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USA molder uses advanced scanning for quality inspection

Сase studies

EVCO Plastics is an injection molding company that produces parts for myriad industries, including powered sports equipment, lawn and garden devices, agricultural and construction machinery, and medical and packaging machinery. Owing to the volume of work, coupled with the challenges of collecting and processing point-cloud data in the lab, the company turned to its supplier partner, Exact Metrology, for assistance.

Part of the EVCO strategy, according to Rich Duval, who heads the EVCO metrology lab, is “to have the ability to take a part, scan it, compare it to the CAD/CAM files, as early as possible in the process, and to allow the customer to observe how the plastic product compares to the solid model.” Duval also notes that by using scanning technology and reverse engineering, the EVCO metrology team has been able to re-create the surface of tooling where solid models don’t exist and provide these data to a tool shop for steel revisions.

EVCO’s metrology team had been researching earlier-generation scanning but saw the more advanced Romer and other brands of scanning arms in the Exact Metrology product offering.

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 Exact Metrology vice president Dean Solberg and his team of metrology technicians and application support specialists reviewed the EVCO scenario and provided EVCO with several new Romer arms. In one instance, the staff took a damaged tool component and reconstructed the cogs on a machine gear. Once rechecked through design, a suitable alternative could be 3D-printed. In this way, notes Duval, the metrology solution proposed by Exact Metrology has reduced inspection time in the lab and provided reverse engineering as an additional option to customers.

Similarly, older molds used at EVCO are being evaluated with the scanning techniques for position of runners, pins, cores, and other components. A solid model is produced from the scans to show auto-surfacing, solid model processing, and solid model in-use characteristics. Often, reverse engineering from existing parts is also performed in the EVCO lab for production issue resolution or part validation.

While EVCO continues to use the conventional CMM technology in its metrology department, Duval notes his team of technicians has been able to “marry” the Romer arm and CMM technologies. “This was possible only because of the talent on the team at EVCO,” says Solberg.

In practice, the combination of the 3D scans with the bridge CMM plates gives the EVCO technicians and design engineers the necessary comparative data to resolve any issues that arise.

Support from the Exact Metrology team has aided EVCO during this ramp-up of the new scanning technologies, according to Duval, who notes, “We had some lurking questions after the initial training session, but Dean was very proactive and amended the training protocol to suit our specific requirements. It’s produced a very positive outcome here.”

As a supplier to major OEM’s in many industries, EVCO is routinely expected to supply considerable part and production data to its customers, according to Duval. “We are planning to utilize the Exact Metrology equipment to support tooling, as well, so there will be a seamless capture and transmission of data from part design through production here.”

EVCO has also investigated further use of the Exact CT scanning services, though many of the very large parts produced, such as farm machinery housings, exceed the scan envelope of the CT equipment, presently.

One of the strongest abilities at EVCO is the company’s production of near-finish prototypes. These prototypes are often produced with conventional CNC machining or through the use of rapidly expanding 3D printing technologies. At EVCO, fused deposition modeling, with and without carbon fiber, is performed. Here, too, the 3D scanning techniques supplied by Exact Metrology produce the necessary data files such as STL that can reside in the “point cloud” for use by these advanced 3D prototype production technologies. Millions of data points provide the 3D printing equipment all the necessary information to produce highly accurate prototypes and concurrently anticipate challenges that might arise in the transition from design to tool to production, according to Duval.

The new metrology equipment used at EVCO is helping the company attain its stated goal of supplying world-class plastic products and assemblies.

EVCO performs ISO Class 8 Cleanroom, large-part, thin-walled, metal-to-plastic insert, gas-assist, multi-shot, and overmolding operations, plus in-mold decorating and labeling in highly automated and robotic facilities. The company also produces parts in various thermoplastic materials, ranging from basic polypropylene to engineering-grade materials. It currently employs more than 1,000 people at its nine locations worldwide. With more than 150 presses in the 28 to 3,500 ton range, its own mold production, and a world-class metrology lab for quality evaluation, EVCO brings a powerful asset to its expanding global customer base.

Exact Metrology is a dual-purpose vendor, as it both sells metrology equipment and also performs complex scanning services for customers, including use of the first industrial-grade CT scanner in America, which enables geometric views inside molded, cast, and forged parts to check for porosity, hot spots, and material flow issues.

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