Using 3D Laser Scanning for Industrial Plant Design, Part 2: 5 Crucial Benefit Drivers

Using 3D Laser Scanning for Industrial Plant Design, Part 2:
5 Crucial Benefit Drivers

Complete and accurate background information is the cornerstone of every successful facility, manufacturing, and processing project. Without it, initial project decisions may need to be reversed at a later stage, wasting the manufacturer’s time, money, and resources.

3D laser scanning is a powerful way to collect and view the data needed to plan a project in an industrial facility.

Part 2 of How to Use 3D Laser Scanning for Industrial Plant Design: An Engineer’s Guide explores the benefit drivers of 3D laser scanning. Click here to read Part 1, an introduction to 3D laser scanning.

The Critical Importance of Data Collection

Data collection is an important aspect of manufacturing engineering projects, especially at the project planning stage.

Once the project scope has been reasonably defined, engineers need to determine the best method to collect accurate data. Data also has to be collected in an efficient manner and collected safely without interfering with plant operations.  In facilities construction and renovation, engineers need data that is generally dimensional in nature or used to locate existing objects. We need to locate existing buildings and structures, existing above ground utilities, process equipment, existing tie-points, and more to define how a project may interface with adjacent processes.

The days of using a camera and tape measure to collect field information are slowly diminishing. Today, there is more emphasis on choosing the right tool for the right reason.

Many years ago, Matrix Technologies, a leading manufacturing processing and automation engineering company, recognized the advantages of implementing 3D laser scanning in our engineering processes. Since many of our design engineering projects are fast-paced with a high degree of complexity, the use of a 3D scanner is an easy choice for most projects, once the benefits are understood.

The Point Cloud and Registration of Data

As explained in part 1 of this series, 3D laser scanning identifies or locates billions of data points. These data points are called the point cloud and are used to locate features of interest. Features could be elements of a building, process equipment sizes, anchor bolt locations, piping tie-points, remote utilities or ductwork hanging from above, and general dimensional relationships between multiple objects of interest.

Once 3D laser scanning has been completed, multiple scans are stitched (registered) together to create a three-dimensional point cloud image of the scanned area. The point cloud is then used as a basis to integrate new work models within the existing point cloud.

3D modeling within the point cloud

5 Benefit Drivers of 3D Laser Scanning

1. Collecting More Data than Needed

When evaluating a project site for the first time, it’s likely that the exact scope of the project is still somewhat ill-defined. How often do you start a project where the position of a process is location “A,” with tie-points “B,” and maintenance access coming from position “C;” … then after initial concept layouts, you determine that the process equipment belongs in position “C” with the maintenance access from “D” and tie-points changing to position “E?”

If the traditional approach to data collection was being used, you might need to restart the initial field work.

3D laser scanning can solve this problem and help avoid the cost and time of starting over. The 3D laser scan has likely captured data points “A” through “Z” and in great detail and accuracy. This gives the engineer and owner the flexibility to make initial design changes early in the process.

Once the data is collected, the field of view of the project landscape is vastly increased compared to the traditional method of data collection, giving the engineer more options to reposition equipment or processes. This results in better decisions early in the project lifecycle.

2. Accuracy

When developing an engineering design, high importance is placed on accurate background information from the start of a project. When construction information is ambiguous, contractor field change orders can quickly add to project delays and costs.

With the advancement of data collection technology, engineers using a 3D scanner no longer need to defer to requiring the contractor to “field verify” existing field information.

The Faro Focus 3D X130 has a rated maximum range of 130 meters with a distance accuracy of +/- 2mm. Although other scanning instruments may reach further, there often is no justification to collect data past 130 meters.

Scanner accuracy is also affected by how the scanning technician traverses the work area. For example, if a technician scans the exterior perimeter of a large building, the accuracy tolerances for each scan are compounded, giving the overall scan accuracy a larger margin of error. An experienced scanning technician may utilize alternate surveying techniques to close smaller survey loops within the larger traverse, thus minimizing overall error.

3. Minimizing Travel to the Project Site

Although 3D scanning doesn’t replace traditional field work, it can greatly assist in bringing team members up to speed on a project site they have never seen. A color 3D representation of the project site also significantly enhances the perspective of a complex project for engineering team members and the owner. The point cloud and 3D active scan pictures allow the user to walk through the project site as if they were there.

Steam Exchanger Point Cloud

4. Safety

Since 3D scanning is performed generally from the ground level, it inherently reduces the risk of accident and injury caused by collecting data at heights and near operating equipment.

Scanner placement also can be coordinated with plant personnel to eliminate the hazards of occupying the same space as fork lifts, personnel, contractors, and other potential conflicts.

When operating a 3D scanner in a hazardous or potentially explosive area, it’s important to communicate the plan with plant operations. Most 3D scanners are not intrinsically safe and will require obtaining a hot work permit prior to starting any work processes.

5. Developing Facility as-built Documentation

Maintaining an accurate set of existing factory or plant drawings is beneficial when starting new engineering work.

However, many times there is no documentation on the existing facility, its contents, utilities, machinery layouts, and other building features. These documents may have been lost, never issued, or accidentally disposed of.

3D laser scanning is a cost-effective approach to collecting this vital data.  For example, a building owner wanted Matrix Technologies to create as-built drawings for a 275,000-square foot facility that was previously used for warehousing. A new packaging process with a substantial amount of conveying was to be installed in the same area.

Matrix engineers performed a 3D scan of the facility and generated a point cloud. From the point cloud, we were able to take a slice through the building at any elevation.

All of the data points above and below the slice were turned off, leaving a 3D image of the outline of the walls, columns, and other objects that may have occupied the space within the slice. This simplified the data to something manageable. In AutoCAD, polylines could be drawn over the points to recreate a building outline and columns, showing as much detail as needed.

Isometric of facility showing column locations

In this example, the manufacturer realized the following benefits:

  1. 3D laser scanning saved thousands of dollars in engineering labor costs. Multiple individuals were not required, thus minimizing labor, travel, and other expenses.
  2. Since only one resource was needed to collect the data, the project was not delayed while waiting for multiple engineering resources to become available to travel to the project site.
  3. The data was highly accurate and allowed the new machinery and conveying to be placed on the drawing to verify interferences.
  4. More data was captured than originally needed. After the initial 3D scan, the customer requested that we re-measure the existing utilities in the ceiling to verify that the new machinery would not interfere with existing utilities. The scan was used to determine the sizes and elevation of the utilities to locate potential interference points. Building cross-section isometrics for utility locations and elevations were provided to the customer.
Building Cross Section Isometric

Big Benefits for Industrial Project Design

The benefit drivers for utilizing a 3D scanner far outweigh more traditional methods of collecting field data. 3D scanning tools can collect substantially more information, safely, more accurately, and in a greatly reduced timeframe. This delivers a powerful advantage to industrial automation engineering companies like Matrix Technologies and to project owners.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our 3D laser scanning services and multidiscipline engineering solutions, contact Mark O’Connell, PE, Associate Director of Capital Project Planning.

Click here to read Part 1: Using 3D Laser Scanning in Industrial Plant Design

Click here to read Part 3: 5 Crucial Estimating Scanning Costs

© Matrix Technologies, Inc.

Retrofitting an Aging Control System for Automated Storage and Retrieval

Retrofitting an Aging Control System for Automated Storage and Retrieval

Control systems sometimes need to be upgraded or replaced, especially for critical operations such as an overhead storage and delivery system in a discrete manufacturing facility that uses thousands of different parts daily.

Here’s how Matrix Technologies helped a major appliance manufacturer upgrade their automated manufacturing process with a control system retrofit that minimized downtime and streamlined startup.

Discrete manufacturing plants must know where each part is stored, and then efficiently deliver those parts where they are needed on the assembly line just in time to ensure uninterrupted production. An Automatic Storage and Retrieval system (AS/RS) is very often used for this.

The manufacturing site was using an integrated batch system that tracks parts in real time and uses a conveyor system to move them from storage to the required location whenever an operator orders them.  That system included 1500 parts carriers holding 14,000 parts with 50 different part numbers.

The plant had an aging control system consisting of an Allen-Bradley PLC3 to control the conveyors, and a Digital Equipment Systems (DEC) PDP-11/08 to keep inventory of the parts and track their location.

The project presented several challenges. The client wanted to:

  • Minimize downtime.
  • Minimize the maintenance training.
  • Replicate the fairly complex database search and product tracking performed by the DEC PDP 11/08, which in its day was a very powerful mini-computer.

The solution was to utilize one Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLC (CLx) to replace both the PLC3 and the DEC PDP 11/08.  Local Panelviews and FTview stations provide the operator interface.

To minimize downtime, Matrix re-used the existing 1771 IO to save debug time and effort.   Simulations were run to test the conveyor software and the required part tracking.  These simulations ensured that the startup and commissioning went well without any lost time due to lack of parts.

The maintenance technicians were very familiar with the old PLC3 that used an elaborate but easy-to-understand scheme to utilize bits within integer words. Matrix kept the same concept, but used the CLx data structure.  Maintenance training was minimal as the new code had the same look and feel as the old code.

CLx structured text was used for most of the inventory tracking and required searches to satisfy batches. The database searches had to be staged to keep the CLx scan at a rate of 50 msec that would allow the normal conveyor control to operate.

The system was totally designed and programmed within the ControlLogix (CLx) PLC, which tracks all parts of the system.  Fourteen Panelview stations and four FTView stations are used for operator interface (HMI).

Loading, Storage, and Unloading Loops Are Operated with a ControlLogix (CLx) PLC

The overhead conveyor system is designed with specific conveyor loops allocated for loading, unloading, and storage. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is used to track the 1500 parts carriers.

Load Loops (Stations):  Loading loops are used to manually load parts on a carrier, which is transported via the overhead power and free conveyor system.  An operator uses a Panelview to identify the part number currently being loaded and the quantity.

Each carrier has an RFID tag attached. As a loaded carrier is released, an RFID reader scans the tag and starts the process of storing the carrier in the storage loops.

Storage Loops:  The PLC uses several criteria to determine the best storage loop location for the carrier based on the loaded part number.  The PLC then assigns a storage loop number to the carrier.

RFID readers are located throughout the conveyor system. The RFID tag on a carrier is scanned by the PLC, and the carrier moves to the assigned storage loop.  The PLC tracks all carrier movement using the RFID scanners.  Based on this information, the PLC always has a current inventory of all the carriers and the parts in the system.

Unload Loops (Stations):  As parts are needed for manufacturing, unloading loops deliver the needed parts to specific points on the production line.  A batching system is used by operators at an FTView HMI terminal, where the operator selects the unload station, the part number, and the amount of parts.

The batching system uses this information to select the carriers to send. The system then moves the carrier to the selected unload station using the RFID tag on the carrier.

With a new control system designed by Matrix, the plant will keep reliably moving its parts.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our automated manufacturing system capabilities and manufacturing process control solutions, contact Matt Dolgoff, Department Manager.

© Matrix Technologies, Inc.

Measuring Manufacturing Performance: 3 Commonly Used KPIs

Measuring Manufacturing Performance: 3 Commonly Used KPIs

There are many ways to measure performance in your manufacturing facility, but certain key performance indicators (KPIs) provide the actionable results you need for manufacturing process improvement. Also, when it comes to manufacturing operations management, some places are easier to begin than others.

From our experience as manufacturing engineering consultants, here are three commonly used metrics that most customers address in the beginning when evaluating manufacturing performance:

  1. Downtime: Measuring the number of downtime minutes and their associated reasons can be a very useful place to start because items that cause the most downtime on a line are obvious places to begin making improvements. Increases in downtime can indicate poor raw materials, poor operator training, or failing manufacturing components. Monitoring reasons and associated times can provide you with very valuable insight. A bar chart is a good visual for monitoring this KPI, since a bar chart can display both the number of times the event occurred and the number of seconds attributed to each downtime.
  2. Production Count, Both Good and Bad: Measuring the number of units produced is essential for manufacturing widgets of any kind but it should also be considered for batching and continuous processes. Like products, batches can also be good or bad. In the case of continuous processes like a blast furnace or refining, the product can eventually be tested for good versus bad and the pounds good versus pounds bad can be the KPIs. When the amount of bad product exceeds its desired limit, this could indicate raw material problems, poorly trained operators, machinery failures, etc. One useful method for displaying this information is a   gauge with the needle showing the percentage of good parts versus bad.
  3.  Production Rate: No matter what you’re producing, the speed at which you can make the product has a limit. Maxing out this value is probably not your goal because it could result in more breakdowns or products of undesirable quality. A gauge is an ideal way to show the production rate. By displaying the percent of target speed you can tell if the production rate goal is being reached.

These KPIs are among the most easily captured and most common in manufacturing process control.  With the manufacturing intelligence tools available today, you can create a live dashboard to give the manufacturing operations management team immediate and current access to what’s happening on the plant floor so they can make informed decisions about process and procedural changes.  Data also should be captured and stored in a database for later review and more in-depth analysis to increase plant efficiency and throughput.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our manufacturing operations management capabilities and manufacturing process control solutions, contact Stephen Goldberg.

© Matrix Technologies, Inc.