Engineers at several United States Air Force (USAF) bases now use NVision's HandHeld laser scanner to reverse-engineer complex aircraft parts, which are then accurately machined and installed. Reverse engineering is often required for aircraft that were originally designed without computer aided design systems (CAD), and for which even blueprints can be very difficult to obtain.

The HandHeld Scanner is attached to a mechanical arm that moves about the object, freeing the user to capture data rapidly and with a high degree of resolution. The mechanical arm tracks the scanner's location so all data is collected within the same coordinate system. As a part is inspected, the scanner generates a cloud consisting of millions of points, each with x, y, z coordinates and i, j, k vectors. Integrated software is used to convert the point cloud to an STL polygon, and an optional tripod provides portability in the field. Software also allows realtime rendering, full model editing, polygon reduction, and data output to all standard 3D packages.

NVision begins its work with each USAF base by first creating an extensive training program. The program is designed to provide USAF personnel with the opportunity to piece the portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) and laser together, calibrate it to appropriate accuracy levels, and use the laser to scan individual parts in their shop as well as on the aircraft itself.

Once the aircraft parts are scanned with the HandHeld Scanner, the USAF machinists learn how to manipulate the data and create an STL file to open in the scanner's Reverse Engineering software. They then learn the basic tool sets of the Reverse Engineering software through the use of tutorials and one-on-one instruction with the NVision trainer. After a week of training, the USAF machinists are able to reproduce and modify parts for their aircraft.

Defense Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2011 issue of Defense Tech Briefs Magazine.

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