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How 3D Scanning Improves Part Inspections in the Aerospace Industry

Operator pours melted aluminum during the investment casting process

Founded in 1991 and based in both Canada and the US, Alphacasting has quickly become a worldwide leader in precision investment casting, pouring more than 120 different types of alloys, including aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, bronze, titanium and other exotic alloys.

The company specializes in the production of innovative and modern castings for a variety of different industries, including transport and aerospace. Alphacasting has carved an enviable reputation for the quality, precision, reliability, compliance and on-time delivery of all the casting projects it works on with clients. It is without a doubt its commitment to high standards that Alphacasting has perfected a rigorous quality control system to inspect all the parts it produces.

The challenge

Lube and scavenge pump for business jet aircraft engine

Alphacasting uses traditional tools, such as conventional fixed CMMs, X-ray inspection systems, calipers and fixtures, to perform quality control inspections on the parts it manufactured. However, according to Steven Kennerknecht, VP of Engineering for Alphacasting, getting good information—quickly—each time a part needed to be inspected was difficult at best.

In particular, for the development of a recent aluminum casting for the lube and scavenge pump on the passport engine for Bombardier Global Express ultra-long-range business jet series, was to last several months, entailing multiple iterations to correct elements of the manufacturing process and produce the part precisely according to spec. With so many iterations, a new approach had to be found in order to shorten the development time and ensure impeccable part quality.

“It is important to take measurements of each iteration during the development of a new casting—particularly one as highly complex as this one—to better understand the impact of previous changes and determine what modifications need to be made for the next iteration,” explained M. Kennerknecht. The time-consuming setup, slowness and lack of high-quality information with traditional methods was just not going to cut it.

How Creaform stepped up to the plate

Real-time 3D scanning of the part with a Creaform 3D laser scanner

Alphacasting turned to Creaform’s 3D scanners and metrology services for the Bombardier project. The company uses the HandySCAN 700™, metrology-grade handheld scanners developed specifically for discerning manufacturers looking to perform highly accurate and reliable inspections in industries, namely aerospace, where impeccable quality control cannot be compromised.

Moreover, Alphacasting worked closely with Creaform’s experienced 3D metrology services team to carry out the surface inspections. “The team used the HandySCAN 3D to scan the entire casting very quickly. Having 100% of the surface and the inspection report was so vital for us to understanding the changes to be made and also to make sure there is enough material before machining. The quality of the scanned data enabled us to make better decisions and reduce development time,” added M. Kennerknecht.

Inspection of the casting using the HandySCAN 3D scanner

What’s more, the professionalism and expertise of Creaform’s 3D metrology services team did not go unnoticed. “They provided the quality information we needed on time. We were impressed not only by how fast the setup, scanning and reporting time but also with their know-how in getting the scanning done right—the first time.”