Digitizing complex geometries to problem solve

For a company that fabricates glass structures for the high-rise residential and commercial construction industry, having tools and machinery on its production floor up to the task, is critical.

This is certainly the case for BVGlazing Systems Ltd., a major player in this industry. The company was created in 2016 through the merger of Allan Windows Group and Global Architectural metals Group, two dominant forces in the design, manufacture and installation of commercial and residential glazing, cladding, railing, skylight and entry systems in Canada and the United States for the past 60 years.

BVGlazing’s facilities in Niagara Falls and Concord, Ont., produce curtain wall, window wall, doors and railing systems.

When the company had two corner crimping machines in their Concord plant in need of repair, they sought the assistance of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division.

“The parts that came off of the machine were originally cast iron and were cracked and in bad shape,” says Jeremy Pasma, manufacturing engineering manager at BVGlazing. “There were attempts to repair the parts by trying to weld them and bolt extra pieces on, but this was not successful.”

In the fabrication process, crimping machines are used in conjunction with a corner key to crimp the corners on vents and doors to mechanically hold the corners together.

“Normally, I would be able to use CAD software, along with measuring tools to reverse engineer the part, but this top plate was more complex, with a lot of holes and angled faces.”
~ Jeremy Pasma, BVGlazing Systems

The only fix, explains Pasma, was to remake the parts. However, as is often the case with many companies, the company did not have any drawings or 3D models of the part, and therefore did not have a starting point.

“Normally, I would be able to use CAD software, along with measuring tools to reverse engineer the part, but this top plate was more complex, with a lot of holes and angled faces. I decided that a 3D scan would be the best way to produce a 3D file that I would be able to use.”

Pasma is no stranger to the expertise at WAMIC: He employed the technical services of the research engineering team when he needed to rebuild a set of dies for a punch, but again, there were no drawings or 3D files available.

“I was happy with the previous results, so I got them to do my most recent project. They have the right equipment in the Centre to handle this type of work,” notes Pasma.

That equipment is WAMIC’s laser scanning arm, a portable coordinate measuring machine (PCMM) that captures precise measurements with reverse engineering capabilities. The technology is able to digitize complex geometries and create 3D models as future design files.

The research team scanned the cracked part and provided BVGlazing the 3D model, who is now using the 3D file in conjunction with their CAM software to CNC machine a new part.

“Working with the team at the Innovation Centre was excellent. Given that we are currently in a COVID lockdown, the team was still very accommodating,” added Pasma. “If more projects come up in the future that require 3D scanning, the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre will be my go-to for this type of work.”

This is one example of the types of technical services offered by WAMIC’s Technology Access Centre (TAC). Funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and housed at colleges or cégeps across Canada, TACs provide access to specialized technology, equipment, and expertise to local industry – particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises – with the goal of enhancing their productivity and innovation.

Through its TAC, the research team at WAMIC provides small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to needed facilities, equipment, funding and technical expertise – including 3D technologies, such as Computer-Aided Design (3D scanning) of objects as small as a dime and as large as a whole factory – and serves to assist them in product development, technology adoption, expansion into new markets and commercialization.

For more information on the array of solutions offered by the technical services at WAMIC, visit the website.