3D scanning technology improves design accuracy and project effectiveness

December 2, 2016 Steen Riedel-Jørgensen

Retrofits of large equipment such as fabric filters and electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) involve careful planning and measurement of the available plant space.

Traditionally, this has meant a manual and laborious process: first measuring and marking up sketches or site plans, then re-drawing them into 3D models. Often, space for retrofits is very limited, which severely curbs the margin of error. The manual measuring and drawing process can compromise accuracy, resulting in equipment not fitting as expected.

Fortunately, advancements in technology are changing the game – for the benefit of all involved, including equipment manufacturers, design engineers and plant operators. One of the most exciting recent developments is 3D scanning technology.

Standard operating procedure
FLSmidth Airtech has been using 3D scanning in its standard processes of retrofit planning and design for the past two years. It provides a complete overview of the plant, ensuring that any new equipment will fit into the existing layout before installation begins. Anders Holm Rasmussen, senior plant lead engineer, FLSmidth Airtech, says that this has already led to vast improvements in accuracy and project effectiveness: 

“We are always looking for ways of improving our effectiveness through the use of the leading technologies, and the successes we have had with 3D scanning are examples of this strategy in action. Using 3D scanning means there are fewer revisions and changes during a project, and it enables us to produce a precise, accurate design much faster than using traditional methods.” - Anders Holm Rasmussen, Senior plant lead engineer, FLSmidth Airtech 

360° scans
The 3D scanner uses laser measurement to take 360° scans. In a typical plant visit, several scans will be taken and merged to create a complete 3D digital model in which all details can be measured to an accuracy of 2-5mm. Every visible object will be included in the model, including ladders, cables, small pipes and even text on signs. Areas that were previously unreachable can now be measured accurately and safely. 

Models of the new equipment can then be inserted directly into the 3D model. Anders Holm Rasmussen explains that it is used whenever there is an equipment interface with an existing installation: “Space for the new retrofit equipment is often very limited, and it can be a challenge to identify existing structures precisely. Time after time, we have found the 3D scanner allows us to accurately measure the structures and available space in the plant. You can really trust this 3D model.”

3D imaging in action
At Suez Cement Group’s Quattamia cement plant in Egypt, 3D scanning was used in the fitting of two RetroClean™ fabric filters. Thanks to a highly detailed 3D scan of the entire plant, it was possible to fit a new duct system into a very narrow, multi-level space connecting two raw mills, cooling tower and the two new filters. 

Thomas Overgaard, site manager, FLSmidth Airtech says, “Having this accurate 3D model available on site helped the FLSmidth engineers and our contractors during the construction planning phase, as all possible obstructions were shown, so it was easy to measure distances and levels when planning the crane lifts and other tasks.”

“In the US, the 3D scanning process has helped improve the accuracy of the solutions we design for customer-specific proposals,” says Federico C. Mercado, sales manager, FLSmidth Airtech. 

“The tool allows for immediate verification of obstacles and dimensions in the installation area, and it enables us to implant our customised solution into the scanned 3D plant.  All these factors have resulted in very positive feedback from our customers and have given them more confidence in our solution.” - Federico C. Mercado, Sales manager, FLSmidth Airtech

CEMEX benefits from 3D scans
At the Demopolis plant in Alabama, US, CEMEX recently selected a CataMax® catalytic solution to reduce regulated total hydrocarbons (THCs) and particulate emissions to a level below that required by the EPA. The 3D scanner simplified the plant layout process and was extremely useful in demonstrating the proposed solution. 

Top, full and side views of two of the new three new CataMax® solutions Demopolis cement plant, US.

This article is based on an article first published in International Cement Review. 

Steen Riedel-Jørgensen

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