It’s a good time to be running a CT services business.
There are not many companies providing service in this field and the demand for it is exploding. As new manufacturing techniques are introduced, particularly those using additive manufacturing, people are designing and making parts they can’t measure. They are also realizing that if they can’t measure what they produce; they can’t sell it and they are looking for solutions; CT scanning is providing the solution.
Demo machines working for a living
Wenzel’s traditional market is contact CMMs and Wenzel America has always had examples of our CMMs on display in our demo room in Wixom so that we can show prospective customers the machines and use them to help test out applications for our customers. When Wenzel entered the CT market with the Volumetrik exaCT range of scanners, it made sense to have one of the range of machines in the demo room too.
My previous experience has included running 3D Scanning services businesses with laser and white light scanners so when we launched the exaCT CT scanners in the USA amongst the first people we showed the product to were companies that provided inspection and reverse engineering services to the whole range of industries hoping they would suggest where our target market would be. They were not slow to see the potential for using our demo machines on a contract basis to scan parts that they were not able to scan with their optical scanners and overnight we found ourselves in the contract scanning business.
Why the rush to use CT?
For both reverse engineering and inspection, there is no single measurement device that is ideal in every situation. For very large objects such as buildings, plant, ships or aircraft; only a long range laser scanner is going to be able to do the job. Similarly for high precision power-train components such as gears, shafts, pistons or cam-shafts only a high precision gear checker or CMM will suffice.
Today there are an increasing number of parts that are made with highly sophisticated injection molding, casting or additive manufacturing methods that are so highly complex and contain features that are impossible to access using conventional methods that only CT is capable of measuring them. Some of these parts are highly specialized parts from medical devices or aircraft but most are very familiar items such as bottle caps & closures, zip ties and all the clips holding the interior of your car together; items on which we depend on so much in our lives but which have become extremely difficult to measure for quality.
Every day we get new enquiries but the bulk of our business is from repeat customers. The quality of the stl files used for measurement both in terms of accuracy and repeatability is so much better that other methods for the parts for which it is suitable that once tried, no one ever goes back to conventional measurement.
I liken someone used to laser scanning seeing stls files from a CT scanner to being like someone seeing colorTV for the first time having only ever seen black & white. The cost of getting scans done is not as expensive as people expect either and often works out cheaper than if they had parts optically scanned, either as an outside service or by their own people.
In addition to the regular business we get from our service provider partners, we also have developed relationships with companies making safety critical products in the Medical field and in the Automotive industry with such products as safety belts, airbags and ignition switches where the work is long term in support of product development right through first article inspection, launch and tool life management. Such customers are the bed-rock of a long term business in both service and the sale of scanners.
I look at it like 3D Printing was 20 years ago; few end user purchasers of machines with the early growth of the industry driven by service providers. Back then it was the growing use of 3D solid modeling that fuelled the growth of 3D printing, nowadays it is 3D printing itself that will fuel the demand for innovative measurement techniques and as 3D printing expands – CT scanning will grow with it.
Keep it simple; Fast quotes, fast response time.
In the mean time we at Wenzel America are continuing to invest in capacity. We recently added an exaCT “S” machine to our service capacity that enables us to scan parts to resolutions as high as 4.5 microns. If we will continue to be responsive to our customers need for fast quotes and turnaround time on scanning we will continue to do good business, educate our customers in the advantages of the technology and demonstrate its benefits.