For more than 35 years, Chris Alston remained committed to the development and manufacturing of components for street and race chassis applications. His Chassisworks (www.cachassisworks.com) has the largest selection of chassis and suspension parts in the automotive aftermarket industry. Comprised of five different product brands, Chassisworks serves performance enthusiasts and racers in the domestic muscle car, drag race, and sport truck markets, manufacturing suspension components, chassis, roll bars and cages, steering, brakes, interior sheet metal, and many other components.
A large portion of Chassisworks product line consists of direct-fit parts and systems that mount onto vehicles and must fit around various OEM components and features. Smaller scan items range from suspension components such as spindles or control arms to complete engines and transmissions. Development of larger products such as suspension and steering systems or chassis bracing requires scanning large sections or, in some cases, the entire undercarriage of a vehicle.
The engineers at Chassisworks use Pro/ENGINEER to create three-dimensional, digital assemblies of a product. This allows them to do a “fly through” of the model to verify its form, fit, and function. The engineers can design a product, model it, and check all structural aspects of size, fit and usability — before they cut even one piece of material.
Once cut on CNC machines, the resulting product is measured. Tools such as gauge blocks and calipers are used for smaller items. For larger, more complex measurement projects such as front clip and firewall pieces, work was outsourced to a company using FARO devices.
As many manufacturers and quality experts realize, manual measurement and data collection are prone to human error and misinterpretation of the final results. Many of Chassisworks’ measurement projects are OEM vehicle frames and stamped sheet metal unibody structures with non-geometric surfaces and features. This makes accurate measurement difficult using traditional tools.
The engineering team has been using FARO systems in-house since 1988 when they acquired the now legacy FaroArm Silver with a ball probe and ArthroCAM software. At that time, there were few alternative options available that were capable of the types of measurement data they were looking to collect.
Since then, the team has upgraded to the FaroArm Platinum with the Laser Line Probe. The resulting 8-foot ScanArm has the flexibility and data collection capability they need. The mobility of the system allows for leapfrogging to capture data from a large area into a single point cloud. Leapfrogging is a technique used with portable measuring devices like the FaroArm or ScanArm that extends their working volume by measuring reference points before and after moving the device, allowing data captured from a large area to be collected into a single point cloud. The portability of FARO devices also lets the engineers use their equipment in multiple locations in their facilities or at offsite locations.
“We found that not only was our accuracy of measurement improved, but also the detail in the data was astounding,” said Scott Rieger, Engineering Manager at Chassisworks. “In the past, we’d take measurements only in key areas and we would find that more information was needed and that additional measurements were required. Now we can simply reference the surface scan model for both measurement and visual reference.”
The team uses PolyWorks by Innovmetric to manipulate, clean up, and manage the data. Said Rieger, “Maybe the hardest thing was learning how to actually use all of the data that we can now collect. In fact, the amount of detail in our recorded data has been increased exponentially using the laser line probe.”
Engineers use the ScanArm primarily at the beginning of their product development process. The level of detail from the FARO Laser Line Probe enables them to identify subtle differences between vehicle model years or changes from OEM to reproduction parts that may require a revision to their own design or a slightly different design to achieve a proper fit. Some of these differences can go unnoticed with the naked eye and are often difficult areas to measure, such as a recessed or angled surface along a contoured panel. Now they can easily and correctly design a product that properly seats and provides a secure mount. They use FARO to create an extremely accurate scan model from which they can reverse engineer aftermarket products. They can use the model to determine design requirements, but it is also an excellent representation of how the final product will appear once installed.
Chassisworks digitizes a variety of items and has experienced many benefits since implementing the FARO solution. The engineers may develop multiple product systems or variations of a product for a single vehicle application; some of which are developed much later than the first project. With a complete surface scan, there is no need to go back and measure the same vehicle again to check for adequate clearance for new products that they may not have originally planned. They can simply verify fit to their scan model.
For Chassisworks, the improved processes and capabilities are the greatest value. A better product, a better fit, and in a shorter development time are the real returns.
“Using FARO products has really opened a new realm of possibilities for us,” said Mr. Rieger. “The types and levels of sophistication in product systems we can develop are almost limitless.”