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How to Scan a Gasket and Convert to CAD

Circular metal gasket - Convert gasket for CAD/CAM & CNC

Gaskets are a fundamental part of any precision or industrial-grade machine. In essence, they are mechanical seals that serve as fillers between two disjointed but interconnecting parts of a machine or assembly. They make it possible for two mating surfaces that would otherwise be incompatible to be functionally connected. Although they basically just act as fillers, these cut and patterned sheets of compressible materials prevent leaks and make sure things work the way they should.

Gaskets have largely been part of the manufacturing process since the start of the industrial revolution, it’s only with the recent advent of CNC machining and precision laser cutting that it’s been possible to digitize the process of making gaskets. The use of computers can minimize mistakes and can make the whole process more efficient and much less time-consuming.

What exactly goes into producing computerized gasket patterns? In this article, we will discuss what gaskets are and how they’re made as well as how to efficiently computerize gasket patterns for CAD work with Scan2CAD.

Gaskets and Gasket-Cutting

selection of gaskets

A selection of gaskets (source)

The process of gasket-cutting usually considers two factors: material and cutting method.

When it comes to materials, gaskets will typically be made from flat sheets of material such as rubber, felt, fiberglass, metal, and even paper. Whatever material is used, the one characteristic that an effective gasket material has to have is a capacity to withstand high compressive loads. This is because gaskets are typically applied to bolts constantly exerting compression. A rule of thumb would be that a gasket would last longer when a more compressive load is applied to it.

As for the method of cutting, there are three primary cutting methods for gaskets that have their pros and cons depending on the requirements for the gasket. The things to look out for and consider are time, repeatability, allowed tolerance, product yield, and cut quality.

The first method is the manual cutting method. It’s the most common method and is typically done for custom gasket cutting jobs that need to be done in the field. The used material has to be soft enough to be cut with a utility knife or shears. Although the most common method, this is also the one with the largest margin of error and takes the most time and effort to do.

Next up is the clicker press method. This is usually used for runs with higher production demands. A manufactured steel die serves as the template for this method and is pressed onto the gasket material using a pneumatic press. The result is a gasket pattern that is more accurate and has less waste than manual cutting. The things to worry about when using clicker presses are die sharpening and machine maintenance.

Lastly, we have state-of-the-art CNC digital cutters. These machines use cutting heads that move in 2 to 3 axes. They can either have drag knife heads or oscillating heads that cut through the gasket material based on the inputted digital gasket pattern. With CNC cutters, gasket images have to be converted to CAD files and then be uploaded onto the machine. This method is the fastest, most accurate method and has the potential to have the highest material yield.

Why Convert Images of Gaskets to CAD

Convert gasket image to vector with Scan2CAD

Converting a gasket image to vector with Scan2CAD

For seasoned readers, you’ll know how we here in Scan2CAD love to digitize designs. The benefits are endless and the ease of converting images into CAD linework has never been easier. If you’re curious about to go about how to scan a gasket pattern and digitize it, read on. Let’s go through the steps of digitizing a gasket design.

Quick Iterations and Reiterations

With manual gasket production, the flexibility of designs is an issue. With two different gasket images, no matter how small the variation is, the user would be tasked to create two different templates or steel dies, doubling the time to manufacture the gasket. This would not be the most efficient way to produce gaskets. When gasket designs are computerized and run through CAD software, small alterations to gasket designs will take much less time than their manually-made counterparts.

CAD-made gasket designs give you the ability to have slight variations with your gasket designs with little to no effort. Even creating entirely new cutouts would be a breeze once you get the hang of using the software. It’s also an easy way to store and catalog all your previous designs for future use.

Collaborations

Manual gasket manufacturing is only feasible for custom gasket images done individually. But when it comes to the complexities of getting gaskets produced by gasket manufacturers and working with other people to get the design done, manual methods just won’t cut it. There are the logistical and locational issues to consider – the relaying of measurement information and the transportation of the gaskets would affect the overall time it takes to get these gaskets made. Edits to the design and the chance of human error will also be factors to look out for.

With the use of CAD, gasket designs can be edited, sent over, and corrected solely through online exchanges. It’s simply a matter of emailing your local gasket maker and sending over the files. The risk of miscommunication is minimized since the CAD file will have all the measurements and relevant data accurately portrayed.

Longer Shelf Life

Physical gasket patterns and steel dies will always be prone to wear and tear. You could delay their eventual retirement with regular maintenance but it’s going to have to be replaced sooner or later. The advantage of using CAD and CNC-made gaskets is the fact that you will always get the same output no matter how long you’ve been using the file. The size of the holes, the curves of the edges, the scale of the overall length – all these will be perfectly preserved as long as the file remains intact.

Conversion to CAD

Convert gasket to CAD/CAM & CNC

With all this said how do we scan gasket designs and convert it to CAD? The fastest way would be to avail of online conversion services that offer to turn designs and images into workable CAD files. It’s hassle-free since all you’ll need to provide is the scan in question through email with some information about measurements and scale and the service will take care of the rest.

With users that would prefer to take care of the conversion themselves, they could also opt to use specific software that would help facilitate the process of conversion. Scan2CAD is one of the easiest ways you can do it yourself. Let’s talk about our services as well as other options.

Online Tools

There are several conversion websites online that offer to convert your scanned gaskets into CAD files for free. But as you might expect, free is never free with services like these. Most of these will give you back a file with a watermark or something incomplete that you can get a more complete version of for a fee. You can also expect some inaccuracies and mistakes with a lot of these files. You’ll have to come to terms with the fact that you’re essentially giving out your gasket design to largely unknown websites on the internet. But if you’re doing something simple and quick, this should be a good enough option for you. 

Vector Programs

There are a lot of image programs that can handle vector images in a way that lets you create CAD-ready vector copies of a scanned gasket. You will have to manually trace your scans using vector tools for the most part though, and that tends to be a bit tedious if you’re not used to the software or if the gasket is a bit complicated. Certain programs have built-in tracing tools that will make the job a little easier for you. There are the different Adobe CC programs that you could use, AutoCAD, and Inkscape just to name a few.

Scan2CAD

Scan2CAD is one of the best and easiest ways to convert designs into CAD. Scan2CAD serves as raster-to-vector conversion software that gives you accurate results quickly and efficiently. Scanned raster images of your gasket can be converted into CAD files that can readily be used and edited. Tons of image formats are also supported so you won’t have to worry about compatibility.

How to Convert a Gasket with Scan2CAD

View video transcript

As with any digital conversion method, a good starting image is always the first thing to consider. Set your scan settings as high as they will go to make sure that your scan has good quality. Avoid any smudges or marks and make sure the final image is crisp and clear before using any conversion software. The TIFF format is recommended because of its minimal compression, but with Scan2CAD, most any other file format will do as long as the scan is clear.

You can then personalize the vectorization settings of Scan2CAD and the software will automatically single out and digitize all the shapes and edges of your gasket scan. It takes a few seconds to complete but the overall process is as simple as that.

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