Electrifying the future with 3D scanning technologies

Nexans is leading the charge to the new world of electrification. The group is a leader in designing and manufacturing cable systems and services across several business areas, including energy generation & transmission, distribution & usages, industry & solution projects, harnesses and telecom infra. The company continuously develops innovative services and solutions from its long-standing expertise in cabling and electrical systems.

With nearly 25,000 employees, Nexans operates in over 40 countries and is on track to transition to 100% of electricity coming from renewable sources, with the goal of contributing to carbon neutrality by 2030.

High-voltage equipment inspections: Critical to preventing component failure and outages.

In the high-voltage (HV) sector, component failure can come at tremendous costs; instant local asset outages of up to 2 GW can occur, which can cause a loss of power transfer capacity equivalent to several nuclear reactors all at once.

This is why Nexans has implemented a comprehensive quality control program for the preparation and on-site assembly of new installations, as well as regular preventive maintenance inspections for existing installations.

Manual inspections miss out on smaller defects

Traditionally, the inspection of HV cable accessories, such as joints and terminations have been inspected manually, relying on the visual acumen and expertise of technical operators.

However, as innovations in HV cable accessories developed over the years, geometries have become increasingly complex. While manual inspections could assess the overall geometry of a component, such as ovality and the entire shape of the insulation surface, it became increasingly difficult to detect small features, like dents, nicks, scratches, faults, and contaminants.

Nexans therefore developed a proprietary platform, SURFICAL, to automate visual inspections, bringing additional accuracy and reliability to the quality control process and enabling teams to document and archive each inspection.

Image showing the Inspection, computation and output generation steps of SURFICAL

Inspection, computation and output generation steps of SURFICAL. The core of the on-site inspection is to generate GO/NOGO criteria on many geometric aspects for both big and small features.

3D scanning: A game changer for high-voltage equipment inspections

Nexans’ quality control team decided to scout out new technologies to eliminate the constraints associated with manual inspections.

For Nexans the turning point to introduce this technology was their improved knowledge on how high voltage direct current (HVDC) dielectric properties link with surface preparation and the surface geometries created on job sites. Furthermore, Nexans noticed how laser scanning technology evolved over time, triggering the need to examine different commercial products.

While many scanning solutions are available, it was understood that both high resolution and accuracy were needed to map the smallest of surface defects. While inspections of macro geometries are important, they alone do not fully complete quality control for high voltage products, where small defects can cause local enhancement of local electric field strength. Local field enhancement can cause initiation of electric insulation degradation processes that deteriorates the material and ultimately lead to failure of the manufactured products.

Nexans noticed that most products on the market were either focused on small-domain scanning at high resolution, using stationary setups (such as optical profilometry), or on large scales and lower resolution (such as LiDAR and photogrammetry).

However, when the team came upon Creaform’s 3D scanning technologies, namely the HandySCAN BLACK|Elite, the quality control experts knew they had found a solution.

3D scanning a demo HVDC cable sample using the HandySCAN BLACK|Elite and a tailored 3D marker fixture.

Laser scanning was found to provide an excellent middle-ground between technologies, all while being very easy to work with. The Creaform family of products has been clearly identified as being at the forefront of this technology.

The HandySCAN BLACK|Elite suited Nexans’ needs perfectly, as it is a scanning solution that can provide unprecedented accuracy and resolution, as well as high data acquisition rates and versatility for all HV accessories.

Computer screen displaying a software program inspecting a part that has been scanned

Live adaptations and inspection of mesh are feasible. Given the system’s high accuracy and resolution, the smallest aspects, such as a dust particle shown here, become visible.

Nexans’s future plans with 3D scanners from Creaform

After initial implementation, testing and fine-tuning of inspection workflows, Nexans is ready to roll out the solution to an industrial scale.

The HV industry is characterized by large-sized components, high unit costs, high variability and unwavering focus on quality and reliability. This industry is ideal for 3D measurement technologies, like Creaform, as a means to push the frontier of quality control. Nexans will initiate many more similar innovations in the future.

Nexans sees this technology as a game changer for the QC of on-site preparation and assembly activities in HV cable accessories.

As stated by one of our R&D engineers: “Anyone’s reaction when first using a Creaform scanner is filled with amazement. That’s when we tell them; Welcome to the future!”

Article written by Creaform

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