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Project Brief

Open Competition 3 - Information Technology

Automated Whole Part Inspection for Manufacturing Process Control

Develop an automated computer-aided inspection system that uses noncontact three-dimensional laser scanning and software to measure manufactured parts and that compares the results with corresponding specifications in computer-aided design data.

Sponsor: Raindrop Geomagic, Inc.

PO Box 12219
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
  • Project Performance Period: 10/1/2003 - 9/30/2006
  • Total project (est.): $3,234,120.00
  • Requested ATP funds: $2,000,000.00

With the three-dimensional laser-scanning technology that Raindrop Geomagic is pursuing, inspection of manufactured parts and products would become faster, cheaper, more comprehensive, and even more useful than is possible with today's state-of-the-art measurement equipment. Such a system, portable and flexible enough to quickly inspect one-of-a-kind parts, would make it not only possible but also practical to make detailed, full-scale comparisons between a manufactured part and its original design. With this capability installed on assembly lines or even on machine tools, manufacturers could immediately verify whether a part's geometric features and dimensions satisfy design specifications and tolerances. Today, such comparisons can be made, but with considerable effort. Coordinate measuring machines, for example, may be used to measure the coordinates of hundreds of thousands of points on the surface of a part, but the individual measurements must then be correlated and aligned with the design--a difficult, tedious, and costly process. Raindrop Geomagic's system would automatically register measurements from the scanned part with the corresponding specifications on the three-dimensional computer-aided-design drawing. The non-contact computer-aided inspection (CAI) system will be designed to measure within an accuracy of 10 micrometers, well within the tolerance limits of most manufacturing operations. In addition, CAI scans will automatically yield 3-D color-coded maps of inspected parts and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing reports, a standard format for communicating part information. Collaborators at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte will contribute to the underpinning mathematical tools that the technology will embody. Achieving targets for speed, accuracy, and repeatability will be major challenges. In particular, efforts to develop practical methods for assuring accurate, precise registration of part and design must overcome significant hurdles. However, a successful project would help to eliminate a substantial production bottleneck, resulting in major savings and process improvements in most manufacturing industries, including automotive, aerospace, defense, and medical device fabrication. Raindrop Geomagic, an early-stage start-up company, does not have internal funding to cover this three-year, high-risk project, and efforts to seek outside funding support from potential large-company sponsors and venture capital firms have been unsuccessful.

For project information:
Ping Fu, (919) 474-0124

ATP Project Manager
Jack Boudreaux, (301) 975-3560

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