional metrology equipment for years, but for some tasks, this approach has now become obsolete. For example, there are no blueprints or geometry data available for many machines and components, especially older ones, and it is not possible to verify the dimensional accuracy of components with complex geometries using their traditional metrology equipment. The company therefore decided in June 2022 to expand its metrology equipment with a HandySCAN 3D|Black Elite and the data capture software VXelements with its VXmodel scan-to-CAD module.

Product image of the HandySCAN BLACK from Creaform When compared with other technologies, Creaform, as a company, and the HandySCAN 3D scored the highest with regard to:

  • The Creaform brand and its reputation within the market
  • The consistency/reputation of Creaform systems in the industry
  • The high measurement accuracy of its 3D scanners
  • The ease of use & the speed of the software and scanner
  • The standardized hardware & software system

3D scan of engine blocks including connection points

Six different engines can be seen on a graphic.

Examples of the various engines that Zeppelin Baumaschinen has to test.


In order to refurbish an existing engine test bench at the Cologne site, several engines had to be measured to create customized trolley mounts. With the help of these mounts, attaching the engines on the engine test bench becomes a quick and smooth operation.

The current engine test bench is now 59 years old (it was built in 1962) and has reached the limits of its performance when some Caterpillar diesel engine series have to be tested. Assembling the engines on the test bench, as well as the set-up and dismantling for the test bench run, is very time-consuming and limits the engine throughput on the test bench.

The new engine test bench will be used to test engines with an output of up to 1000 kW. In the future, the test objects will be assembled using so-called trolleys. The advantage is that the engines are pre-assembled on the trolleys, and the trolley with its test object is then quickly mounted in the test bench room.

In order to accommodate, to the greatest extent possible, the widest range of engine types on the trolleys, it was decided to scan the majority of the engines with the HandySCAN 3D. This has the advantage that the connection points of the media supply, such as fresh air and exhaust gas, as well as the dimensions of the flywheel for the individual engine types can also be captured.

Gold-colored engine block on a trolley mount standing on the concrete floor of a hall. Cardboard boxes can be seen in the background.

Engine block on the trolley mount. This makes it possible for the engine block, including connection points, to be digitized from all sides.

Scan of the engine block in the VXelements data capturing software. The areas highlighted in green show the connection points for the test bench.

Scan of the engine block in the VXelements data capturing software. The areas highlighted in green show the connection points for the test bench.

Advantages of the Creaform HandySCAN 3D and the VXelements software

This project would have been difficult or even impossible to realize using traditional measurement equipment. Given the complex geometries of the engines, it would not have been possible to record the missing dimensions. It would also have been virtually impossible to reconstruct hidden elements.

The scanning process itself has been optimized to such an extent that the engine measurement can now be carried out quickly:

  • Preparation time approx. 1 hour
  • Measurement time approx. 0.5 hours instead of 2 hours
  • Post-processing/creation of the auxiliary construction varies from approx. 4-8 hours, depending on requirements

In addition, thanks to the VXmodel software, preparation of the model for further development in CAD is considerably simplified.

According to Zeppelin Baumaschinen, the 3D measurement software VXelements offers clear advantages:

  • Simple and reliable operations
  • Clear interface and functions
  • Direct interface to CAD software systems

Areas of application of the HandySCAN 3D|BLACK at Zeppelin

Zeppelin Baumaschinen GmbH now uses 3D metrology equipment for a whole range of applications. These include:

  • Damage analysis of assemblies and individual parts
  • Reverse engineering of existing machine components for individual modifications according to customer requirements (e.g. new development of individual components, customizing, and much more)
  • Creation of 3D models for training and education purposes
  • Creation of 3D models for adaptive component development / installations & conversions on existing machines
  • Scan-to-print solutions for supply bottlenecks

There are also plans to use the measurement solution in the future for other projects, such as adapting operating elements for people with disabilities, e.g., modifying a joystick.
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Article written by Creaform

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