Artec Leo and Ray join forces to fabricate replacement 15-meter pipe in an offshore vessel

By Loretta Marie Perera

Challenge: A 15-meter vertical pipe on an FPSO (floating production storage and offloading) vessel operating off West Africa was fractured and required urgent replacement to maintain production.

Solution: Artec Leo, Artec Ray, Geomagic Design X

Results: A full-scale 3D model of the damaged pipe and surrounding area was made, in order to facilitate the safe removal, refabrication, and replacement of the pipe.

At first, the task sounds straightforward enough: To replace a pipe. Add to that the fact that said pipe is 15 meters high, in an offshore vessel and surrounded by other pipes and equipment in a room 18 meters high and 10 meters long and three meters wide, and the complexity of the task starts to show.

The challenge facing Singapore’s Asian Sealand Offshore and Marine (ASOM) who had been tasked with this responsibility onboard the vessel, was how to execute the repair in such a confined and congested space. The nature of the room meant that there would be limited access, and a risk of causing damage to other vital equipment. The procedure needed to be fail-safe.

To get this complex task started, ASOM and Artec 3D’s Gold Certified Partner Shonan Design combined their engineering expertise and technology to resolve this critical problem. Another factor to consider was that all scanning needed to take place entirely on-site. (Spoiler Alert: The handheld Artec Leo’s on-screen real-time display would soon come in very handy.)

A combination of Artec Leo and Ray captured the pipe and its surroundings. Photo courtesy of ASOM.

“The first step was using Artec Ray, a long-range LiDAR scanner, to capture the geometry of the room and an adjacent room to determine the space and sequencing of the removal and the replacement maneuver,” says Shonan Design’s Chief Application Engineer Lee Siow Hoe.

Setting up Artec Ray before scanning the room. Photo courtesy of ASOM.

Able to scan from distances up to 110 meters away, Artec Ray is the fastest and most accurate 3D scanner. It is designed for submillimeter distance precision, which makes it perfect for large objects and long distances. Ray’s laser technology works excellently with ship propellers, airplanes, and buildings. With best-in-class angular accuracy, the data Ray captures is cleaner than other scanners, and its noise levels are kept to a minimum. Besides quick scans, this also makes processing faster and easier.

Artec Ray was set up in nine different locations on the few available flat surfaces around the room, such as staircase landings. For the Ray scan, the tight spaces in the room prevented placement of enough manual targets. To make targets effective, visibility is key and acute angles are discouraged – this was no problem for Ray, which is able to scan and align without targets.

No checkerboard or sphere targets were used for the Ray scans registration,” Lee explains. “A one-click registration in Artec Studio 14 was enough to auto-align all the Ray scans, based on surface geometries within each scan. This simplified the job greatly.”

Artec Ray scan of the room interior and pipe.

The restricted space provided a challenge in the creation of a complete 3D map, but the work was only just beginning. On top of the full Ray scan, a high-quality 3D scan from Artec Leo was needed. The Leo scan would also be able to ‘zoom in’ and capture the details necessary for fabricating the replacement pipe, and to scan any obstructed areas.

Because the pipe is vertical, and given the layout of the room, there weren’t many places to stand with handheld scanners. Instead, two brave team members qualified in rope access techniques were trained in scanning and safety, harnessed with lengths of rope, and were soon rappelling down the vertical pipe spool – rope in one hand, Leo in the other.

If this sounds like a job for seasoned scanners with years of experience, think again: The two rapellers were recently trained in using Artec Leo. The training proved to be straightforward, a tribute to the user-friendly design of the Leo.

“Leo scanners are fast, and with automated alignment, it was easy to resume scanning from where we left off,” a member of the ASOM scanning team said.

Working within such a tight space, the men rappelled down the pipes armed with Artec Leo. Photo courtesy of ASOM.

If ever there were tasks made for Artec Leo, this would be among them: With onboard automatic processing, the men scanning were able to see the scans being created in real time even without a computer present. Leo’s touchscreen panel also allows the user to zoom in and see if everything has been properly captured – and if it hadn’t, to revisit any areas that the user might have missed. This feature proves especially useful for first-time users in an unfamiliar setting.

The practical training given to the ASOM employees involved practicing on whatever they could adopt as suitable targets – the staircase and common pipe areas, for example. “Familiarity with the equipment was crucial for the job to be successful given the challenges posed", says ASOM Director Simon Ng.

With a highly accurate scan of the entire room provided by Artec Ray and a focused, detailed scan of the pipe available via Artec Leo, the team had everything they needed. Superimposing data from the Leo scan on the Ray scan, a final global registration ensured that the Leo data fit perfectly with the Ray data.

The Artec Leo scan (colored) registered against the Ray scan (gray).

“The Leo raw data was aligned and processed using the Ray pipe scan as a backbone, so that the entire 15 meter length of the Leo scan had minimum accumulation of error,” Lee says.

With the 15-meter pipe scan processed, the next step was to translate the digital 3D scan data into an accurate 2D isometric drawing to fabricate a replacement.

This was achieved using the Pipe Wizard feature in Geomagic Design X, and some modifications to the original design to facilitate installation were made and incorporated into the 2D drawing.

The 3D scan data from Artec Leo converted to a 3D model in Geomagic Design X.

The scanning project was completed in two days with an onboard team of four people during which the FPSO continued to operate.

“The combination of the handheld Artec Leo and the standalone unit Artec Ray made a very big difference. We managed to capture all the necessary details this way,” says Ng.

“From the detailed planning and execution, I believe we managed to get fantastic results from the scanning and modeling,” Lee adds.