In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, where rivals are global, technology evolving at a rapid-fire pace and customers more intransigent than ever before when it comes to quality and performance, manufacturers are indeed under pressure to develop—and launch—innovative new products faster than ever before.
Unfortunately, according to the Harvard Business Review, 95% of new products fail. And there are as many reasons for these failures, from not having a good understanding of customer pains and needs, poor market fit and all the way through to usability issues. Other companies realize too late that in a cutthroat world, a product’s time-to-market can make the difference between a smash hit or a total failure.
For teams intimately tied to a manufacturer’s product lifecycle management, the strategy to truly innovating and whiffing out commercial success after commercial success is to rethink their design and production methods using advanced technologies, such as 3D scanning.
3D scanners, such as Creaform’s HandySCAN 3Dand Go!SCAN 3D portable handheld scanners, can actually be used throughout the entire product development process in order to boost efficiency, design a better product, mitigate production issues, ensure quality and accelerate a business’ time-to-market—exactly at the most optimal time to strike.
Before we delve into how 3D scanning solutions can be used in product lifecycle management, it is important to consider the type of 3D scanners you will need. In a nutshell, it all depends on the industry that you operate in, your specific product requirements, and internal resources and workflows.
There are mainly two types of 3D scanners on the market: metrology-grade scanners, like the HandySCAN 3D, and professional-grade scanners, like the Go!SCAN 3D. The inherent differences between the two are the levels of accuracy, resolution and speed as well as their ease of use.
The patented HandySCAN 3D scanner, which meets the ISO 17025 norm, has been specifically designed for metrologists in industries that are governed by strict norms and/or need exceptionally high accuracy, such as the aerospace and transportation sectors.
Go!SCAN 3D, on the other hand, is ideal for design and engineering teams that do not have metrology expertise and want an easy-to-use 3D scanner for projects that require decent levels of accuracy.
It is nevertheless crucial to note that depending upon the application, both 3D scanners can be used in every stage of the product development process.
Many product innovation pundits agree: conceptualizing a product is the driving force in the manufacturing process. Why? According to Munro and Associates, experts in lean design, while product design may only account for 5% of a product’s total cost, it dictates 70% of the product’s total cost. In other words, the concept stage allows product development teams to test a wide array of ideas quickly and inexpensively, without costly changes in production tooling or an increase in performance testing later on downstream.
When starting to develop a product from scratch, design and engineering teams can use 3D scanners to carry out competitive analyses by scanning products that are currently on the market and analyzing how a potential product concept will work under certain conditions or in different environments. Scan-to-CAD files are often generated so that teams can better identify a product’s particular design requirements and specifications.
Next, designers often conceptualize a mock-up, such as a clay model, paying special attention to aesthetics. 3D scanners can then be used to scan the model and create the mesh for further styling in CAD software.
3D scanning technology, used in conjunction with 3D printing, is an engineering team’s secret weapon for rapid prototyping. Once viable concepts are designed, they can 3D print them so that the designers can literally hold the prototypes, validate the concepts and make the necessary adjustments. While fostering rapid prototyping, 3D scanners nevertheless reduce the number of iterations and speed up the proof of concept phase.
Creaform recently worked with two manufacturers that used 3D scanners for their design stages. One automotive manufacturer used 3D scanning to reverse engineer and design automotive aftermarket parts. The other manufacturer created a side booms for heavy vehicles using a 3D scan-to-CAD workflow.
3D scanning can also be leveraged during the complete design stage. It is at this stage that 3D scans of clay models or prototypes can greatly facilitate the work of and streamline communications between collaborative design and engineering teams.
Whereas in the first stage, preliminary validations were performed, now industrial designers and engineers can develop more in-depth CAD modelson selected concepts, paying particular attention to assemblies and required tooling.
It is also at this stage that engineering teams can continue to carry out rapid prototyping to manufacture the very first fully functional prototype. With a real prototype, teams can determine what is functional, what requires more work and how well the unit adheres to the initial specs. Once the prototype inspection is complete, modifications can be made in the CAD file for further treatment.
As more and more prototypes are created, extensive testing and simulations are carried out using 3D scanners, such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD), finite element analyses (FEA), geometry analyses, crash or drop tests, etc. Design and engineering teams pinpoint defects, deformations or changes that need to be carried out on the CAD models of the prototypes until the test results prove to be satisfactory.
Creaform just released two new case studies on how 3D scanning helped to: carry out rapid prototyping for a product in the sports industry and improve the car design process using 3D scan-to-CAD.
It’s show time! Once the stellar product prototype is approved, it’s time for the production engineers to rely on the CAD models to create the tooling required to manufacture the product, such as dies, molds, fixtures, jigs, patterns and more. An initial part is produced and then compared to the CAD model.
If the production team notices that adjustments need to be made, they can 3D scan the manufactured part and make the necessary changes in the CAD file as they see fit. This iterative production part approval process (PPAP) can be fast or take somewhat more time depending upon the complexity of the product and/or assemblies.
Before giving the green light to a complete production run, a first article inspection (FAI) is conducted to analyze any deviations between the produced unit and CAD model. Again, if defects are found, the production engineering team carries out a root cause analysis. Engineers and quality control specialists can use a 3D scanner, right on the production floor, to scan the part so that the tooling can be corrected.
The value 3D scanning can bring to this stage is not to be underestimated. According to Quality Digest, the cost of poor quality (COPQ) can amount anywhere between 5 to 30% of gross sales for manufacturing and service companies, substantially driving up CAPEX and OPEX—all while slashing margins.
Once the pre-production inspections and PPAP changes are complete, full-fledge manufacturing and assembly can begin!
Once a product is about to hit the market, the job is definitely not over for the design and engineering teams. 3D scans are often used to develop the product’s marketing, technical, training and support documentation as well as digitally archive final concepts, produced products, inspection processes, etc. Whereas in the past, many manufacturers struggled with not having digital imprints of their projects, thanks to 3D scanning, the organizational memory, from design to manufacturing to quality control, can be preserved for future needs.
3D scanning also plays an important role in post-launch maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) initiatives. If production quality begins to deteriorate, this may require that equipment or tooling be adjusted, repaired or even updated. Non-compliant, faulty units are scanned so that metrology teams can take corrective measures. With respect to large and expensive parts, specialists can actually scan defective or damaged parts right on site in order to plan for the most optimal and affordable repair strategy possible.
Finally, many manufacturers can use 3D scanners to reverse engineer components or entire products in order to create replacement parts. This is particularly useful if the CAD files cannot be found or the former replacement parts have been discontinued. In these cases, the current flawed part is scanned in 3D to get the proper dimensional measurements. Then, designers and engineers can work on redoing the CAD model and rebuild the part.
As you can see, the applications in which 3D scanners can be used in product lifecycle management are wide as they are specialized. And forward-thinking manufacturers are catching on. Zion Market Research forecasts that the 3D scanning marketing will reach 5.06 billion by 2022.
Each phase of the product development—and their associated teams—can benefit from 3D scanning to transform the way the design, develop, produce and service products customers crave. If you are looking to speed up your product innovation cycle and time-to-market, it’s time to consider integrating 3D scanners in your product lifecycle management.