Getting to Know PADT: Cube Simulation Computers

This post is the seventh installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

“It is done running already? What machine did you run that on? Your desktop? How do I buy one?”  That serious of questions from an ANSYS customer of PADT’s is how CUBE Computers became one of our product offerings.  We offer a complete line of six standard systems to meet the needs of the most demanding, and cost-conscious, users.

The problem is that in the world of advanced numerical simulation, most off-the-shelf computers just don’t perform like they should. They are expensive and are weighed down with unnecessary accessories and slowed down by poor configuration.  Because PADT has been building our own computers for over twenty years for the sole purpose of running simulation models, we know how to configure boxes that are optimized for that sweet spot everyone is looking for.  Our engineers and IT staff work with customers to find the right standard system, or to customize a unique system that is ideal.

We break our standard models into three families: Workstations, Servers, and Cluster Appliances.  Although each type can be heavily customized, we have pre-configured the following systems to make it easy for users to quickly get what they need:

Each machine comes with maintenance and support that is also tuned to the customer’s needs – from basic parts only warranty to same-day on-site support. You can also have us install the system and your simulation software.  Whatever you need, we can deliver.

Over one hundred customers, many who have purchased multiple systems from us over the years, have worked with PADT’s team to obtain an optimized computer system that maximizes the return on their simulation investment. Reach out to our CUBE Computer System team and let us help you ” Discover What You Need.”

 

Getting to Know PADT: 3D Printing Services

This post is the sixth installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

If there is one service that most people connect PADT with it is our 3D Printing Services.  We have been making prototypes for companies using this ever-advancing technology since we started the company in 1994. As 3D Printing has become more popular and entered the mainstream even beyond engineering, what 3D Printing means to people has changed as well. Along with that, people’s understanding of exactly what it is we do in this area has drifted a little from what goes on. In this month’s installment of our “Getting to Know PADT” series, we will work to provide insight into what 3D Printing Services are and how they can benefit your company.

What is “3D Printing” and “3D Printing Services?”

To start, it should be called “Additive and Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Services, ” but people search for “3D Printing” so that is what we call it.  3D Printing is the common name for what is technically referred to as Additive Manufacturing, or AM.  Most physical parts are made (manufactured) by casting or shaping material into a shape you want, removing material from stock to get the shapes you want, and/or combining physical parts you get by the other two methods. Instead of these well-proven methods, AM creates a part by building up material one layer at a time.  That is why it is called additive – it adds layers of material to get a shape. Here is an older blog article showing the most common technologies used in AM.

The advantage of this approach is that you just need one machine to make a part, you can go straight from a computer model to that part, and you are not held back by the physical constraints of traditional processes. These features allow anyone to make a part and to make shapes we just could not create before.  At first, we only used it for prototypes before parts were made. Then we started to make tools to make final products, and now 3D Printing is employed to manufacturing end-use parts.

In the world of mechanical engineering, where 3D Printing is heavily used, we call companies that use additive manufacturing to make parts for others 3D Printing Service Bureaus or 3D Printing Service Providers. Therefore, the full process of doing manufacturing using the technology is called: 3D Printing Services.

The critical word in that last sentence is “full.”  Sending a computer model to a 3D Printer is just one of many steps involved in Additive Manufacturing.  When the service is employed correctly, it includes identifying the right type of additive manufacturing to use, preparing the geometry, setting parameters on the machine, printing the parts, removing supports, cleaning the parts, sanding, applying a surface finish treatment, and then inspection and shipping.  Anyone can send a part to a printer; the other steps are what make the difference between simply printing a part, and producing a great part.

What Services does PADT Offer?

Additive Manufacturing covers a wide range of technologies that create parts one layer at a time, using a variety of approaches. Some extrude, some harden, some use an inkjet print head, and still others melt material.  What they have in common is creating solid geometry one layer at a time. Each technology has its own unique set of advantages, and that is why PADT offers so many different 3D Printing technologies for our customers.  Each of these approaches has unique part preparations, machine parameters, and post-printing processes. Each with a unique set of advantages.  The key to success is knowing which technology is best for each part and then executing it correctly.

Currently, PADT’s 3D Printing Services Group makes parts for customers using the following technologies.  Each one listed has a brief description of its advantages.  See our website for more details.

Technology

Abbrv.

Advantages

Fused
Deposition Modeling

FDM

Strong parts

Easy operation

Reliability of systems

Broad material choice

Water soluble supports

Fast

Cost

Polyjet

PolyJet

Multiple materials in a single build

Broad material choices

Custom material choices

Multiple colors in single build

Water soluble supports

Accuracy

Stereolithography

SLA

Part quality

Material options

Speed

Speed

Material properties

Self supporting

Selective
Laser Sintering

SLS

Digital
Light Synthesis

DLS

Speed

Production capable

Surface Finish

Material Choices

Material properties

Orthotropic properties

Direct
Laser Melting (Metal)

DLM

Fully dense metal parts

Accuracy

Speed

Part strength

As a proud reseller for Stratasys systems, we feel strongly that the two primary technologies from Stratasys, FDM and Polyjet, are the best for customers who want to do Additive Manufacturing in-house or as a service provider. When customers need something different, they can come to PADT to take advantage of the unique capabilities found in each technology.

How is 3D Printing with PADT Better?

The difference is in what we know and how to execute the complete process.  As a provider of 3D Printing services for over 23 years, very few people in the industry even come close to the amount of experience that we bring to the table.  We also know product development and traditional manufacturing, so when a customer comes to us with a need, we understand what they are asking to do and why. That helps us make the right recommendation on process, material, and post-processing.

A few differentiators are:

  • We know our machines
  • We know our materials
  • We offer a wide range of plastic and metal materials
  • We understand post-processing
  • We understand support removal (we manufacture the leading support removal system)
  • We understand design and manufacturing
  • In-house machining, painting, and part finishing
  • In-house inspection and quality
  • Employees who are enthusiastic and dedicated to providing the right solution.

In addition to all of these things, PADT also offers On-Demand Manufacturing as a Carbon Production Partner. We combine Carbon’s DLS technology with our existing and proven manufacturing processes to provide low volume manufacturing solutions for plastic components.

We are also always looking at the latest technologies and adding what our customers need.  You can see this with the recent addition of systems from ConceptLaser, Carbon and Desktop Metal systems.

 

Next Steps and Where to Learn More

The very best way to learn more about PADT’s 3D Printing services is to have us print a part. The full experience and the final product will explain why, with so many choices, so many companies large and small count on us for their Additive Manufacturing. If you need to learn more, you can also contact us at 480.813.4884 or rp@padtinc.com.

Here are some links that you may find useful:

 

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Getting to Know PADT: Our Offices in Four Other States

Based in the ASU Research Park in Tempe Arizona, PADT has thrived and grown in the technologically oriented East Valley of the Phoenix Metro area. When people think about the company, they think about Phoenix and Arizona. Phoenix is even in the company name. What many people do not realize is that PADT has thriving sales and support offices in four other states. If we updated our name, it would be Southwest Simulation, Design, and Additive Technologies. However, SWSDAT is even worse than PADT! Worse yet, people might think we are from Switzerland.

As the company has grown so has our sales and support territory for the products we sell. And the best way to provide outstanding support to their high-technology customers is to be part of the local technology community. So starting with Colorado in 2010, the company has been investing in the communities that are allowing it to grow. Below is a brief overview of each office and what makes them unique.

PADT Colorado

Arizona and Colorado are like siblings, so alike in some ways, totally different in others. The Rocky Mountain state was the first state that saw significant growth for PADT outside of Arizona, so it was an obvious place to start growing. The bulk of our business there is around selling and supporting Stratasys Additive Manufacturing equipment. And to be blunt, it has been a great location for our engineering staff who literally could not take the heat of Arizona. Located in Littleton just south of Denver, we are close to our large Aerospace customers, and a quick drive to Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Golden where we also have clusters of customers.

The high-tech nature of the industry in the state fit perfectly with PADT’s strengths. From launch vehicles to mining, to cell phone cases, we have fit right in with our growing customer base. And part of our fitting there is the fantastic location on Littleton Blvd right next to the Arapahoe County courthouse. We rent a suite on the second floor a cool mid-century building that is walking distance from light rail and restaurants – a great location. If you ever visit, ask to see the bathroom and kitchen, both are a blast from the past.

PADT New Mexico

Our largest customer outside of the Phoenix area is the combined Sandia National Lab, and Los Alamos National Lab, and Kirtland’s Air Force Research Lab. All are located in New Mexico and are a major focus for us for Additive Manufacturing and ANSYS sales and support. That is why our New Mexico office is so important. It is located in the Sandia Research Park, right outside the Eubank entrance to Sandia National Lab.

The office provides a nice space for training as well as a location to hold office hours and meet with users who may be in locations we are not authorized to visit. Many of our non-lab customers are in that same park or nearby. This office has been a great base of operations for our continued growth in the state. This office may have the best views of any in the PADT family. Many of us also feel it also offers the best Mexican food options.

PADT Utah

Utah has a small but very active technology community, and PADT’s presence in the state is growing quickly. Our office in Murray at the I-15 and 5300S is only 9 miles due south of downtown Salt Lake City. If you have not visited, the space is actually one of our more enjoyable offices to work in. One large room houses the sales and engineering team as well as a host of 3D Printers, supplies for maintenance, and a cool sitting area.

Working with so many customers in Utah leads to a lot of driving, tech companies seem to be evenly distributed along the I-15 corridor, so the local team does a lot of driving. However, the office is a great central location for meeting with customers and seminars and as a starting point for those drives to Provo, Park City, and Ogden as well as destinations in-between. As our business in Utah continues to grow, we may soon have to expand this office.

PADT California

Our newest location is in Southern California, Torrance in particular. If New Mexico has the best views, this one probably has the worst… unless you like refineries. However, it is a central location that has served us well for almost two years now. Just down the street from our largest customer, Honeywell Aerospace, it is the ultimate home base for such a freeway dominated territory. Our local staff can get there fairly easily from their homes, and when the rest of us visit, its location near LAX is very convenient.

Our focus in that office right now is Simulation. Particularly ANSYS sales and support. Our SoCal customers like to drop by when they are in the neighborhood, and the PADT team there is constantly on the road out visiting them. It works great for our customers nearby, but since that office covers from San Diego North to San Luis Obispo, a random collection of coffee shops serve as an office for SoCal almost as much as our Torrance base.

Our growth in the region is quick, and we look forward to opening more satellite offices across an area that is larger in population and real estate than some countries.

Serving our Customers Better

Sometimes technology allows people to connect fairly well. However, nothing beats being local. The best way for PADT to support our customers is to not just be there for them technically, but also to be part of the communities they reside in. And that community spreads across the Southwestern United States, and we are proud to be members of the Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Southern California technical communities. People innovate everywhere, so we are there, local, to make innovation work for them.

Getting to Know PADT: Simulation Services

This is the fourth installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

The A in PADT actually stands for Analysis.  Back in 1994 when the company was started, computer modeling for mechanical engineering was called Analysis. It was such an important part of what we wanted to achieve that we put it in the name.  Unfortunately, Analysis was a bit to generic so the industry switched to Numerical Simulation, or simply simulation. In the 23 years since we started, analysis… sorry, simulation, has been not just a foundation for what PADT does for our customers, it has become a defacto tool in product development.  Through it all there has been a dedicated group here that is focused on providing the best simulation as a service to customers around the world.

Driving Designs with Simulation

Many companies know about PADT with regards to simulation because we are an ANSYS Elite Channel Partner – selling and supporting the entire suite of ANSYS simulation tools in the Southwestern US. The success of simulation in the design and development of physical products is a direct result of the fact that these fantastic tools from ANSYS can be used to drive the design of products.  This can be done in-house by companies designing the products, or outsourced to experts. And that is where PADT has come in for hundreds of customers around the world.  The expertise we use to support and train on ANSYS products derives directly from our real world experience providing CFD, structural, thermal, electromagnetic, and multiphysics simulations to help those customers drive their product development.

For those not familiar with simulation, or who only use the basic tools embedded in CAD software as a quick check, understanding why it is so important hinges on understand what it really is. Numerical Simulation is a methodology where a physical product is converted into a computer model that represents its physical behavior.  This behavior can be many different physics: stresses, vibration, fluid flow, temperature flow, high frequency electromagnetic radiation, sloshing of liquids, deformation during impact, piezoelectric response, heating from static electromagnetic waves, cooling from air flow. The list goes on and on. Pretty much anything you studied in physics can be modeled using a numerical simulation.

The process of doing the simulation consists of taking the physical object and breaking it into discrete chunks, often very small relative to the size of the object, so that equations can easily be written for each chunk that describes the physical behavior of that chunk relative to the chunks around it.  Imagine writing equations for the fluid flow in a complicated valve housing, very hard to do. But if you break it up into about one million small polyhedrons, you can write an equation for flow in and out of each polyhedron. These equations are then assembled into a giant matrix and solved using linear algebra.  That is why we need such large computers.  We mostly use the world’s leading software for this, from ANSYS, Inc.

More than Building and Running Models

Knowing how to build and run finite element and CFD models is key to providing simulation as a service. PADT’s team averages over 18 years of experience and few people come close to their knowledge on geometry preparation, meshing, setting up loads and boundary conditions, leveraging the advantages of each solver, and post processing. That is a good starting point. But what really sets PADT apart is the understanding of how the simulation fits into product development, and how the information gathered from simulation can and should be used.  Instead of providing a number or a plot, PADT’s experienced engineers deliver insight into the behavior of the products being simulated.

How each project is conducted is also something that customers keep coming back for.  Nothing is ever “thrown over the wall” our passed through a “black box.” From quote through delivery of final report, PADT’s engineers work closely with the customer’s engineers to understand requirements, get to the heart of what the customer is looking for, and deliver useful and actionable information.  And if you have your own in-house simulation team, we will work closely with them to help them understand what we did so they can add it to their capabilities. In fact, one of the most popular simulation services offered by PADT is automation of the simulation process with software tools written on top of ANSYS products.  This is a fantastic way to leverage PADT’s experience and knowledge to make your engineers more efficient and capable.

Unparalleled Breadth and Depth

Based on feedback from our customers, the other area where PADT really stands out is in the incredible breadth and depth of capability offered.  Whereas most service providers specialize in one type of simulation or a single industry, more than twenty years of delivering high-end simulation to evaluate hundreds of products has given PADT’s team a unique and special level of understanding and expertise. From fluid flow in aerospace cooling systems to electromagnetics for an antenna in a smart toy, a strong theoretical understanding is combined with knowledge about the software tools to apply the right approach to each unique problem.

No where is this breadth and depth exemplified than with PADT’s relationship with ANSYS, Inc. Since the company was founded, PADT engineers have worked closely with ANSYS development and product management to understand these powerful tools better and to offer their advice on how to make them better.  And each time ANSYS, Inc. develops or acquires a new capability, that same team steps up and digs deep into the functionality that has been added. And when necessary, adding new engineers to the team to offer our customers the same expert access to these new tools.

 

The best way to understand why hundreds of companies, many of them large corporations that are leaders in their industry, come to PADT from around the world for their simulation services needs is to talk to us about your simulation services needs. Regardless of the industry or the physics, our team is ready to help you drive your product development with simulation. Contact us now to start the discussion.

 

Getting to Know PADT: Support Cleaning Apparatus (SCA) Manufacturing and Support

This is the third installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

PADT is in the business of helping people who make products.  So most people think of us as a provider of tools and services.  What they do not know is that PADT actually has a few of its own products.  The most successful of these is our line of Support Cleaning Apparatus systems, abbreviated as SCA.  These devices are used to remove soluble support material from parts 3D printed in Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling Systems. They are robust machines manufactured and serviced by PADT, but sold through the Stratasys worldwide sales channel. As of July of 2017, over 10,800 units have been delivered to Stratasys.

Optimized Performance for Hands-Off Part Cleaning

The Stratasys 3D Printing systems that use Fused Deposition Modeling extrude plastic through a heated nozzle to build parts one layer at a time.  There are actually two nozzles. One puts down the building material and the other a support material that is dissolved in warm water that is slightly base.  The best way to remove that support material is to put it into a warm bath where the part is gently tumbled so that the water can works its way evenly into the part.  Stratasys tried several solutions for a companion washing system and eventually came to PADT and asked if we would try our hand at building a robust and efficient system.

The result was the SCA-1200.  Launched at the end of 2008 it met the design requirements for reliability, part cleaning time, and noise.  Over 7,000 of these systems were shipped and saw heavy usage. In fact, if you have a Stratasys FDM system there is a good chance you have an SCA-1200.  It contained a unique shower head design that was optimized with simulation, and a modular assembly that could be repaired easily in the field.

Based upon the success and lessons learned from the SCA-1200, we released the SCA-1200HT in 2014.  With the same basic form factor, this design replaced the off-the-shelf magnetically coupled pump with a simpler and more reliable custom design from PADT. The new unit also had a more pleasing visual design, several usability enhancements, and a greater temperature range. It has sold over 3,000 units and continues to be a popular system.  The latest release includes a no-temperature setting that allows it to be used to clean Stratasys Polyjet parts.

The success of both system lead to a request to look at building a larger machine that could clean more parts at one time as well as larger parts.  The SCA 3600 has three times the volume but shares many internal parts with the SCA-1200HT.  Both of the new systems are doing well in the field with even better reliability and faster part cleaning times. They are also simpler to debug and repair.

The SCA systems are sold as stand alone devices or are bundled with key Stratasys FDM machines.  You can learn more about them on our SCA page:  www.padtinc.com/sca or you can contact whoever you buy your Stratasys equipment from.

Here is a video for the SCA-1200HT that talks all about what it does:

Practicing what We Preach

One of the most rewarding aspects of designing and manufacturing the SCA family of products was that it forced us to practice what we preach. We talk to companies every day about using simulation, 3D Printing, design for manufacturing, proper product development processes, and many more things needed to get a product right.  With the SCA we were the customer. We had to Walk the Walk or stop talking the talk.

 

It has been a phenomenal experience that has made us even better at helping our customers produce their new products. We used CFD to optimize the gentle agitation design and shower head and worked closely with our vendors to minimize the cost of manufacturing.  The worst part was that when the schedule slipped, we couldn’t blame the customer (only slightly joking).  One of the best set of lessons came from doing the repair and refurbishment of systems that failed. Even though the failure rate was low, we learned a lot and were able to make improvements to future designs. Now when we sit across from a customer and talk about the design, test, and manufacture of their product, we can really say that we understand where they are coming from.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to Know PADT: Flownex Sales and Support

This is the second installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

The PADT sales and support team focused on simulation solutions is best known for our work with the full ANSYS product suite.  What a lot of people don’t know is that we also represent a fantastic simulation tool called Flownex. Flownex is a system level 1-D program that is designed from the ground up to model thermal-fluid systems.

What does Flownex Do?

Flownex Simulation Environment is an interactive software program that allows users to model systems to understand how fluids (gas and/or liquid) flow and how heat is transferred in that same system due to that flow.  the way it works is you create a network of components that are connected together as a system.  The heat and fluid transfer within and between each node is calculated over time, giving a very accurate, and fast,  representation of the system’s behavior.

As a system simulation tool, it is fast, it is easy to build and change, and it runs in real time or even faster.  This allows users to drive the design of their entire system through simulation.

Need to know what size pump you need, use Flownex.  Want to know if you heat exchanger is exchanging enough heat for every situation, use Flownex.  Tasked with making sure your nuclear reactor will stay cool in all operating conditions, use Flownex.   Making sure you have optimized the performance of your combustion nozzles, use Flownex.  Time to design your turbine engine cooling network, use Flownex. Required to verify that your mine ventilation and fire suppression system will work, use Flownex. The applications go on and on.

Why is Flownex so Much Better than other System Thermal-Fluid Modeling Solutions?

There are a lot of solutions for modeling thermal-fluid systems. We have found that the vast majority of companies use simple spreadsheets or home-grown tools. There are also a lot of commercial solutions out there. Flownex stands out for five key reasons:

  1. Breadth and depth of capability
    Flownex boasts components, the objects you link together in your network, that spread across physics and applications.  Whereas most tools will focus on one industry, Flownex is a general purpose tool that supports far more situations.  For depth they have taken the time over the years to not just have simple models.  Each component has sophisticated equations that govern its behavior and user defined parameters that allow for very accurate modeling.
  2. Developed by hard core users
    Flownex started life as an internal code to support consulting engineers. Experienced engineering software programmers worked with those consultants day-in and day-out to develop the tools that were needed to solve real world problems.  This is the reason why when users ask “What I really need to do to solve my problem is such-and-such, can Flownex do that?” we can usually answer “Yes, and here are the options to make it even more accurate.”
  3. Customization and Integration
    As powerful and in-depth as Flownex is, there is no way to capture every situation for every user.  Nor does the program do everything. That is why it is so open and so easy to customize and integrate. As an example, may customers have very specific thermal-pressure-velocity models that they use for their specific components. Models that they developed after years if not decades of testing. Not a problem, that behavior can be easily added to Flownex.  If a customer even has their own software or a 3rd party tool they need to use, it is pretty easy to integrate it right into your Flownex system model.Very common tools are already integrated. The most common connection is Matlab/Simulink.  At PADT we often connect Excel models from customers into our Systems  for consulting.  It is also integrated into ANSYS Mechanical.
  4. Nuclear Quality Standards
    Flownex came in to its own as a tool used to model the fluid system in and around Nuclear Reactors.  So it had to meet very rigorous quality standards, if not the most stringent they are pretty close. This forced to tool to be very robust, accurate, and well documented. And the rest of us can take advantage of that intense quality requirement to meet and exceed the needs of pretty much every industry.  We can tell you after using it for our own consulting projects and after talking to other users, this code is solid.
  5. Ease of Use
    Some people will read the advantages above and think that this is fantastic, but that much capability and flexibility must make it difficult to use. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Maybe its because the most demanding users are down the hallway and can come and harangue the developers. Or it could be that their initial development goal of keeping ease of use without giving up on functionality was actually followed.  Regardless of why, this simulation tool is amazingly simple and intuitive.  From building the model to reviewing results to customization, everything is easy to learn, remember, and user.  To be honest, it is actually fun to use. Not something a lot of simulation engineers say.

Why does buying and getting support from PADT for Flownex make a Difference?

The answer to this question is fairly simple: PADT’ simulation team is made up of very experienced users who have to apply this technology to our own internal projects as well as to consulting jobs.  We know this tool and we also work closely with the developers at Flownex.  As with our ANSYS products, we don’t just work on knowing how to use the tool, we put time in to understand the theory behind everything as well as the practical real world industry application.

When you call for support, odds are the engineer who answers is actually suing Flownex on a customer’s system.  We also have the infrastructure and size in place to make sure we have the resources to provide that support.  Investing in a new simulation tool can generate needs for training, customization, and integration; not to mention traditional technical support. PADT partners with our customers to make sure they get the greatest value form their simulation software investment.

              

Reach out to Give it a Try or Learn More

Our team is ready and waiting to answer your questihttp://www.flownex.com/flownex-demoons or provide you with a demonstration of this fantastic tool. .  You can email us at info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 480.813.4884 or 1-800-293-PADT.

Still want to learn more? Here are some links to more information:

 

  

Getting to Know PADT: Part Scanning and Reverse Engineering

This is the first installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

Product innovation doesn’t always start with a blank sheet. Many times our customers need to begin with an accurate representation of their existing products, or a piece that theirs interfaces with, or even a competitive solutions.  That is why we offer scanning and reverse engineering services that take real world parts and convert them into an accurate and useful CAD model.

What is Part Scanning

Part scanning is a process where we use machines to measure geometry.  Before scanning someone would use rulers, calipers, and other measuring devices dating from the industrial revolution to get critical dimensions off of a part and painstakingly document what they find. That got better with Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) where you could accurately measure key locations on the geometry. The problem with this approach was that it only gave you data where you measured.  Fine for simple parts like a flange with bolt holes.  But not good when you have crazy free-form surfaces or many features. Another approach was to section the parts and project a shadow onto a piece of paper and trace it.  If you needed more measurements, cost went way up.

To solve this problem, people found a way to measure lots of points easily: scan the part with some sort of optical sensor and measure points on the part as you go.  Early scanning systems used lasers, measuring the beam that bounced back.  This worked well, especially for very large objects.  But was tricky on some surfaces and produced a lot of noise in the data. So researches figured out that they could project patterns of light and dark onto an object and measure how the edges of that pattern bent and warped.   This is called Structured Light Scanning, and Wikipedia has a good article giving more details on how it works. We use the “blue light” version of this process here at PADT for our optical scanning services.

The other process we use is Cross Sectional Scanning. As the name implies it scans the cross section of parts, and it does it by actually shaving off material one layer at a time and then taking a picture of the 2D cross section that is revealed.  Although you consume the part in the process, it is a very accurate and fairly affordable way to measure complex internal geometry.

What you get from both scanning approaches is what we call a point cloud.  What is a point cloud? A file with millions of points defined as an X, Y, and Z position in space that represent locations that sit on the surfaces of the object.  You can measure critical dimensions, compare different geometries, and use it as a basis to create a computer model.  The key thing to note is that PADT uses precise scanners and leading software, combined with the experience of our operators to produce an accurate and usable point cloud.

Creating Accurate Models from Scan Data – Reverse Engineering

For most projects, getting the point cloud is just the first step. In order for our customers to redesign, update, simulate, or interface with the part we scanned, they need an accurate computer model.  Instead of millions of points, the computer model contains a more concise mathematical representation of the surface defined by the points. The simplest thing we can do is simply fit triangles through those points.  This is refered to as a faceted model because it is made up of triangular facets.  This data is used for 3D Printing, rendering, and for design in some cases.  Most often we deliver an STL file for this type of model. If a more accurate representation is needed, our engineers can convert those facets into an actual Computer Aided Design (CAD) model.  It can be just a dumb solid, or we can even make key features parametric.  The geometry can be handed over in many different formats, including IGES, Paraolids, STEP, SolidWorks, SolidEdge, NX, or CREO.

How Part Scanning with PADT Different

To be blunt, the reason why we added scanning to our capabilities was that we had always outsourced this service for our customers.  We found plenty of people with scanners, but they just scanned a part, ran the software, and provided OK data for our customers.  The problem was they were not experts in the technology behind scanning, they lacked a theoretical understanding of math behind 3D computer geometry modeling, and they were not experts in product development.  It turned out that scanning the geometry was the easy part, what our customers needed was someone who knew how to scan it right and produce useful information.  Information they didn’t have to spend time cleaning and massaging. Our engineers combine all of these skills along with a firm understanding of quality requirements, GD&T, and most of the major CAD systems.  In addition, PADT is ITAR compliant and can deal with your confidential geometry and data requirements.  The fact that PADT is a recognized expert in Additive Manufacturing is often useful as well.  We could not find a service provider that had all of the things our customers required, so we decided to do it ourselves.

Leveraging PADT’s Part Scanning and Reverse Engineering Services

Getting parts scanned by PADT is actually fairly easy.  Step one is to contact PADT and talk to our engineers so they can produce a quote.  Ideally it is best for you to bring the part or parts in to our Tempe office. If that is not feasible we will need some basic pictures of your part and key dimensions like maximum length, width, and height. They will then talk with you to understand what you actually want to accomplish by scanning.  Armed with this information they will provide a quote for scanning and any geometry creation or other activities you need completed including cost, schedule, and a list of deliverables.

In  most cases, you will ship us or drop off the part or parts, and our team will go to work.  If needed, we can also come to where the parts are located and scan them there.  The deliverables vary from job to job, and are negotiated as part of the quoting process.  In general we will provide you with an STL or CAD file with the level of accuracy and detail that you ask for. If needed, we can also provide you with the point cloud  itself.  We can also complete inspection reports and provide comparisons between datasets.

Reach out to Give it a Try or Learn More

Our team is ready and waiting to answer your questions or provide you with a quote.  You can email us at info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 480.813.4884 or 1-800-293-PADT.

Still want to learn more? Here are some links to more information:

  • Download or scanning brochure
  • A more detailed blog post on scanning from early 2017, including a “Scanning 101” section with some great background on the technology
  • The 3D Scanning Wikipedia article.  This has lots of basic information as well as more links to greater details.
  • Information on the Geomagic Capture Scanner, an easy to use, compact, and very portable blue light scanner that we use for a lot of projects.
  • Details about the ZIESS Comet optical scanner, a professional and highly accurate blue light scanner that we use for our more demanding projects.
  • An overview of Cross Sectional scanning.
  • A brief summary of the Geomagic Software we use to create useful models from point clouds. It also has links to more in-depth information.
  • An article in Additive Manufacturing magazine about how PADT used our scanners to create a replacement part for a P-51 Mustang airplane.  It includes a great video as well.

 

Getting to Know PADT – Summary

At PADT, “We Make Innovation Work.” But what does that really mean? We provide the tools and services that engineers need to design, test, and manufacture physical products. The list of services and products is long, because doing product development is complicated and requires many skills and resources. So in the end the biggest problem we have from a marketing standpoint as a company is making sure all of our customers know about all the things we do.

If you have looked at our primary website, you can see the problem. It is easy to get lost. So we thought we would take a different approach and publish a series of blog posts on each of the unique tools or services we offer. We will link back to the website or external websites where appropriate, focusing on helping you, our customers, just get to know us better.

Here is a list of the topics we have covered so far: