High-tech 3-D scanning is helping to expedite and ensure the historical accuracy of Ford Motor Co.’s reinvention of Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.
As the work moves to the restoration of heavy masonry work, iconic building’s state of disrepair poses many challenges, but the use of 3-D scanning from Computer Aided Technology (CATI), based in metro Chicago with a facility in Pleasant Ridge, is helping.
Ford recruited CATI, a long-time Ford supplier of 3-D printing software and hardware, to assist in the Central Station reconstruction project to using Creaform 3-D laser scanners to create 3-D models of various elements of the station to enable contractors to repair or replicate the structures.
The Dearborn-based automaker and its developers are intent on ensuring the historical design accuracy of the building. CATI is working to help replace or restore the large, ornate cast iron windows, decorative trim, and elaborate ceiling tiles to their exact historic specifications.
A Creaform 3-D scanner utilizes 15 laser crosses that digitally capture the shape of any physical object. It measures fine details, down to the thickness of a human-hair, and captures free-form shapes to generate digital mesh files. This type of scanning is for contoured surfaces and complex geometries, which require massive amounts of data for their accurate description.
“Through using 3-D scanning technology, we can digitize the elaborate designs you see today on the ceilings and windows, flaws and all,” says Dan Saperstein, vice president of business systems at CATI. “We convert the scans to digital files and make repairs, almost like manipulating digital clay. 3-D scanning makes the restoration project more precise, saves time and enables us to take measurements that otherwise may have been impossible to obtain.”
Though work had been temporarily paused due to COVID-19, use of the 3-D scanning saved countless hours and kept the project on track, according to CATI. Without these tools, measurements and designs otherwise would require laborious hours of manual reconstruction.
CATI spent several days onsite at the train station through planning and data acquisition and was able to deliver more than 20 completed files, ready for manufacturing within a few weeks. Those files are now in the hands of Christman Brinker Construction, which will begin the fabrication of the missing or damaged elements.
Ford purchased Michigan Central Station in 2018 as the centerpiece of a new mobility innovation in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. The district will draw mobility innovators and disruptors from around the world to develop, test, and launch new solutions that solve urban transportation challenges on real world streets, in real world conditions. Construction on the train station is expected to be complete by the end of 2022.