3D Scanner Suited for Autonomous Manufacturing of Parts

Suppose that the armrest in a vintage car is broken. In that situation, more luck and perseverance will be needed to find the correct spare part. However, in the realm of Industrie 4.0 and manufacturing with batch sizes of just one, one can just scan the armrest and print it easily.

This is rendered feasible by the world’s first 3D scanner with the potential to function autonomously as well as in real time. The autonomous scanning system was exhibited at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6, 2018, and will be exhibited at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

The scanning system is able to measure any component in real time, making protracted teaching processes a thing of the past. (Image credit: Fraunhofer IGD)

The glamour of vintage cars is that they are no more being manufactured; hence it is special to see one moving on the road. However, if some part gets broken or if the car stops running, this special position quickly turns out to be a difficulty, as their spare parts are no more produced. With the emergence of Industrie 4.0, this scenario is about to change - production has moved toward batch sizes of just one and toward customized production. This is at times known as “highly customized mass production.”

New Scanner Works Autonomously and in Real Time

Despite the fact that there is quite some time before individual manufacturing is achieved, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD are working to realize the dream of batch sizes of just one, by using an innovative kind of 3D scanning system. “The special thing about our system is that it scans components autonomously and in real time,” stated Pedro Santos, department head at Fraunhofer IGD.

For the individuals owning vintage cars with a broken fragment, it signifies that the defective component is affixed together and positioned on a turntable, which is located under a robot arm with the scanner. The other procedures take place automatically.

The robot arm advances the scanner surrounding the component to register the entire geometry with minimal passes. Based on the complexity and size of the component, it takes a few seconds to a few minutes to complete the process. While the scan is hitherto being performed, intelligent algorithms develop a three-dimensional image of the object in the background.

Subsequently, a material simulation of the 3D image investigates if a 3D print meets the pertinent stability demands. Finally, a 3D printer is used to print the component, which can then be readily fitted into the vintage car.

No Need for Protracted Learning Process

Santos reiterated that the actual accomplishment, in this case, is not merely the scanner itself, but the fusion of the scanner with view planning to make an autonomous system. This view planning technique has also been developed at Fraunhofer IGD.

At the time of an initial scan, algorithms compute the necessary additional scans so that the object can be scanned in fewer steps. This technique enables the system to independently and rapidly measure objects of which it is totally ignorant. This is a distinctive feature because scanners developed earlier had to be trained to perform this, or the component’s CAD model was needed to perform this, rendering it feasible to identify the location of the object in relation to the scanner.

Upon training the scanner to scan a car seat for quality control (TARGET-ACTUAL comparison), it can scan the subsequent 200 car seats since they will be highly identical under mass production conditions. However, traditional scanners are not fit to perform the task of handling batch sizes of just one.

By contrast, our scan system is able to measure any component, irrespective of its design - and you don’t have to teach it. Also, you don’t need information about CAD models or templates—in other words, the specifications of standard forms that a component usually has.

Pedro Santos

Manufacturing assistant for Industrie 4.0

This USP allows the autonomous scanner to be used for entirely new types of applications. For instance, it can be used as a manufacturing assistant and enhance coordination between machines and humans.

Such coordination is the point of interest of the EU-funded “Autoware” project, which includes the piecing together of cylinders with the different casings, pistons, and seals.

Earlier, the cylinders used to be manually assembled, and the ensuing quality control was performed by means of a printed checklist and manual evaluations.

Our 3D scanning system now enables robots - via comparisons with the database - to recognize what component it has in front of it and also to determine which component its human colleague needs next for assembly of the cylinder.

Pedro Santos

Moreover, the machine performs the final quality control by scanning the cylinder to investigate whether the dimensions are precise. In their forthcoming studies, the Fraunhofer IGD scientists will also be investigating the complete chain of recording and visualizing, until 3D reproduction.

The scientists exhibited their autonomous scanning system at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6, 2018 (Exhibition Grounds, Hall 19), and will exhibit it at the Hannover Messe from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30). Attendees will have a chance to position different objects under the laser scanner and observe the outcomes live on a monitor. They could also scan their own objects on request, which will enable them to observe on their own the way the system autonomously reproduces the accurate geometry of three-dimensional objects in real time.

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