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How 3D Scanning Helped a Leader in the Plastics Industry

3D Measuring Technology in the Plastics Industry: REHAU Relying on Optical Scanner MetraSCAN 3D for Prototype and Series Measurement

Innovative technologies, mobility and flexibility in measurement technology are playing a major role for more and more companies. In addition to fixed coordinate measuring machines or traditional measurement arms, optical systems are increasingly becoming firmly established in measurement technology. Measurement technology is even in demand at high-tech polymer specialist REHAU.

For energy-efficient construction, use of renewable energies, water management, mobility and future living, polymer specialist REHAU initiates sustainable contributions in order to meet the environmental and economic challenges of the future. Expertise and a love for innovation have made the company the leading system and service provider of polymer-based solutions for the construction, automotive and industrial sectors. The specialist's passion for the fascinating and unlimited potential benefits of polymer materials is fundamental to its success as the leading premium brand worldwide.

Efficient, innovative measuring technologies also play a decisive role at REHAU. In the past, traditional 3D coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and FARO measurement arms were used or external service providers commissioned for metrology tasks. Today, optical measurement systems are increasingly being used in addition to these methods. Even measurement arms are not fully flexible and have significant limitations in terms of the volume that can be measured, depending on the size of the arm. Measurement arms also cannot move in vibrating environments nor measure moving parts since both the arm and the component to be measured must be fixed beforehand in order to obtain accurate measurement results.

Measurement System Requirements

Once acquired, the new measurement system must be used in both variable and fixed positions for prototype measurement, limited series measurement and component measurement. Mobility, flexibility and ease of use also played a role when it came to selecting a solution, as it should be possible for measurements to be taken in various departments at the plant, as well as in different measuring environments, without affecting measurement accuracy. With Creaform, REHAU finally hit upon a solution: "The optical MetraSCAN 3D scanner offers the best price/performance ratio for our specified applications as well as extremely high flexibility and mobility," explains Matthias Meiler, Prototypes and Gage Construction Team Leader at REHAU.

Measurement in the Plastics Industry

As a rule, plastics manufacturers using manufacturing processes such as injection molding, extrusion and the like must come to grips with physical phenomena such as shrinkage and spring-back effects that make it difficult to achieve CAD geometry. Using 3D scans to carry out comprehensive survey of the plastic parts and tools makes it possible to find out to what extent these phenomena influence the affected parts. The results of a 3D scan provide a good indication of this during the repetitive tool design process. Closely monitoring the shape geometry and production of the relevant parts also helps to prevent design steps that are often unnecessary and repetitive. In addition, a 3D scan represents a valuable solution for the reverse engineering of original tools.

The MetraSCAN 3D is a powerful, portable 3D scanner that works together with the C-Track optical camera system and can also be used in combination with the HandyPROBE probing measuring system as required. The 3D scanner offers unrestricted freedom of movement and its measurement volume can be expanded quickly and easily without loss of precision by moving the C-Track.

The C-Link functionality from Creaform allows up to four C-Track dual camera sensors to be linked together. These sensors can be used at the same time as the portable, tactile HandyPROBE coordinate measuring equipment or the MetraSCAN 3D scanner. C-Link represents a mobile measuring solution that allows a virtual measurement room to be set up at any location for quick and easy tactile or contact-free testing of complex setups, devices, tools, or prototypes. The integrated TRUaccuracy technology guarantees a high degree of accuracy independent of the measurement environment (instabilities, vibrations, thermal differences) or the skill of the user.

The MetraSCAN 3D, the HandyPROBE and a C-Track 780 are used at REHAU for process engineering in injection molding, painting and assembly technology as well as probing and contact-free measurement of prototype components and series measurement.

Distortion Analysis of a Component before and after Painting

One task for which Creaform measuring technology is used at REHAU is distortion analysis of a component before and after painting. For this purpose, the MetraSCAN 3D optical scanner is used to scan injection-molded raw parts in order to make a target/actual comparison of the data and identify any deviations from predefined critical component areas before painting. The injection-molded raw part is then painted and re-scanned. Another comparison of the target/actual data is made in order to identify deviations in the predefined critical component areas. In the final stage, the component distortion "after painting" is compared with "before painting" and analyzed.

Without the Creaform measuring technology, the component would have to be measured on a 3D coordinate measuring machine. This would have required additional images to be captured for the component. In addition, the static immobilization of the component and the kinematics of the 3D coordinate measuring machine restrict the measuring process, potentially resulting in higher expenditure of time and costs. The TRUaccuracy technology integrated into the Creaform systems enables dynamic referencing of components and the MetraSCAN 3D system can be placed on the component, thus eliminating the need for transportation and confidentiality agreements. Allocating the measuring task to a service provider would also have been a conceivable alternative.  However, this would also have been associated with logistical complexity and costs.

Matthias Meiler, Prototypes and Gage Construction Team Leader at REHAU, explains: "After letting go of traditional measuring technologies and their limitations, our experiences have been positive in every respect. The Creaform MetraSCAN 3D system meets our specific requirements extremely well. The scanner is easy to use, even if a degree of practice is required for larger orders. The evaluation software reports can be designed on an individual basis. Our internal clients are extremely satisfied with the quality of the measurement results and even placing follow-up orders with us."


REHAU is a leading global systems manufacturer within the construction, automotive and industry sectors. For investors, architects, planners, as well as for trades and crafts, the construction division is a competent partner for window and facade technology, building technology and pipe systems for civil engineering. The automotive division supports the automotive industry in its quest to systematically optimize design, comfort and safety — from developing external parts such as bumpers or fenders to intelligent modules in the area of water and air management. The industrial division offers innovative solutions for various industrial applications — from furniture to the home appliance industry.

More than 15,000 employees around the globe are achieving growth and success for REHAU. The independent family company is always in close proximity to the market and customers at over 170 locations worldwide.

About Creaform

Creaform develops, manufactures and sells 3D portable measurement technologies and specializes in engineering services. The company offers innovative solutions that cover the entire range of 3D applications, including 3D scanning, reverse engineering, quality control, non-destructive testing, product development and simulation. The products and services are for sectors such as the automotive, aerospace and defense industries, consumer goods, heavy industry, health care, manufacturing, the oil and gas industry, energy production, research and education.

Creaform develops and sells the handheld, self-positioning 3D laser scanner Handyscan 3D, the portable optical HandyPROBE CMM and the optical 3D laser scanner MetraSCAN. Creaform also offers an intuitive photogrammetry system: optical 3D coordinate measuring system MaxSHOT 3D.

Creaform has more than 325 employees worldwide with offices in Canada, the United States, Germany, France, China, India and Japan. The corporate headquarters and the offices in Quebec (Canada) were certified in November 2011 according to ISO 9001:2008.

MetraSCAN 3D

The MetraSCAN 3D scanners are the most accurate scanning solutions on the market, in the laboratory as well as in the production environment. Just like the entire range of measuring technologies from Creaform, the MetraSCAN 3D laser scanner is easy to master and to use and takes just a few minutes to put into operation. Thanks to the TRUaccuracy technology, the MetraSCAN 3D scanners guarantee high-precision, three-dimensional surface measurements, independent of the measurement environment (instability, vibrations, changes in temperature etc.) or previous knowledge on the part of the user.

The MetraSCAN 3D scanner and the HandyPROBE measuring arm‑free CMM can be combined to form a complete, powerful measurement system for points and surfaces, making it possible to measure the geometric and free-form surfaces of a part using a single system.