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Specialising in commercial upholstery and soft trim solutions for the heavy transport, automotive and indoor sports industries, Rae-Line is a Melbourne-based, family-owned company with more than 50 employees.

Brett Vorhauer is the second generation owner and Managing Director of the firm, the son of Ray and Mary Vorhauer who founded the business in 1972.

“We have been supplying and fitting the interior trims for Kenworth trucks Australia-wide for more than 40 years,” Mr Vorhauer explains. “Other clients include Iveco, Spotless and the Bounce indoor trampoline centres.” Rae-Line has also supplied canvas seating and seat covers for automotive companies including Toyota and Isuzu.

Recently, Rae-Line invested in the latest 3D laser scanning technology to increase efficiency, reduce costs and offer a point of difference to its clients. “We’re bringing today’s technology to a trade that is based on traditional manufacturing techniques,” Mr Vorhauer said.

The company purchased a FARO Freestyle3D handheld laser scanner, which enables designers to create a 3D point cloud of the area that needs to be upholstered in minutes. With an accurate 3D model of the area, precise measurements can be taken to build a CAD drawing using SolidWorks manufacturing software.

“The majority of our clients do not provide CAD drawings for their projects, so traditionally we would pattern out the design manually,” Mr Vorhauer explained. “This process is time consuming and expensive, as with complex designs it is often a case of ‘trial and error’ before we can get it right.

“To give an example, when fitting out one of the Bounce centres we measured an area three times and made the padding three times, because only on the third time were the measurements right. With the scanner, we can take an exact model of the area we need to fit, eliminating human error. Plus, we have a historical record if we have to re-upholster in the future.”

The ability to provide clients with a 3D model of the job and a CAD drawing of the design is another advantage. “Our clients are pleased that we are taking initiative in this area and offering this as an additional service. It gives us a point of difference and shows that although our trade is a traditional one, we still embrace technology and innovation.”

Mr Vorhauer said the company will also offer scanning as a service to other businesses, which may lead to further opportunities together in the future. “We’ve had some interest from companies that may not have the capacity to invest in a system but could benefit from the technology. It could open up the door for us and diversify our service offering,” he said.

Reducing company overheads and mitigating risk was also a deciding factor. “For our automotive work, we only have one qualified motor trimmer who has the skills to pattern up seat upholstery from scratch. He is a great employee and our clients love his work, however it exposes the company to risk because if he’s unable to work we have no-one else that can fill in on his behalf.”

The FARO Freestyle3D enables Rae-Line to transform the work and services they are providing to fulfil motor trimming tasks. “The scanner turns our upholsterers into skilled CAD-operators, who achieve a more accurate and traceable result in a fraction of the time,” Mr Vorhauer added.

“Each new project adds to a library of information that future jobs and employees can benefit from, plus tasks can be shared amongst the team and any changes made with ease. Use of this technology shoots the company’s manufacturing into the 21st century and will help to protect jobs in Australia.”  

The handheld scanner saves considerable time on the job, Mr Vorhauer said. “Although we’re still in the early days of using this technology and finessing the workflow, I estimate it will reduce the design process from at best a two-day job down to a six- to eight-hour process.”

Although no-one at Rae-Line had any previous experience with scanning technology, Mr Vorhauer said his employees had no trouble learning how to use the FARO Freestyle3D. “It is amazingly easy to use,” he said, adding, “it feels secure while you’re scanning as it’s strapped to your hand, but at the same time it’s compact and light so you can carry it on a plane as hand luggage. It takes no time to set it up and start using it.”

Mr Vorhauer said he was also impressed with the live scan viewing on the tablet. “People who are used to using technology like this may not think much of this feature, but it was amazing to watch a 3D model appear in real time and it gave us confidence in what we were doing.”

Rae-Line is impressed with the support they’ve received from FARO’s Australian distributors, Position Partners. “Position Partners has been great, they made sure the product was really going to work for our application by giving us a demo and doing a trial project to test out the workflow. It’s good to have local support on-hand if we need it.”

Although it’s still early days, Mr Vorhauer says 3D scanning technology could mean big things for Rae-Line. “I truly believe it has the potential to revolutionise our business,” he said. “Along with other complimentary services we could adopt in the future such as printed 3D models, it gives us a competitive edge and a means to increase efficiency and reduce costs on our projects.”

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