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Harnessing the speed, versatility and accuracy of 3D scanning for the additive manufacturing of metal parts

Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions is a full-service provider of large-format metal parts for a wide range of industries, such as power generation, oil and gas, transportation, heavy equipment, and aerospace and defence.

Lincoln Electric has pioneered large-scale metal 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, of prototype, production and replacement parts, and tooling made out of steels, stainless steels, Invar, and nickel alloys. In fact, it is not rare for Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions to produce very large metal parts that measure several feet and thousands of pounds.

Alt text: Lincoln Electric employee using the MetraSCAN 3D scanner to scan a large-scale metal 3D printing with C-track in the foreground

Lincoln Electric: A pioneer of the latest manufacturing technologies

Lincoln Electric has always prided itself in leveraging the latest manufacturing technologies to gain a competitive edge in the market. That is why the company was one of the first to develop additive manufacturing technologies for producing large-sized, high-quality and often complex parts in very short turnaround times.

 Producing additive metal parts requires an accurate assessment of part dimensions. Because of the size and complexity of the parts Lincoln Electric 3D prints, conventional quality control solutions, such as coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and  measurement arms, could not offer the speed and versatility Lincoln Electric needed..

For example, traditional measurement systems prevented technicians from measuring parts right on the production floor. “Our parts are very heavy and large,” said Mark Douglass, Business Development Manager at Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions. “Minimizing the movement of parts is important to us. We knew that a CMM or arm was not going to cut it. So, we looked at alternatives and 3D scanning fit the bill.”

Lincoln Electric employee using the MetraSCAN 3D scanner to scan a large-scale metal 3D printing with computer on a mobile workstation in the background

Implementing 3D scanning in Lincoln Electric’s additive manufacturing workflows

To quickly and accurately determine the dimensions and quality of 3D-printed metal parts, Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions turned to Creaform’s 3D measurement technologies. Engineering and quality control teams generate complete 3D surface models of 3D-printed parts and compare them to the original CAD design.

As Amanda Dodge, Additive Engineer at Lincoln Electric, explained: “A lot of times, we have parts with unique features. 3D scans enable us to assess all the complex features we are printing—and verify that all those features are correct.”

“Both production operators and engineers were quick to adopt the solution. We can now measure parts in a matter of minutes,” Mark added. “Because Creaform’s solutions are portable, we can take the measurement tools to the parts rather than the parts to the tool.”

Close-up of a MetraSCAN 3D scanner being used to scan a large-scale metal 3D printing

Large part volumes: Adding MetraSCAN 3D to the 3D printing process

As Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions’ business has grown, so has the size of their customer’s parts, and Lincoln Electric needed a way to measure large parts quickly and accurately without having to move the parts to measure them. To meet this need, Lincoln Electric opted for Creaform’s MetraSCAN 3D, the fastest and most accurate 3D scanner and portable CMM for shop floor environments.

“What makes the MetraSCAN 3D so great is that it’s a non-contact solution. No targets are required. We can verify dimensional quality at any time during the production process, even in mid-print when the parts are too hot to touch,” said Brad Barnhart, Additive Engineer at Lincoln Electric. 3D scanning times are reduced significantly because technicians don’t have to wait for the parts to cool down.

Amanda pointed out that the fact that parts don’t have to be cleaned before 3D scanning them is a huge time saver as well.

Lincoln Electric employee using the MetraSCAN 3D scanner to scan a large-scale metal 3D printing with computer on a mobile workstation in the background

3D scanners: A huge driver for business growth

Mark believes that Creaform’s 3D scanning solutions are important to Additive Solutions’ growth. “We can quickly confirm the manufacturing quality of 100% of our 3D-printed parts and have the confidence they meet customers’ specifications,” he mentioned. “They also help for our speed to market because they enable a fast way to inspect parts.”

According to the Additive Solutions team, additive manufacturing is growing rapidly and important to Lincoln Electric’s long-term strategy. “As we expand, Creaform’s 3D scanners will continue to be an integral part of our factory processes.”

Article written by Creaform

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