Laser Measurements GKS offers 3-D modeling of power plants for upgrades and maintenance by amanda m. klemp
With the life cycle of a fossil fuel power plant spanning upward of 30 to 50 years, maintenance and improvements are inevitable. Over time, parts wear down and regulations change, requiring operators to make repairs and efficiency upgrades. While the plants may be 30 years old, the technology to evaluate the equipment is much more up to date, no longer requiring days of maintenance shutdown to take measurements. Minnesota, U.S.A.-based GKS Global Services, a Laser Design company, offers 3-D laser scanning and measurement, which can often be done in a day and greatly reduces the risk of human error and inconsistencies, said David Rock, senior on-site engineer at GKS.
“Basically, what we’re doing,” said Rock, “is reverse engineering for updates that improve current functionality and output. “A lot of our customers want to create a new product that will give them more output, so they can produce more energy more efficiently. “They’re trying to increase production with less impact to the environment, and what the scanning process can tell them is where the design flaw is that causes them to lose X amount more product and create X amount more pollution. The newer systems that will replace the old ones will do a much better job at reducing impact,” he said.
While GKS does the work at the utility plants, the customers are generally the turbine manufacturers and service providers looking for information on what improvements and repairs need to be made or to bid a project.
GKS goes into the plants and sets up the laser and scanning equipment to get an overall 3-D point cloud model of the unit. For smaller components, handheld laser devices and some more traditional methods are used.
“We’ll set up the scanner in optimal locations, and in one day we can usually scan the entire generator getting overall length, bar location and bar length. In the past, these customers have used piano wire, calipers and other primitive manual measuring devices to gather dimensional information, which usually took them several days,” said Rock. “Some hand measurements are still done on-site to corroborate the laser checks,” Rock explained. “Occasionally an engineer from our customer’s company will work with us to take hand measurements. We call this practice a sanity check. It verifies that their hand measurements and our laser measurements are very similar to each other.”
Tolerances for these power plant components are very small even thousandths of an inch. GKS’s equipment receives calibration from the laser equipment manufacturers. Once the data is collected, either GKS or the customer will map out the components and system in a CAD program. This helps to determine how the power plant deviates from the original print and what flaws may have developed over time. The data provides a launching pad to determine what improvements can be made…