LONG BEACH, CALIF.—A Minnesota firm launched a system in mid-1996 to reverse engineer parts but has found stronger customer interest using the product for article inspection. The system provides an alternative to laser digitizers, touch probes and X-rays.
CGI of Eden Prairie, Minn., has sold more than 15 units at about $175,000 each, Ann Hackett, marketing manager, said at the Western Plastics Expo, held Jan. 6-8 in Long Beach. Each unit includes hardware, computer equipment and associated software programs.
The complete RE1000 system produces a digital image of parts with complex internal geometry and runs without operator intervention during the digitizing process, overnight when necessary.
About 80 percent of uses involve first-article inspection, and the remainder, reverse engineering, Hackett said. A customer can ``compare the finished part to a design to see if it met the intent.''
Using a pressure vacuum system, a user encases a part in an epoxy of a contrasting color. The system mills off layers at a set thickness of 0.0005-0.01 of an inch, optically scanning the machined layers and capturing three-dimensional images of the part's features. A color gradient shows the deviation of a first article's data point cloud to an original computer-aided-design model.
The system can capture the geometry of any machinable part including those made of plastics, metals and wood, often for automotive, medical or electronic parts. Hackett said CGI is considering variations on the current envelope size of 12 by 101/2 by 8 inches.
CGI was founded in 1993, employs 20 and occupies a 15,000-square-foot facility.