Vehicle manufacturing company uses 3D scanners to increase design quality and optimize engineering times

22 Dec, 2023

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Vehicle manufacturing company uses 3D scanners to increase design quality and optimize engineering times

The use of the Go!SCAN SPARK and VXmodel leads to significant improvements in the internal processes when carrying out projects at the Swiss company Sutter AG.

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What started out in 1928 as a blacksmith and carriage smithy is now, 94 years later, a modern, customer-focused vehicle manufacturing company in the heart of Switzerland. These days, Sutter AG Lungern Fahrzeugbau specializes in the development and manufacture of 3-side tippers of up to 40t, loading bridges for all trucks and vans, box bodies, tipping bodies, quick-change systems, special vehicles, maintenance and repairs of bodies and trailers.

Before purchasing the Creaform 3D scanner, engineers at Sutter spent about 5% of their working time manually measuring certain components with complex geometries to fit them to vehicles. These are mainly aluminum covers, underride guards, crane mounting elements, and other vehicle mounted components that are tailored to the requirements of the vehicle or the customer’s wishes. Before, these parts used to be manufactured without the possibility of double-checking them prior to the time of final assembly, as it was not possible to check the geometries on the vehicle itself. Apart from the extended amount of time it took to develop the components, the effort and expense required to have them modified and adapted by qualified metal workers for their final place of use was enormous.

Requirements for a new measuring system and implementation

Sutter often has to deal with large scanning areas, such as truck chassis zones, where the distance between the individual components is important, yet the measurement accuracy must remain high. The crucial requirement in purchasing the measurement system was therefore accuracy.

One of the key factors in choosing Creaform Go!SCAN SPARK was the ability to purchase not just a product, but a complete service. This included the purchase of consumables for the use of the scanner, a laptop, support for the work on site, after-sales service in case of maintenance, repairs, and questions.

The implementation of Creaform’s 3D measurement solutions was very intuitive, as it did not require a new process to be defined, only for an existing one to be replaced. In practice, the manual measurement process was simply replaced by 3D scanning. This not only provided the design department with more measurement data, but also allowed them to check the actual dimensions and geometries of vehicle components during development (a double-check).

Since Sutter AG is a small company, the entire process from 3D scanning to ordering raw materials for manufacturing the components, such as sheet metal, is handled by one of the engineers in the engineering department. A single two-day training session by a Creaform technician made it possible for Sutter to be fully operational and independent right from the start.

Truck add-on parts: Teamwork between Creaform Go!SCAN SPARK, engineering department and workshop

Sutter AG handles a multitude of diverse projects. As an example, we would like to show how the design, manufacture, and assembly of a customized tool box on an existing truck chassis for the transport of construction machinery was created in cooperation between the workshop and the engineering department.

Due to current delivery bottlenecks at the vehicle manufacturer, the “construction machine taxi” project was created under tight time constraints. This meant the engineering department had to do a lot of advance preparation using CAD designs. When the vehicle arrived, an advanced design status was achieved very quickly and the workshop itself built some additional attachment holders for tool boxes.

Another application Sutter has found for the technology is to ensure traceability in the archive in accordance with the ISO9001 standard. It was therefore decided to scan the additional mounting bracket with the Creaform Go!SCAN SPARK.

Area with additional mounting bracket for toolboxes to be scanned

Although the additional mounting bracket has a wide variety of surface finishes, colors, and geometries, it took very little time to scan and the amount of material required (targets and matting spray) was very low.

3D scan of the truck chassis with additional elements mounted by Sutter in the VXmodel software

With the help of the VXmodel export function, everything could be imported directly into Solidworks and traced very quickly. This was mostly done using the measurement function, the creation of geometry (such as profiles, planes, and cylinders) in VXmodel, and then with the direct transfer of the geometries into Solidworks.

Reverse engineering in Solidworks

Where possible, purchased parts were replaced with 3D data from parts suppliers. However, this does not happen as a rule, since missing 3D models are often replaced by mesh bodies from 3D scans. This method of working also increases the quality and completeness of the company’s own database of purchased parts.

CAD view of the scanned areas with traced toolbox holders and purchased part (hydraulic tank)

CAD view with bridge (main design, manufactured by the engineering department), hydraulic tank (from 3D data from parts supplier), and toolboxes (holders built by the workshop and redesigned through reverse engineering

Finished body

How the Go!SCAN SPARK with VXmodel has improved processes and practices at Sutter AG

Apart from the main requirement of accuracy already mentioned before, there have been several improvements at a practical level:

  • The space analysis in the planning of bodies, but also of additional units and attachments, has been greatly simplified.
  • The accuracy of measurements and the production of raw parts have been increased.
  • Quality management has been improved and it is now possible to track completed and similar projects.
  • The waste rate of raw parts has been reduced or brought to zero.
  • The assembly and adaptation time by the workshop has been reduced, which avoids the need for highly trained employees (the objective is a plug & play strategy).

In terms of software, the VXmodel software module used by Sutter enables the data to be scanned, processed, and aligned with the correct coordinate system quickly and easily, and finally exported directly to the Solidworks CAD drawing program. The biggest advantage is definitely the possibility to export the raw data directly into the Solidworks format. There, the data can be used for CAD comparisons or as an aid for designing further parts.

All these factors have led to considerable improvements in internal processes and shared practices in the execution of projects.

Future areas of application

Sutter’s central idea is to gradually increase the use of the Creaform 3D scanner in order to spread the technical and practical benefits across all industries and product types.

Burim Shala, Technical Manager at Sutter comments: “Another step we would like to take as a company is to scan purchased standard components for which there are no 3D models, so that we can plan and design our products with even more detail and precision. We would like to use the 3D scanner mainly for preliminary clarifications so that we can design earlier in the manufacturing process. In a nutshell, I would say that Creaform measurement solutions help us keep the focus on the ‘golden triangle’.”

Blue triangle. At the top corner is says “Quality,” at the bottom left corner “Time,” at the bottom right corner “Cost.”

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Founded in 2002 in Lévis (Québec, Canada), Creaform is a world-class leader in 3D measurement technology as well as 3D engineering services. We develop, manufacture and distribute disruptive portable and automated 3D scanning solutions to thousands of clients in over 75 countries. Our innovative tec...