Case Studies

3D Measurement Technology in Power Plant Turbine Construction and Inspection

3D Measurement Technology in Power Plant Turbine Construction and Inspection


In this day and age, facilities such as power plants are imperative to modern industrial development, and great importance is placed on quality control during the construction and in the maintenance of such plants. The ability to quickly and accurately detect defects from damage or wear and tear – on both visible and non-visible areas – is an essential requirement for quality inspection service providers.

One such company is Toshiba Power Systems Inspection Services Co., Ltd. (TISC). Based in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture, the company provides inspection services to companies in the construction, repair, and maintenance of nuclear, thermal, hydraulic, and geothermal power plants. TISC utilizes various technologies and systems for its advanced inspection services in power plants and a wide range of other industries. These include diagnostic ultrasound systems and X-ray inspection systems – which the company manufactures and markets – as well as 3D measurement technology.

The Challenge: Time-consuming and Demanding Nature of Turbine Installation and Large Part Inspection

Of late, there has been an increasing demand for power plant construction work to be completed in a shorter time, presumably so that companies can pursue more overseas turbine renewal work. Correspondingly, as quality and performance of turbines improve, manufacturers are seeking more sophisticated methods of measurement.

Prior to adopting FARO’s 3D measurement devices, the team at TISC relied on manual hand tools (e.g. vernier calipers, micrometers) to carry out their inspection work. As components of the power-generating turbines were manufactured in a range of sizes – from around 1-2m to a maximum of 8m in length – the hand tools to measure those parts were rather large as well, which inevitably posed difficulties for the team. Commenting on the difficulties of using these tools, Mr. Ryuji Tachibana, Group Manager of Inspection Department shared, “A lot of time and effort was required to operate calipers exceeding 2 meters in length, or micrometers of 1m in length. For one, they had to be supported by several people. Moreover, the method was also prone to human error, whether from differing levels of skill between operators or mistakes. Additional time was then spent on performing checks and correcting these errors.” For these reasons, the company eventually decided to adopt 3D measurement technology.

A worker measuring the outer ring of the turbine nozzle diaphragm with the FARO Laser Tracker Vantage

A worker measuring the outer ring of the turbine nozzle diaphragm with the FARO Laser Tracker Vantage.

Workers taking measurements of a turbine cylinder

Workers taking measurements of a turbine cylinder and checking its shape with a spherically-mounted retroreflective target and a laser tracker.

The Solution: Time-reduction, Quality Improvements, and Enhanced Competitiveness

In February 2014, TISC started using the FaroArm, an arm-type 3D coordinate measuring machine (CMM), and the FARO Laser Tracker Vantage. The former is used to measure the inner rings and stator blades of turbines, as well as jigs and shafts, and the latter is used to measure large parts (e.g. the outer ring of the diaphragm or cylinder) or to align components during turbine installation.

What convinced TISC were the high levels of precision and portability, as well as the ease of use that the FaroArm and FARO Vantage offered. Since making the switch, the company has reduced the time taken for measurements and also obtained consistency across operators of varying levels of experience. Besides, TISC also influenced its partners to adopt FARO devices, allowing them to obtain consistent and compatible data from upstream suppliers. With FARO’s 3D measurement devices, it became possible for TISC to obtain precise measurements more quickly onsite, and also to generate reports automatically with the measurement results, eliminating the need for manual recording. In addition, the FARO equipment made it easy for TISC to maintain consistent quality with partners. As a result of the quality improvements and time-savings enjoyed, TISC expected its competitive advantage to increase.

Advantages of Adopting 3D Measurement Technology

The adoption of FARO’s 3D measurement technology has enabled TISC to provide advanced inspection services to its customers, and the company has since experienced a surge in requests. One instance of advanced inspection work that TISC has carried out using the FARO Vantage is the maintenance of a heavy particle beam radiotherapy table. In heavy particle radiotherapy, it is necessary to first pinpoint the body part affected by cancer. For radiologists to treat a patient effectively, a high level of precision is required in the adjustment and positioning of the treatment table. In that regard, the FARO Vantage addresses the need for accuracy flawlessly.

Another application is in the measurement of fusion reactor parts, in which a template is traditionally first created to obtain the required dimensions, before a taper gauge is inserted to take the actual measurements. However, this method was time-consuming and a large number of templates had to be made to fit the different types of target objects. With the FaroArm, the dimensions can be calculated quickly, and measurement time is reduced significantly.

In addition, it is now possible to improve the precision of the turbine during installation, by using the portable 3D measurement devices right from the beginning, as parts are being fitted. By measuring the turbine’s original position in periodic inspections, it is also easier to restore it to its original state. Mr. Ryoichi Miyazaki, member of Inspection Department, said, “When we insert a new part into an old piece of equipment, the part may not be compatible with the equipment. In this case, the portable 3D measurement devices can also be used to study and understand the situation first, before making adjustments. This helps to make the whole process smoother.”

With the use of portable 3D measurement devices, it is no longer necessary for operators to create templates or jigs, allowing measurements to be performed within a shorter time. In the case of turbine upgrading, for example, TISC reported a 10% reduction in the overall time taken.

Workers measuring the height of the turbine nozzle with FaroArm

Workers measuring the height of the turbine nozzle with the FaroArm.

Measuring the stator vane to confirm the rate of steam flow.

Measuring the stator vane to confirm the rate of steam flow.

Future Developments

At present, TISC is fully utilizing the portable 3D measurement devices in its turbine construction work and periodically using it for plant inspections. Apart from extending its services to the rest of the Toshiba Group, the company also expects to receive more external requests from both local and foreign companies.

Moving forward, the company plans to expand its measurement business beyond just serving power plants, and it expects to also cover a wider range of fields such as aviation. Mr. Yoshihiko Tomoyori, Senior Specialist of Inspection Department, expressed, “Equipped with portable 3D measurement devices capable of measuring parts of various sizes, we can now measure forms and spatial coordinates, which widens the scope of measurement services that we can provide.” With advanced inspection expertise, reliable quality management, and this unique technology as its foundation, TISC expects its business to grow significantly in the near future.

About Toshiba Power Systems Inspection Services Co., Ltd.

Established in 1999, Toshiba Power Systems Inspection Services Co., Ltd. first began as a quality management company providing inspection services in plant construction, maintenance, and periodic inspection work. The company’s main business includes: inspection and quality management services in power plant construction, repair, and maintenance; manufacture and sales of diagnostic ultrasound and radiographic inspection systems; and non-destructive inspection using these systems.

Toshiba Power Systems Inspection Services Co., Ltd. provides cutting-edge, non-destructive inspection devices and systems manufactured on the basis of its advanced inspection expertise, reliable quality management, and unique technology, to serve a wide range of industries.

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