Conquest, Innovation and Industrial Robustness

A worker using a HandySCAN BLACK to scan tooling

There are industries and manufacturing processes that, even though they rely on technology, innovation and progress, have . It’s namely the case of infrastructure companies such as water conveyance systems manufacturers. It would be irrational to think of ripping open the streets to replace a city’s existing water mains in one go. And so, companies with a rich heritage and a specialized expertise such as Saint-Gobain PAM Canalisation rely on state-of-the-art technologies to maintain legacy mould tooling in service, and to build and repair durable water conveyance infrastructure.

What was originally the Société anonyme des hauts-fourneaux et fonderies de Pont-à-Mousson (PAM) is now part of the Saint-Gobain Group. Founded in 1856, PAM recently celebrated 160 years of operation and yet still pursues its development amidst the drastic increases in raw material costs, driven by a spirit of conquest, innovation and industrial robustness. Their niche is ductile cast-iron piping (formerly grey pig iron) for water conveyance, sanitation and industrial applications.

One of the challenges Saint-Gobain PAM Canalisation faces today is filling a technological gap: the scanning of older mould tooling devoid of 3D design files used to manufacture plates for road systems. With the nearing end of life of the tooling, getting digital versions as dependable as the original designs was of utmost importance to ensure the continuity of service and operation. Creaform devices and services proved instrumental in solving the issue.


Tooling placed on a table with targets

Replacement of old tooling, prepared for scanning with


Hardware and Software Ecosystem: Performance, Reliability and Ease of Use

Prior to implementing Creaform’s solutions at the production site, Saint-Gobain PAM Canalisation relied on traditional measuring systems and a coordinate-measuring machine (CMM). The lengthy process was inefficient in most cases, leading to eventual poor fits with the tooling to be measured and retroengineered. Given the complexity of the parts, the alternative solution had to show great performance, be fast and reliable, and easy to use in various contexts and environments.

Moreover, since PAM uses Artec’s Geomagic Design X and Control X software for metrology and quality control, they had to assemble an ecosystem of hardware and software that would streamline their measuring, retroengineering and QC processes.

How did they do it? First, they equipped a room with a rotary table and a 75-inch monitor in which they integrated a Creaform HandySCAN 3D scanner. Then they used a portable PC for ease of use inside and outside the room (quality control, maintenance, production), running the appropriate software for rendering and processing. And so, the design and quality personnel were duly trained in operating the scanner and software. Virtually any PAM department can request 3D scanning services based on their needs, whether they are in a closed room, at a worksite or on the shop floor.


Features and Benefits Aplenty

Besides enabling Saint-Gobain PAM Canalisation to solve their main challenge in terms of legacy tooling, the newly assembled ecosystem allowed them to improve their processes in terms of precision, portability and simplicity. Surface acquisition times were reduced tenfold, thanks to 11 laser ligns and state-of-the-art software, and there was no need for matte powders to capture shiny or reflective surfaces efficiently, thus reducing the process time even more. For instance, a single project using manual methods would take 2 to 3 months; now with Design X and Creaform’s scanner, the 3D design file can be made available within 2 weeks.

What’s more, the single line-based laser greatly facilitates the acquisition of hard-to-reach areas such as deep pockets, in comparison to triangle-based lasers.

In a nutshell, after having used other Creaform instruments in the past, the PAM team were happy to get their hands on the latest generation of Creaform 3D scanners, namely the HandySCAN 3D|BLACK. The device proved instrumental in acquiring precise measurements and bringing back to life old mould tooling for manufacturing plates for road systems.

The 3D scanner was particularly useful in generating reliable files for reverse engineering, and the software brought about appreciable savings in modeling time compared to manual dimensioning methods.


Two images of a tooling on 3D format

3D file obtained with the HandySCAN 3D|BLACK scanner and Design X software

Keeping Up with the Pace of Progress

As a global brand and true reference in the piping industry, Saint-Gobain PAM Canalisation had to push boundaries and keep up with the pace of progress, especially to offer complete solutions in tune with customer demands and standards in the water sector.

Shifting from a manual to an advanced technological process was the first step in achieving excellence and pursuing continuous improvement. But what changed the game for PAM was its ability to leverage the latest tools and software to reduce acquisition times, lower operational costs and reuse older tooling to ensure manufacturing consistency and extend the life of real-world components in water conveyance and road systems.

Article written by Creaform

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