Improving manufacturing precision at National Steel Car with the MetraSCAN BLACK

National Steel Car is a leading railroad freight and tank car manufacturer. Based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and founded in 1912, the company develops and produces over 76 model variations of freight and tank cars for railroad, agriculture, chemical, construction, metal, energy, and financial/leasing companies in Canada and the United States.

Despite their established success, they faced several challenges in order to efficiently achieve the right tolerance levels.

The challenge: Achieving higher levels of 3D measurement accuracy on complex and large welded parts

National Steel Car had a traditional system that allowed design and manufacturing to work with small parts; however, due to the welding process, considerable distortion was often introduced into the large-sized parts.

This distortion posed a challenge in maintaining tight tolerances. The company had maximized the benefits of their existing system and needed a solution that could handle larger scans and better view distortion to mitigate its impact.

Jeff Reid, Managing Director of Statistical Engineering at National Steel Car, decided to look for a more advanced 3D measurement solution that would not only offer better accuracy and a large spatial envelope but also one that was robust enough to withstand harsh shop floor environments, including vibrations and high temperatures. “Because our welded parts are hot, they can be difficult to measure,” he explained.


The solution: MetraSCAN BLACK

Creaform’s MetraSCAN BLACK, a high-end optical and portable CMM scanner engineered to perform highly accurate and repeatable metrology-grade measurements in any condition, caught National Steel Car’s eye.

The implementation of the MetraSCAN BLACK required a shift in the team’s approach to working with welded parts. Instead of using a laser tracker system, they now had to visualize setups using photogrammetry. Once the team understood the differences, the 3D scanner proved easy to use and highly versatile.


A worker is scanning a metal part on National Steel Car with the MetraSCAN BLACK scanner

National Steel Car is a leading railroad freight and tank car manufacturer since 1912

The results: Working on large distortions becomes easier

The MetraSCAN BLACK significantly improved National Steel Car’s welding fabrication and inspection processes. The tool allowed the company to work on large distortion challenges, which helped create a ‘Lego’ effect: parts fit together more easily, accurately mirroring the models and drawings.

MetraSCAN BLACK is a game changer that has dramatically helped us reduce costs and improve throughput in our continuous improvement initiatives,” Jeff said.

He and his team were particularly satisfied with the support they received during the technology transition, describing the system’s training and the assistance from Creaform’s technical support and training experts as excellent.

The most significant moment in the process was securing buy-in from the company’s financial group. Nevertheless, after test-driving the MetraSCAN BLACK and observing the unprecedented levels of accuracy and speed, everyone was on board to make the switch.

Jeff firmly believes that the possibilities are nearly endless with National Steel Car’s new-found 3D scanning solution. He envisions ways in which the MetraSCAN BLACK can be instrumental in potential applications for elevating process capabilities and carrying out more effective problem-solving.

Article written by Creaform

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