3D Scanner Designed for Fully Automated Inspection Begins Testing
Dr Jody Muelaner posted on July 19, 2018 |
University of Sheffield begins testing Hexagon Blaze 600A optical 3D scanner.
Thomas Hodgson, large volume metrology technical lead for the AMRC Integrated Manufacturing Group, puts the Hexagon Blaze 600A through its paces at Factory 2050. (Image courtesy of the author.)
Thomas Hodgson, large volume metrology technical lead for the AMRC Integrated Manufacturing Group, puts the Hexagon Blaze 600A through its paces at Factory 2050. (Image courtesy of the author.)

A novel optical 3D scanner called the Hexagon Blaze 600A has been developed to overcome conventional issues with the noncontact measurement of composites. The system is designed to be integrated with a robot to provide fully automated inspection. The scanner is currently being tested at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), a world-class facility for research into advanced manufacturing technologies that are used in the aerospace, automotive, medical and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

3D scanning is revolutionizing industrial inspection processes, enabling the rapid and automated acquisition of high resolution data. It’s now possible to capture far more information about a product in far less time than would be possible using conventional inspection methods. This development is driving quality improvements while production rates are ramped up in the high-value manufacturing sector. However, 3D scanners can have issues with shiny surfaces, such as those in machined parts, and with very black surfaces, such as composites. This has meant that parts sometimes need to be sprayed with a white coating before they are scanned, and the coating must be cleaned off the part after the scanning process is completed. This can add considerable time and expense to the manufacturing process, offsetting the advantages gained by using 3D scanning.

The Hexagon Blaze 600A has been designed to overcome these issues. It uses three high-resolution cameras together with blue light LED illumination. This allows the machine to effectively scan shiny and black surfaces without any surface preparation. Thomas Hodgson is the large volume metrology technical lead at the AMRC’s Integrated Manufacturing Group. After testing the system, Hodgson said, “It offers a better understanding of the total part and total assembly performance. With this system, it’s not just cost savings from a procurement point of view, but it’s time saving as well because you don’t have to clean things and that’s quite a big benefit.”

Further time savings are achieved through automation. Manual scanning requires datum targets to be located around the part. These targets, which can be in the form of white spheres or circular stickers, are used to orientate the scan data with respect to the part. This is critical to enable scan data captured as the scanner is moved around the part to be transformed into a single reference frame. However, placing these targets before making a scan, and then removing them after the scan is completed, can further add to process time. When a scanning process is automated with a robot, the targets only need to be placed once to calibrate the process. After that, the robot can be relied upon to locate the scan data relative to a common reference frame. This means that there is no need to place targets, which saves even more time.

All of this adds up to increased productivity and throughput.


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