Scan2CAD in CNC

Updated Apr 14, 2017
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For over 28 years Sanders Reproduction Glass of Vancouver, WA, has provided the US restoration and hot rod community with quality reproduction vintage auto glass for a wide range of discontinued automobiles, from classics of the US motor industry’s heyday, like Buick, Cadillac, Edsel and Studebaker, to more recent foreign imports, like Volkswagens and Volvos.

To meet this demand Sanders Reproduction Glass have about 8000 automobile window patterns supporting 30 different domestic and over 36 foreign auto makers between 1925 and 1965. Whether it’s from their inventory of pre-cut windows or cut to order from their huge selection of original patterns, Sanders Reproduction Glass have assisted thousands of customers with their automobile restoration or custom project.

“We produce OEM glass windshields, door windows, vent windows, quarter windows and back or back light windows. To please the perfectionist we use only superior quality 1/4″ laminated safety glass (AS1 CAT-II)” says Sanders Reproduction Glass’ Managing Partner, Tyler Phillis.

To improve the service on offer Tyler decided to modernize Sanders Reproduction Glass’ window production by investing in a new waterjet cutter capable of cutting glass to fit. Water jet cutters are versatile machine tools that use a jet of water or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance to cut through metal and other materials at high velocity and pressure. A waterjet cutter held out the promise of productivity benefits by cutting virtually any shape in a single step with edge quality that usually requires no secondary finishing.

The waterjet which Sanders Reproduction Glass purchased was a Flow International WaterjetPRO 1313 with an X-Y-Z working envelope of 48 x 48 x 8 inches. With an intensifier pump that produces pressure up to 60,000 pounds per square inch, the WaterjetPRO 1313 is capable of slicing through a wide range of materials from 1/16 inch to several inches thick. Auto glass represents no obstacle to the WaterjetPRO’s cutting power. For cutting auto glass, the WaterjetPRO requires an abrasive material be introduced into the high pressure water stream.

In early 2007, Tyler began to scan the OEM auto glass patterns to file for the purpose of creating an archive from which to convert them into a format suitable for a CNC machine. By mid-2007, in advance of the waterjet cutter’s arrival and installation, he began to investigate the best way to convert the scans into DXF or NC code. Tyler downloaded a trial version of Scan2CAD raster to vector conversion software to test. Due to the size of the OEM patterns, 24 inches wide and 240 inches long, they were scanned at 72 dpi on a drafting grade, large format scanner capable of handling long pattern rolls.

Softcover expressed concern to Tyler that 72 dpi was usually far too low a resolution to give raster to vector conversion software the necessary level of detail to work with and obtain useful results. However, in this instance, Softcover’s reservations proved unfounded. Test conversions of the OEM auto glass patterns yielded good results. However, before Tyler bought Scan2CAD, he wanted to see Scan2CAD convert multiple scans automatically in a Batch mode. Softcover, who provide free technical support to both users and trial version evaluators, were quick to help.

Softcover’s Andrea Tribe wrote a short Command Line program for Tyler to run with his Scan2CAD Trial program. This allowed him to make multiple conversions to size and scale to his satisfaction. As a result, Tyler subsequently purchased Scan2CAD Pro. (For more information about Scan2CAD’s powerful Command file programming solutions, go to the Help Menu, choose Contents and then choose Command Line Options).

“I regularly use Scan2CAD and very much like the results I get from it” says Tyler. “I most like the ability to control the scale and the ability to do a lot of conversions at once. Andrea was very helpful in providing a Command Line program for batch mode scaling. As a result, our use of Scan2CAD raster to vector conversion definitely saves time. The conversion takes only seconds to complete – the batch mode is “fire and forget”. It allows me to complete other tasks as it runs. I’d characterize Scan2CAD as on my “critical path” from customer order to final product.”

Because no raster to vector conversion program offers perfect results, the DXF vector files invariably need to be tidied up first before the NC code can be generated. Originally Tyler’s unfamiliarity with Scan2CAD led him to make most of the DXF vector edits in FlowMaster. However, now that he has had more time to use Scan2CAD, he has discovered an easy way to do this in Scan2CAD with the vector image over the raster one.

“Recently, I’ve explored the features of Scan2CAD and am now doing 99% of the editing in it rather than the Flow software. It’s sped me up and improved my accuracy. Being able to edit the vector file directly on top of the original raster image has improved the accuracy of each conversion. I’m now able to complete the vector file to my satisfaction in Scan2CAD and only use the Flow software to set the cutting speed and nest the work.”

With an auto glass profile safely and speedily converted to the correct size and scale and saved as vector DXF, Tyler opens this up in his waterjet’s FlowMaster software. After final editing in FlowMaster, the file containg the auto glass shape is finally profiled into NC code to control the cutting bed. “As far as I know, Sanders Reproduction Glass is the only flat glass window manufacturer in the US doing this” he says.

“I use four software packages to complete the task of producing NC code. On average, it takes only about 10 minutes to do this. The majority of the time is spent editing and smoothing the image in Scan2CAD (which only needs to be done once for each pattern). From there it takes only a few minutes to cut the prepared window patterns. I will explore other features of Scan2CAD more fully in the future. I am very happy with it. I’m sure as time passes and I explore more features, I’ll get more out of Scan2CAD than I already do!” Tyler says.

Sanders Reproduction Glass, LLC
Vancouver, WA 98682, USA.

Photo credits:
The American Dream: William Attard Mccarthy |
Waterjet photos: Tyler Phillis.

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