Makami Engineering makes novel use of 3D scanning
Lasers faster and safer than tape measures
“It was a summer day, boiling hot” and Lex Romanko, a structural/mechanical design specialist and senior project manager with Sudbury-based Makami Engineering Group was taking measurements in a surface plant using a tape measure. “I just wanted to get out of there,” he recalled.
A maintenance engineering company, Makami Engineering specializes in keeping mining operations running by replacing components that have failed. Precise measurements are critical to ensure a perfect fit.
Having worked in the automotive sector, where lasers are used to scan and fit parts, Romanko thought it would be nice if he could get one of those scanners and ditch the measuring tape.
“I started looking into it, met Amy Savoie, a sales rep with Northern Survey Supply and never looked back.”
Makami Engineering purchased a Leica P20 laser scanner and hired Savoie to serve in the role as a 3D scanning and design specialist. Today, the technology is extensively used to capture precise measurements in smelters, refineries, mills and underground infrastructure.
“We can set up the P20 50 metres away and get a high accuracy scan within plus or minus one-eighth of an inch,” said Romanko. “We then reverse engineer the component, design it using CAD software and send it to a fabricator.”
Once the component is fabricated, the laser scanner is used to perform a deviation analysis and compare it with the CAD model to make sure it’s a perfect fit.
Using a scanner to take measurements in the field is far safer and less time consuming than using a tape measure.
“You reduce the chances of having a missed dimension, which would force you to drive back to the site, and if you’re replacing a platform that’s not secure, you can stand back from a distance and scan it.”
Some jobs require measurements of underground conveyance infrastructure over 300 to 400-foot holes, said Romanko. “There’s no way of hanging safely over the edge to get them with a tape measure. It’s next to impossible.”
One job performed for a pulp and paper company involved the scanning of a tank that had begun to implode.
“We scanned the inside of the tank, constructed a 3D model of it and used some special software to predict the stresses it would be subject to under given operating conditions,” said Romanko. “We were able to help the client predict when the tank would fail and set them up with a way to monitor it until they could get a replacement strategy in place.”
For another job, Makami used an instrument that’s accurate down to three one-thousandths of an inch to align a new section of rail.
The mining company in question was replacing it because the equipment wasn’t riding smoothly and there was the potential for it to derail.
“We were able to detect that the rails weren’t correctly aligned,” said Romanko.
Founded and led by Bud Dzuirban, a former structural engineer at Vale, Makami Engineering is doing better than most mining engineering firms and suppliers in the current economic climate.
With low capital budgets, the prevailing mindset at companies like Vale, Glencore and Goldcorp is to “keep everything we have going,” said Savoie. “We’re the emerging go-to company for that.”
Makami Engineering currently has 13 people on staff and is looking to hire three more “because of the massive influx of work,” said Romanko.
Quick turnaround is critical in this business because “it’s millions of dollars an hour when a mining company has to shut down a smelter, a nickel refinery or a mill. We’ll get calls at 8 o’clock at night and have to respond. That’s what we specialize in.”
Makami doesn’t hoard its scans.
“We share our point clouds with our customers,” said Romanko. “They can go online and view them at their leisure. If they’re sitting in a meeting and want to pull up a part of their plant, they can look at it and discuss it. It’s a useful tool for them.”
The company does most of its work in the Sudbury Basin where Dzuirban, Romanko and the rest of the team are on a first name basis with the guys in the plants. Elsewhere in Canada, it has tackled jobs in cement plants in southern Ontario, in Red Lake, Ontario, Thompson, Manitoba, and Alberta’s oilsands. There have been a few jobs in South Africa, Argentina and the U.S., but Makami execs think the time is ripe to play a bigger role on the international stage.
“Now that we’ve established ourselves locally in the Sudbury Basin and built up a really strong team, we want to take that expertise and start to spread across Canada and internationally,” said Romanko. “With the unique technologies we have, we can really stand out in the crowd.”
To help get the word out, Makami Engineering will have a presence in the Ontario pavilion at MINExpo, Booth 1423, North Hall.