Recently, I worked with a company looking to utilize several state of the art engineering tools to move away from the old ways of manufacturing to an updated 3D/Digital workflow. They asked me about using a 3D scanner, not to reverse engineer the parts but to build tooling to use in the manufacturing process. Our conversation led to an explanation that this can be done and here’s how:
- A Creaform 3D scanner can be used to quickly create a CAD file of the parts with exact surfaces, contours, and measurements.
- Then, using SOLIDWORKS you can create the tooling from those exact surfaces.
- Finally, using a Stratasys 3D printer you can print the actual tooling.
This conversation reminded me of when I worked for an aerospace manufacturer. One of the products were the skin panels on the outside of the airplane. You know that thin sheet of aluminum that holds the plane together and keeps you from being exposed to the thin air at high altitude and also from dying? Yeah, those skin panels.
Well, the skin panels need to have exact cut-outs after the aluminum is formed and contoured to the shape of the plane. Doing this, required use of fiberglass templates that fit to the skin panel and match the contour. From there we used a router to cut out the cut-outs in the skin panel.
Today there are more precise ways for this process. So for this project to illustrate using an all digital workflow in the spirit of the Halloween season we had some fun with a Jack-O-lantern. Here is a step by step guide of the process:
- The first requirement is a good looking pumpkin.
- Next, using the Creaform 3-D scanner, scan the pumpkin to get the exact surfaces.
- Before the 3d scan, place tooling pins on the pumpkin used to locate jig fixtures to later in the workflow.
- After capturing the scan, use the scanning software to align it the datum and create use the auto surfacing tools.
- From there create a Solid model to use in SOLIDWORKS.
- Once in SOLIDWORKS use the model of the pumpkin to design the tooling fixtures which will be used to cut out exact holes.
- In SOLIDWORKS, design what the cut-outs will look like, and using the surfacing tools create the tool fixture surfaces with exact cutouts to ensure it will fit the surface of the pumpkin, and locate right where you want it by using the tool pins.
- Then design the tool fixture by extruding it, and creating a solid model. Because all of this was created using a 3D scanner, it will be an exact match to the contoured surfaces of the pumpkin.
- Finally, the tool fixture is ready to be sent to the 3D printer.
- The Stratasys Fortus 400 3D printer worked perfectly to 3-D print our tooling fixtures. With its heated build chamber history of producing relabel parts time and time again, it was the right tool for the job.Just like taking fresh cookies out of the oven, only way cooler!
- All that was left to do was to separate the support material used to aid in the 3D printing process and reveal the finished tool fixture.
- And there you have it, the finished 3D printed part.
- Now that the 3D printed part is ready, it’s time to attach it to the pumpkin using the tooling pins …. and, of course, they are an exact fit!
- Time to cut out the pumpkin. Don’t forget to wear safety glasses, to protect from pumpkin splatter. Using a hand router and the 3D printed fixture, we cut our pockets right where they needed to be.
And there you have it, a Jack-O-lantern with exact cut-outs using our digital workflow on a manufacturing process done quickly and precisely by using 3D scanning, CAD and 3D printing.
Disclaimer: Clearly, we are not artists. However, it was a lot of fun creating the simple and kid-friendly template design you see displayed in our example using our state of the art technology and equipment.