NVision’s 3D Scanning Helps HVAC Makers Keep Their Cool

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The near-essential nature of A/C makes HVAC a highly competitive industry. Improving efficiency, dependability, and affordability is essential to staying alive in the A/C market. To address these challenges, some A/C manufacturers are following the example of the automotive industry and converting their copper system components to aluminum.

When it comes to A/C components, aluminum offers several advantages over copper. Aluminum is the more abundant metal, thus less expensive. It’s also lighter, providing more options for system designers and engineers. But perhaps more significant, it’s impervious to formicary corrosion, which attacks copper and copper alloy tube walls, creating a network of microscopic tunnels culminating in pinholes and leaks in coils and piping. Formicary corrosion can cause premature equipment failure and reduce the longevity of system components.

NVision, a leader in 3D noncontact optical scanning and engineering, has worked extensively with the HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning) industry for more than 30 years and recently helped major HVAC manufacturers successfully:
• Evaluate and confirm the viability of converting copper system components to aluminum
• Reverse-engineer and improve the design of air conditioning (A/C) drip pans

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Air conditioning is hotter than ever—hot as in demand, a must-have, a comfort most of us want, and, with higher-trending temperatures generating heat-related health issues, one that many can no longer live without.

“I’m proud that our 3D scanning and engineering services played a role in extending the life span and improving the design of these A/C systems,” says Kersen. “Neither of these projects would have been as successful without the accuracy of 3D noncontact scanning. You could say that NVision is helping to improve home comfort from A to C.”

“Our HandHeld scanner has an accuracy of +– 0.025 mm or 25 microns, which is one-thousandth (0.001) of an inch. As its laser light sweeps across an object’s surface, it rapidly—at a speed of 60,000 or more separate measurements per second—collects massive amounts of individual location points on the surface, each with its own x, y, z coordinates and i, j, k vectors,” says Kersen. “The full dataset, or ‘point cloud,’ collected by the scanner comprises literally millions of these measurement points. With this vast amount of dimensional data, we inspected the components against all the aluminum parts in the A/C system, down to the most minute detail.”

“The scanning results confirmed that the new aluminum parts met all of the manufacturer’s specifications, so the company proceeded to convert its A/C parts from copper to aluminum,” says Kersen.

After scanning the pans with a HandHeld laser scanner, NVision engineers used the point clouds to create STL (stereolithography) models of each pan’s average dimensions, followed by the creation of 3D models. These were then converted to CREO, which is, along with SolidWorks, one of the five major 3D CAD platforms. The manufacturer used these models to make the desired modifications to its A/C drip pans.

More than a century after Willis H. Carrier built the first modern electrical air conditioning unit, A/C systems are a fixture in most U.S. homes. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), nearly 90% of U.S. households in 2020 were using A/C. Internationally, the use of A/C is expected to rise during the next 30 years, with the world’s hottest regions producing much of the demand.

NVision also worked with a second HVAC manufacturer, one that has built much of its reputation on making some of the most energy-efficient A/C units on the market. It also manufactures heat pumps, furnaces, boilers, garage heaters, air handlers, thermostats, and indoor air quality systems.

A CT scanner uses X-rays to produce 3D representations of external and internal components. Because the scanner’s accuracy depends on material density, aluminum is ideal for CT inspection, allowing for an accuracy of 0.0004 in.


NVision’s 3D Scanning Helps HVAC Makers Keep Their Cool

Scanning plays a role in extending life span and improving design of A/C systems

NVision engineers began scanning the converted A/C components, which required multiple noncontact scanners, including its HandHeld laser and CT scanners. The NVision team measured the system’s U-shaped coils, as well as its casings, soldering joints, and more.

For more information about NVision’s 3D measurement and engineering services, contact: www.nvision3d.com.

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