Reverse Engineering Solutions: Eliminating Metal Support Structures

Owing to the lower fabrication costs, higher durability and easy availability, sheet metal parts are extensively used in the industrial machinery, especially for enclosures and fixtures. Physical properties of light weight and relatively high hardness make aluminum and cast iron the two most popularly choices. But all this is a fancy picture.

Today sheet metal parts used in industrial machine tools have aged, and owing to longer service life, such parts undergo massive wear and tear, exposure to extreme work conditions and get corroded. Such issues lower the efficiency of the sheet metal parts and eventually make them run out of usual functioning capability.

Foremen’s thumb rule approach

Especially when a sheet metal fixture on a machine tool is worn out, the challenges are at peak. It causes to have issues of misalignment on the cutting tool or wrong cutting of the job and final results or products vary heavily from the desired results.

Ideally, such misalignment issues should be solved by replacing the part or fixture with a new one. But as replacements would lead to increased machine downtime or maintenance manufacturing firms avoid them until there is any sever issue.

Sometimes, the foremen or the machine operator, well experienced with machine performance, start adding support structures to the original fixture and normalize the alignment of the tool or job. But such decisions are solely based on human instincts or hit and trial, and do not have any technical basis. Foremen operate as “If the issue is of a certain kind and the original part is of so and so material it can be replaced with a particular support structure to restore the alignment.”

Trusting thumb rules; do you?

Maybe such thumb rules based on instincts can help in resolving day to day activities, but are they capable to run your entire manufacturing unit with the predefined efficiency for a long time? The answer is obviously “No”. A design engineer knows the essentiality of designs and the original design intent with which the fixture has been manufactured. The sheet metal design engineer knows how well-defined the geometry is and what purpose does each feature serve.

Time to eliminate the thumb rule

On the other hand, an industrial sheet metal design engineer would recommend the actual procedural method to redesign, remanufacture and replace the fixture. Yet again, maintaining the design intent same as before, especially for the parts that do not have documented design is difficult.

Methods of laser scanning and Coordinate Measuring Machine [CMM] techniques are very sophisticated and reliable when it comes to maintaining the accuracy of original designs. Converting scanned parts to 3D CAD geometry will naturally boost the efficiency of CAD designer/drafter and help him keep the part as it was originally developed. Especially in case of fixtures, when every geometric dimension and smallest of the tolerance is of utmost importance, reverse engineering solutions prove to be very efficient.

Reverse engineering, in fact, helps the engineer to take a leap forward, of adding value to the existing designs be it a modification, upgradation or aligning with the new design standards. The non-planner or curved topography or even complicated geometry can also be copied with digital accuracy and transformed into CAD models quickly. Engineers can assess the fit-ups, tolerances and recommend alterations as and when needed at the modeling stage. Once redesigned, CAD models can simply be sent to manufacturing floor like a normal CAD part to remanufacture and replace it.

What happens with reverse engineering is that as soon as the probable failure is detected, the part can be scanned and remanufactured. This will also help manufacturing firm to have least possible downtime of the machine and part is also replaced before the machine breakdown. Now probably is the time to eliminate the thumb rule and take a forward action towards reverse engineering and reduce the metal additive structures. 

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