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Capture 3D


Blue-Light 3D Scanning Modernizes Product Development

Advanced noncontact technology is directly replacing coordinate measuring machines

Published: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - 11:00

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Companies strategically adopt cutting-edge solutions to help solidify their position within a competitive marketplace. Years ago, blue-light 3D scanning technology was implemented to help product development and alleviate coordinate measuring machine (CMM) bottlenecks. Today, this advanced noncontact technology is directly replacing CMMs and is being used for design, adaptive machining, quality control, and near-line and in-line production applications. In addition, it has evolved archaic workflows by transforming engineering tasks onto a completely digital platform. What used to take weeks, and sometimes months, now takes hours.

Blue-light 3D scanning technology has become an integral asset within many organizations. These solutions are helping reduce cycle times, quickly resolve problematic areas, and minimize costs, thus speeding up the overall time to market.

How the technology works

Blue-light 3D scanners, also known as structured light, white light, or optical 3D metrology systems, use a different technology than CMMs and 3D laser scanners. CMMs are programmed to collect measurements where the probe touches the part’s surface. In many cases, the programming takes a long time, especially on complex geometries, thus creating a backlog. CMM data are limited to the programmed points, so locations that could possibly be suspect are overlooked, creating a long iterative process for engineers to decipher the proper corrective action.

Laser scanners use beams of colored light to collect surface geometry. These devices that are hand-held or mounted on an articulating arm require the user to move it in paint-like strokes. This not only fatigues the user’s arm but can cause issues in overlapping data, especially on larger objects.

Structured light 3D scanners, typically mounted on a camera stand, tripod, or robot, work like point-and-shoot cameras and require little to no programming with minimal setup. The projector quickly displays a pattern onto the part’s surface, and as the pattern changes, the technology calculates X-Y-Z coordinate points of an object’s entire surface geometry. Intelligent algorithms automatically align each scan to create a complete digital 3D blueprint.

High-quality, blue-light 3D scanners can rapidly acquire millions of accurate 3D data points per scan and interpret the results into meaningful visual feedback within the software to dramatically optimize processes. The net effect is that significantly more surface area of the part gets measured accurately and rapidly.

Real-world applications

The U.S. Army’s Aviation Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) has adopted ATOS blue-light 3D scanning technology as a standard for its inspection, reverse engineering, and adaptive machining applications. On a single project, the center saved costs of up to $100 million dollars by providing computer models in a fraction of time from the generated 3D scan data. With the versatility to precisely measure small parts, such as avionics or missile subcomponents to a full-size aircraft, the AMRDEC metrology team turned future-thinking ideas into reality by changing traditional methods to improve processes within the aerospace and defense industry.

Pratt & Whitney, an early adopter of ATOS 3D scanning technology, spent significant time testing artifacts and comparing the results with traditional methods in order to prove out the process. Once ATOS was certified for their inspection applications, partner companies were also encouraged to implement the technology in order to help improve the overall supply chain network. Areas of implementation for Pratt & Whitney have included compressors, tooling, cases, industrial gas turbine components, and nozzles. By automating its ATOS process, Pratt & Whitney further increased its productivity and throughput while ensuring process repeatability for verifying aerospace and turbine engine components.

Strategic approach

In each of these examples of companies and organizations modernizing manufacturing with blue-light 3D scanning technology, the secret for success is a combination of high-quality technology with intelligent software, and a streamlined strategy to ensure proper execution and implementation.

We all want to avoid “garbage in, garbage out,” so balancing accuracy and speed requirements is crucial. The best approach is to benchmark various technologies inside the actual manufacturing environment to achieve real-world results. Additionally, gage R&R and correlation studies are performed to prove out the process. Lastly, a ROI analysis comparing the current method to the new method will give a quantitative justification for the process change.

Although technology is the vehicle that helps modernize manufacturing, it is the people who are the visionary drivers.

At the 2017 Coordinate Metrology Society Conference (CMSC), Capture 3D will be demonstrating its newest  blue-light 3D scanning technology for dimensional inspection, reverse engineering, adaptive machining, optical tracking, and back-projection applications. See the ATOS Triple Scan blue-light 3D scanner and the ATOS Capsule optical precision measuring machine at booths 318 and 320, July 18–20, 2017, during the CMSC in Snowbird, Utah.

For more information, contact info@capture3d.com and visit www.capture3d.com.

A previous version of this article first appeared in the May 2017 issue of Smart Manufacturing.


About The Author

Capture 3D’s picture

Capture 3D

Capture 3D provides 3-D digitizer, surfacing, laser scanning, and dimensional inspection services. It also designs, manufactures, and supports 3-D scanners, and automated robotic and motion control systems. Capture 3D’s high-resolution, optical scanner, ATOS, delivers 3-D measurement data for industrial components. Instead of measuring single points, full part geometry is captured in a dense point cloud or polygon mesh describing the object’s surface and primitives precisely. Capture 3D is headquarted in Costa Mesa, California.