Laser Tracker Services

3D Engineering Solutions is the premiere 3D Scanning Services provider. Combining a highly experienced and degreed engineering staff and the best equipment available, we provide data and engineering output to you in a rapid and cost effective manner.

Laser Tracker Alignment Services

3D Engineering Solutions provides metrology grade Laser tracker services for all industries including machine building, installation and fabrication.  If you need to precisely align, measure or monitor large scale objects, this is the technology that is most useful. 

Our expected measurement uncertainties are expressed as 20+0.9L microns for the 3-35 meter measurements and 38+1.8L microns for 3-70 meter measurements.  This range of approximately 0.0009” to 0.0065” of measurement uncertainty represents the best possible for high accuracy 3 dimensional measurements of larger objects. 

Combined with services from our talented and experienced staff of metrologist engineers, your project will be quickly and correctly completed.

Why 3D Engineering?

Degreed and experienced engineers and metrologists.  This describes our experienced staff well.  We are able to combine multiple technologies with Laser tracking to provide the best possible high accuracy service solution for your large object measuring needs.  Our large staff of engineers is available to work in shifts to minimize down time for your equipment. 

Large scale equipment requires fast and competent measurements and alignments.  As metrologists trained in multiple technologies beyond Laser trackers, we have much experience in all dimensional measuring fields requiring high accuracy especially aerospace, space and automotive applications.

What Measurements are Possible with Laser Trackers?

Almost any measurement is possible.  Straightness, concentricity, flatness, levelness (and precision leveling), perpendicularity, parallelism and centerline alignment of rotating equipment, to name a few, are all available to be captured with a high accuracy laser tracker. 

While this equipment does have line of sight restrictions, we can combine laser tracker data with other equipment such as articulating arms and long range laser scanners to bridge most gaps in measurement ability.  If you have CAD models of your machine, equipment or structure, we can also compare the raw data directly to that CAD and present beautiful color maps highlighting and measuring the profile of the equipment (Scan to CAD comparison).  If you don’t have CAD, we can create it!  Or we can make envelope CAD models to show the profile.

Another restriction with laser trackers is the need for intimate contact with the object being measured.  In some cases, we would combine long range laser scanning with laser tracking to get past complicated scaffolding and other issues.

Internal Alignment Inspection and Setting

Laser trackers are excellent for setting up large processes or inspecting large rotating equipment such as turbines.  Precision alignment of turbine components is critical for life and performance.  The measuring of blades (and blade tip clearance) and relative positions and clearances are also possible.

Continuous processes (also called roll or web processes) such as paper making, metal sheet drawing or wire drawing and coating require equipment to be aligned very closely to each other to prevent product quality issues and to minimize waste.  Our metrology grade high accuracy tracker alignment services can quickly help you achieve or verify the best alignment.

Large rotating equipment is typically subjected to high speeds and loads.  Understanding the alignment of the rotating parts is vital to preventing excessive vibration and ensuring proper clearances.  Any line of sight dimensional measurement that you can think of can be captured.  Other dimensions not in a trackers line of sight can be captured with an articulating arm and Laser scanner combination.  In that case the tracker is used to ‘leap frog’ the articulating arm into the coordinate system of the other tracker measurements.

Our expert metrologists can help you inspect and setup your equipment to ensure its best performance.  These are live measurements that can allow you to shim and adjust your process and equipment in real time.  We will provide your staff with adjustment amounts and directions and then check the finally adjusted product to ensure that the series of adjustments have not moved something in an unintended fashion.

New Construction Layout and Existing Construction Retrofits

Setting up for new construction benefits from being able to accurately plan out placement of critical items and equipment to a very high precision relative to each other and to other structures.  For example, when retrofitting equipment into existing spaces, knowing where the as built locations of connection points for ducting is greatly aided using a laser tracker.

Monitoring of Equipment Settling and Movement

Since trackers are so precise, they can be used in conjunction with known monuments or artifacts to monitor the condition of machines and equipment over time (drift monitoring).  This will allow high accuracy adjustments to be made to keep processes running consistently and smoothly over long periods of time.  This digital metrology data can be compared to previous and future data to help define and make adjustments.

This can be extended into deformation analysis.  Studying how a large machine or other objects moves over long periods of time is important in many applications.  We have customers who ask us to measure their structures during different seasons to understand the actual seasonal size and shape changes or to detect potential creep and deformation. 

These seasonal changes are primarily due to thermal growth.  The thermal growth analysis can also happen in shorter periods.  Or when combined with our long range Laser scanning service, we can measure short time frame thermal growth issues where contact with the object is not practical or possible.

Robotic Equipment and Machinery Adjustment

Complicated assembly processes require precise alignment and inspection services in order to maintain the needed rates of production and low machine down time.  Using laser trackers by themselves or in combination with articulating arms and lasers allows high accuracy measurements over large distances not previously possible. 

At 3D Engineering we often employ multiple metrology grade measuring devices in combination to achieve what would be not possible when using only one type of measurement device alone.

Equipment Modifications

Upgrading or adjusting large complicated equipment can be frustrating.  Having the ability to accurately know dimensional conditions before trying adjustments or modifications is valuable.

Using a laser tracker, we are able to give you live feedback on dimensions and alignments as you make the adjustment.  This high accuracy in-process inspection makes shimming much easier and alignments can be known in real time.

Our Certifications and ability to Certify and Qualify Machine Tool and Other Equipment

Our tracker inspection services are listed in our ISO17025 scope of accreditation.  This is the correct ISO certification for dimensional measurements.  Our engineering staff are degreed engineers. We choose this route to assure that our interactions with our customers bring the highest level of technical competence.  Each of our degreed engineers is also certified in Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) and cross trained in all of the technologies that we offer.  You can be assured that our equipment is in calibration and our engineers are competent in their use and interpretation of the data.

With any new equipment, your end customer needs to be assured that the equipment is set up correctly and that all alignment has been accomplished.  Using our ISO17025 accreditation for laser tracking, you can provide that assurance in a certified and accredited report.  This is especially true for automotive manufacturing where precision equipment must be properly aligned to ensure product quality.

Metrology Applications

At 3DES we are metrologists first and understand the measurements and errors associated with particular measurements. Each feature measured has a certain amount of uncertainty associated with it.  We take that into account to help our customers understand the measurements that are taken.  We even list our tracker on our ISO17025 scope of accreditation and show base level uncertainties. 

In addition, the actual feature inspected has a bearing on the measurement.  Certain features have more inherent uncertainty than others. We minimize this source of error as possible. This goes beyond most service providers who understand how to operate their equipment and take data but may not have the metrology training to understand how to interpret that data they receive or in fact understand how to properly interpret the original prints and the GD&T shown on those prints. 

Each of our degreed engineers is certified in GD&T and has been trained as metrologists who not only understand the tracker but have been cross trained in each of our other dimensional inspection technologies from gage pins to industrial CT scanning.  We often combine technologies in projects to offer the best combination for our customers.  For tracker service work we can combine laser scan arms and long range laser scanners to provide the best and most rich set of data possible.  Each of our engineers brings a wealth of technical engineering background and practical metrology experience.

Reverse Engineering

Given the high level of accuracy of the laser tracker, these become excellent metrology instruments to use in reverse engineering of larger equipment.  This combined with long range laser data creates an invaluable inspection tool in these efforts. 

Our engineers are all versed in one of several CAD packages to take this raw data and create CAD models and drawings to meet your needs.  Perhaps this is a one of a kind equipment that needs to be replaced or repaired or it is very old equipment that has no surviving drawings to go by, we can help.  We are experts at reverse engineering services and have the correct metrology background and knowledge to efficiently complete your project.

How Laser Trackers Work

A laser tracker is a precision measurement instrument used to measure large objects.  For large objects, it is the best technology available to inspect and measure non-simple objects requiring high accuracy.

The tracker is a tripod mounted unit that uses a laser distance meter combined with 2 rotational encoders to measure distances.  This distance measurement and two angles allow for placing points in a spherical coordinate system to describe the location of features.  Each encoder and the laser itself have small amounts of error associated with them. The best metrology practice is to minimize the use of the 2 rotational encoders by moving the tracker unit away from the object and thereby not needing to use a large portion of the encoder range.  This minimizes the errors from those encoders.  The laser distance measurement is inherently more accurate and so this extra distance away from the object being measured does not add undue inspection error.

Because a laser is used to measure distance to the object it is affected by temperature change from the tracker to the object.  While the laser tracker itself has an internal temperature station it does not know all the temperature variations between it and the object.  Externally attached temperature sensors can be used to help mitigate this.  Otherwise, if the laser travels through a large temperature variance, it will affect the measurement results. 

For example, if the measurement has to take place through a process steam area or past molten metals areas, you can expect the measurements to be affected. Best practice is to avoid these areas and take the measurement from a different direction.  Sometimes this is not possible.  Elementary calculations can also be taken to estimate these errors and minimize their impact to the inspection if needed.

The actual point data is taken with an SMR (Spherically Mounted Retroreflector).  These are hand held devices that must make direct contact with the object being measured. These are not all made equal and some have more errors than others.  The amount of error in centering the reflector into the metal sphere is one of the parameters to evaluate when purchasing these.  These values generally vary from 0.00015” (more expensive) to 0.0050” (less expensive) and should be accounted for when that level of precision matters.  This assumes that the SMR is in good shape and has not been dropped and damaged.  Like CMM probes tips, these spheres can receive damage which changes their spherical shape and affects the measurement results.

FARO provides additional detail and explanation on their “Understanding Laser Trackers” page.

Renting Trackers vs. Hiring Professionals

Laser trackers are available for rent through several sources.  For those who are skilled in the art of inspection, this might make the most sense.  Most rentals have minimum timing to rent and charge you for the transit time to ship the unit to you and/or back.

For those who are not very familiar with trackers and are not seasoned metrologists, be aware that alignment techniques and inspection methodologies appear on one hand easy, but in fact are often incorrectly applied.  We have seen many instances over the years where measurements taken by those who are not yet trained and skilled in metrology have been contradicted by correct measurement technique and application.

All of our staff are trained and skilled metrologists as well as degreed engineers.  We have designed our business model this way to ensure that you receive the best inspection service available in the fastest time.  Because of our experience base, we will minimize the time and impact to your operations.

As your business needs require precision measurements of large objects, please contact us for a quote!

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