Mackay Consolidated Industries: 3D Printing Helps Tier 1 Auto Supplier Navigate Today's Trickiest Engineering Challenges

"It takes us half the time [to scan new hoses]... This has helped us transform our quality assurance procedures to save time, improve quality and increase customer satisfaction." - Arch Tatas, Quality Manager, Mackay

 

Although rubber hoses sound pedestrian, they're vital if you're making a car. They're the blood vessels of the machine, carrying air into the engine, coolant to the radiator, and fluids to the brakes and windshield.

Precision engineering matters more than ever in this industry, which is why engineered rubber supplier Mackay Consolidated Industries Pty Ltd of Victoria, Australia invested in a ZScanner® 600 handheld 3D laser scanner for quality assurance.

Challenge

Time, Cost, Labor and Accuracy
Exceptional engineering has helped the company grow over eight decades from a small but efficient manufacturer into a major Tier 1 auto supplier for automotive OEMs such as Ford, General Motors and Toyota. In that time, engine compartments have become extremely crowded with a multitude of components fighting for space. To accommodate this challenging engineering environment, Mackay has produced automotive hoses in progressively intricate shapes and sizes.

With a shrinking margin for error, it's essential for Mackay and its clients to confirm that the product going into cars precisely matches the design specifications. Until recently, the company evaluated specification compliance by measuring its products by hand. Engineers used squares and gauges to compare the manufactured product to a two-dimensional printout of the CAD drawing. This process was time consuming, costly, laborious and insufficiently accurate, primarily because of the complexity of the shape and flexibility of the material.

At one point, the team tried a conventional computerized measuring machine (CMM) for inspection. A CMM requires extensive set up and an absolutely fixed target. The more cramped engine compartments become, the more difficult and time consuming it is to measure their parts with a CMM.

At the same time that Mackay was looking for a better way to measure and inspect its products, the company was also searching for way to better document its engineering quality for clients. Neither hand measurements nor CMMs provided documentation support.

Strategy

Investing in Portable 3D Laser Scanning
After consulting Hi-Tech Metrology, Australia's leading specialist metrology company and the exclusive ZScanner dealer for Australia and New Zealand, Mackay purchased a 3D laser scanning inspection solution consisting of a ZScanner 600 and PolyWorks® point cloud inspection software from Hi-Tech Metrology. The ZScanner 600 is the world's most affordable, portable 3D laser scanner, providing high-resolution 3D data capture at an economical price. ZScanners are uniquely handheld and self-positioning, making them more flexible than traditional 3D scanners. The ZScanner 600 takes 18,000 measurements per second with two cameras, providing an xy accuracy of up to 80 microns (up to 0.003 inches) and a resolution of 0.1 mm (0.004 inches) in the z axis.

Results

Saving Time, Money and Labor, and Winning Business
"We've dramatically reduced the time it takes to scan new hoses," says Arch Tatas, Mackay's quality manager. "It takes us half the time it used to. We just place the item on a bench and go to work. This has helped us transform our quality assurance procedures to save time, improve quality and increase customer satisfaction. These are all valuable results for us."

Instead of spending excessive time setting up scanning projects and creating complex fixtures, the user simply points the ZScanner like a flashlight at the target object, which can be handled and moved during the process to easily capture every surface angle. The resulting image, triangulated mesh in STL format, is downloaded into PolyWorks inspection software, which aligns the image with the customer-approved CAD model. This process produces a highly detailed "heat map" chart pinpointing where the part complies with the specification, and most importantly, where it does not. It's now quick and easy to spot areas that are outside specification and revise designs accordingly. And Mackay personnel can now scan any product, anywhere, anytime.

This investment is part of Mackay's ongoing companywide technology upgrade program, which has been under way over the past 12 months. It includes both significant capital equipment upgrades along with staff training to improve overall plant efficiency.

"ZScanning greatly reduces the time it takes to determine hose specification and, more importantly, provides a far greater degree of accuracy, both essential in today's competitive environment," says Tatas.

Mackay can include the heat map images in its customer documentation to objectively demonstrate the quality of the finished product. This capability has helped the company win General Motors' business in the Asia-Pacific region. "This is world-class technology and provides a real leap forward in improving measurement and inspection, and in enabling the highly detailed reports our customers increasingly require," says Tatas. "This is where this technology comes into its own."