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Swells of the sea: Artec Ray quickens reverse engineering for a massive speed boat

Challenge: A Dutch designer and builder of high-speed boats intended to recreate the design of handmade boats for heavy-duty professional use. With the measurements too time-consuming and costly to take manually, the team needed to find an alternative way of getting accurate

Solution: Artec Ray, Artec Studio

Result: Three sizable crafts were quickly scanned to create precise 3D models for reverse engineering, facilitating professional boat construction, and ensuring accuracy.

If building a boat from scratch seems to you a daunting task, you’re not wrong. Imagine manufacturing something the size of your room (at least) while ensuring precision in all three dimensions. This boat that you’re trying to build also needs to be maneuverable, well-built, and safe. Add to that a customer’s detailed plans or requirements, and the task becomes even more challenging and time-consuming. But that’s not it: The actual building and all this manual work is preceded by designing, testing components, and engineering. In summary, you’ve got a huge task on your hands.

Reverse engineering of a speedboat

Heavy-duty professional boats waiting to be measured. (Photo courtesy of 3D Creative.)

Perfection needed? Challenge accepted.

To one Dutch family-owned boat-building company, however, constructing boats is all about advancing the technology, refining the craft, and exceeding expectations – especially the ones about the wait. This is exactly when modern technology comes in handy. If products have reproducible characteristics, you can quicken and simplify their manufacturing with the help of reverse engineering.

To reverse engineer a boat, you embark on a journey of capturing many complex surfaces that need to be measured super accurately. Achieving this through conventional methods would take weeks, with no guarantee of truly reliable data. 3D scanning, however, makes this process uncomplicated, providing exact measurements for bespoke parts and impeccable fittings. With this in mind, the company placed an order to 3D scan three massive boats with the intention of reproducing parts, and thus streamlining their production process.

The boats in question – cargo carriers, rescue boats, military RIBs – are all intended for heavy-duty professional use, accomplished missions, and safe returns. To guarantee the highest quality, the crafts are designed and engineered using the newest technologies, so it was only logical to look for a trusted provider of 3D services to get a faithful digital copy of the existing models. Each of the vessels weighed up to a few tons, meaning in order to scan them, the project team needed to move, lift, and rotate them with heavy machinery at the same time, best possible quality 3D replicas needed to be obtained, making the whole process a seemingly daunting task.

Taking 3D technology on board

The team at 3D Creative, Lithuania-based 3D tech company, are no newbies when it comes to 3D scanning things truly large. Leading providers of 3D services in the Baltic countries, and Artec 3D Gold-Certified Partners, the company had all the right enthusiasm, expertise, and equipment to take on a project like this. Based on the specific needs of the boat developer, the scanning team opted for Artec Ray, a long-range laser 3D scanner, made for accurate capture of large objects.

Reverse engineering of a speedboat

Artec Ray all up for the job. (Photo courtesy of 3D Creative.)

Ray boasts best-in-class angular accuracy and much cleaner scans when capturing huge objects such as turbines, propellers, or even ships. This was vital as the ultimate goal of the project was to acquire perfect quality .STL files for reverse engineering. In addition to submillimeter accuracy, Ray brings its full functionality to any workflow, in any environment – even an outdoor project this massive proved to be possible thanks to the scanner’s advanced technology. Mounted on a tripod, Ray can be controlled from a laptop or via the Artec Remote smartphone app, which makes scanning with virtually no preparation a reality.

Knowing the ropes

“We’ve faced two of the biggest challenges with this project. First of all, to scan everything in two days, which was quite difficult because of how heavy and large the molds are,” said Šarūnas Paulauskas, Chief Technical Officer of 3D Creative. “The second difficulty was to prepare the surface for scanning, because originally the molds were very smooth and shiny.”

Reverse engineering of a speedboat

Smooth and shiny molds usually present a considerable scanning challenge. (Photo courtesy of 3D Creative.)

The team wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible, so they made an agreement with the local boat manufacturer to do the scanning on their grounds. The boats were moved with the help of heavy machinery, and the area was prepared accordingly. Still, there were more surprises to come: one of the 12-meter molds to be scanned was sitting outside in the rain, which meant it needed to be dried before the powder could be applied to achieve a matt surface for scanning.

“The surfaces of hand-made molds are very different as they are not machined from CAD data, therefore it is very costly and time-consuming to fit and assemble parts,” Paulauskas explained. “Usually such a task is accomplished by refitting and trimming many parts to get everything in place for the hulls created from the molds. So the scanning significantly decreased the need for human labor, with many tasks made in CAD software with submillimeter accuracy even before the hulls were produced.”

After all the preparations, the team were astonished to discover that the very scanning only took them 3 to 4 hours out of overall 35 hours of work. The eventual time to fulfill the project was cut down to a day and a half, to much delight of both the scanning team and the client. All three boats were scanned in 12 hours with 0.7 mm point accuracy, followed by seamless processing in Artec Studio.

Reverse engineering of a speedboat

3D scanning and processing in progress. (Photo courtesy of 3D Creative.)

Living up to high expectations

“Our main task was to acquire very clean and accurate surfaces for reverse engineering. We needed to scan only one side, the inner side of the mold, with the edges,” Paulauskas continued. “With Artec Ray, we managed to accomplish this task, and the data we acquired was great for reverse engineering. With the molds made manually, we could not miss any spots, as the mirror modeling tool does not work here. Not everything was symmetrical, and our client needed to have all details in proportion to go ahead with the designs. Eventually we had 3D models of the three different hulls, with the engine compartment and the seating compartment later added by the manufacturer’s team of engineers.”

The scanned 3D models were used to create STEP files, which was done by reverse engineering. With a handmade vessel, the reverse engineering specialists had to be especially careful to preserve the authentic shapes. The project turned out to be one of a kind, especially because the company’s designs are based on their old, tried and tested molds. It was emphasized to the scanning team that the boats to be designed would have to be virtually indestructible in the roughest environments and circumstances, so there was not a single unimportant detail. Any inaccuracy, and the very navigability of a boat could be compromised. Luckily, they had Ray.

Building a boat has come a long way from traditional craftsmanship to 3D scanning and reverse engineering, making the most of each. The Lithuanian team helped the authenticity of man-made work meet the accuracy and speed only 3D scanning could provide. Any reverse engineering project implies choosing the best solution and using it wisely. Thanks to Artec technology, this worked yet again, with the safe and durable new boats ready to put to sea.

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