Reverse engineering is the process of extracting design information from a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure and functions. And it adds to the critical significance of precise data documentation in computer-aided manufacturing.
This type of engineering helped solve a problem for Niagara-based CMI Heavy Industries (CMI) and saved them the time and expense of machining a new part. With more than 80,000 square feet, CMI’s Stevensville manufacturing facility provides such services as machining, fabricating, and assembly and testing to all heavy industries.
CMI needed to get their older 115-tonne gantry crane back in operation. While purchasing needed parts, they soon realized the hydraulic diesel pump motor was missing its spline, a challenging problem without the specifications. It was impossible to know if a new part had to be machined, and, if so, to what specs?
Engineers at CMI tried making a clay impression mould; unfortunately, it proved not to be accurate enough. The company then looked to the reverse engineering expertise at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), part of the Research & Innovation division, to perform a precise laser scan of the female section of the internal spline with the intention of gathering the specs to have an involute spline custom machined.
The R&I team took the FARO Edge ScanArm on location to the CMI for the tricky laser scanning procedure. The portable metrology technology provides point cloud capture with high accuracy.
From the generated points scanned, the research team was able to extract a cross-sectional profile using Geomagic Design X, a 3D metrology software, which could then be imported into Autodesk Inventor, a 3D Modelling software, in order to manually build the shape of the resulting spline and use it to determine a standard industry specification, says Dave McKechnie, research laboratory technologist at WAMIC.
“It was a very tight area to get the scanning arm into, so definitely a surgical procedure that took two people,” explains McKechnie, who had to crawl under the crane to reach the small opening to scan.
The team was able to 3D print the male spline for form, fit and function, to ensure it fits before ordering or machining the new part.
“A key point is that the industry partner was under the impression that this would be a unique spline, and they would have to machine something,” explains McKechnie. However, through researching the specifications, his team was able to identify a metric ISO standard part, available for purchase.
“It would save money to buy something off the shelf, rather than have something custom machined,” he says.
Brock Husak, research associate with WAMIC and NC graduate, describes the project as the “perfect” example of reverse engineering success. The industry partner CMI provided clear direction on the goals of the technical service, and everything went smoothly.
“Between our equipment and our technical expertise, we’re pretty special in that sort of sense,” says Husak. “This highlights where we’re really strong.”
McKechnie agrees: “It’s an ideal situation as far as being able to adequately obtain the information on the scanner, use that information and produce a successful and ideal result.”
This project was funded by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), which provides up to 20 hours of access to the equipment, facilities, and expertise of a Technology Access Centre (TAC) to solve a specific business or technical challenge.
This is one example of the types of technical services offered by the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. To discover other resources and capabilities, visit the website.