Is it possible to utilize extreme data capture while maintaining the accuracy of laser trackers? The first question before addressing the first one is, ‘why would you want to do this‘?

Let’s look at laser trackers. You may already know the importance of these great tools. Critical dimensions of important features require extreme accuracy. Dimensions such as concentricity, parallelism, and true position are a few of the GD&T functions that require tight tolerances and can be difficult, as well as time consuming, to measure manually. These may be some of the most complicated aspects.

Other important items include cylindricity, circularity, and flatness, to list a few. Thus, the laser tracker is the appropriate tool for the job, especially for large projects.The importance of this data speaks for itself. Many industries have been confident in using laser trackers for years. Contacting the physical object for inspection provides extreme accuracy and confidence in the data collected. Now, we will briefly explore one of the latest and most popular technologies – the laser scanner.

Capturing data through a non-contact, non-destructible manner is extremely advantageous. One of these advantages is the ability to measure an amorphic, geometrical shaped design. For example, an aircraft wing does not have a defined geometrical shape. The curvature of the leading edge is hard to define, let alone measure confidently. Another aspect is reverse engineering of objects previously not digitally modeled or documented. That same aircraft wing may have been drawn out (2D) and built thirty years ago, but the ability to have a model of its very presence is astonishing. Think of the possibilities!

Using one, or the other, of these technologies opens many doors for quality control, asset management, reverse engineering, and countless others.

WHAT IF WE COMBINED THE TWO?

Then, we will begin to obtain validation of objects having our required (or desired) dimensions. And we have tapped into an attested measurement of anything that may be definable, or not, through the useful representation of accurate contact and noncontact point cloud data. Doing this, we have connected the physical world with the virtual world.

Not surprisingly, many industries are already incorporating this into their current workflows, such as aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, and oil &gas. Others, including construction, accident reconstruction, facilities management, and more are starting to add both of these as well. Most of these tools are simple to use and require minimal operating staff. Efficiency AND added capabilities…do I hear cheering already?

What is the workflow to make this happen?

The hardware requirements are spelled out. Obviously, we need a laser scanner and a laser tracker. Other hardware requirements which you may already own are computers capable of processing large amounts of data, with video cards and RAM being some of the most important features. But software still plays an enormous part in making this come alive in full form. There are multiple software package suites that are outlined to aid in the processing of this data. Keep in mind, the stability of the software stems from the computer specs you are running. Only running two gigs of RAM? Then, you may see longer processing time and possibilities of crashing, as opposed to someone running the same project on 60 gigs of RAM.

Is it worth the wait?

Some of you may be thinking you will wait to see what the economic and industrial winds will bring over the next few years. My advice is to do your research. There are a number of outlets stating how much the market is expected to grow. Be proactive, not reactive. The market is growing. To the individuals looking for technical skills, learn as much as you can about metrology and CAD related duties. If you know the laser tracker workflow, learn the laser scanner workflow, and vice versa. There are only benefits to be accrued.

So, tying back in to what we started out with, “Is it possible to utilize extreme data capture, while maintaining the accuracy of laser trackers”? I think we have discovered the answer. But, there will be more to come on this in the future. I will aim to personally complete a project with both technologies myself. I will spell out software specifics and work processes – there will even be pictures. I may even walk through some more progressive ideas combining these with other technologies. You will have to see for yourself.

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