MIPS 25th Anniversary Profile: Automated Precision–algorithms and software for 3D inspection system

Leading up to (and beyond) the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) 25th Anniversary Gala, each weekday we will briefly profile one of the 500+ companies that have utilized MIPS funding to bring innovations to market and create jobs in Maryland. These profiles will be collected in a commemorative book, released at the celebration on November 7.

Project Manager:  Kam Lau;  Principal InvestigatorSatyandra K. Gupta, UMD
Location:  Rockville, Maryland – Montgomery County;  Project Start Date:  2/1/2005

Business Description
For 25 years, Automated Precision Inc. (API) has been creating advanced metrology solutions for the world’s leading companies. API offers a unique mix of innovative engineering capability, superior product quality, and outstanding customer service to improve businesses. The API team can significantly improve the quality of products and processes. Not only do their experts enhance a company’s ability to perform inspections, but they also enhance the capability of the machines producing parts. API shows companies new ways of increasing productivity, reducing scrap, enhancing machine accuracy, and improving inspection efficiency.

Challenge
API sought to develop algorithms and software for 3D inspection using point cloud data after being approached by an automobile manufacturer to solve a part-scanning problem.

MIPS Role
UMD researchers helped develop the core of API’s RapidScan technology, which scans but does not touch products. Instead, it takes images using a digital camera and creates 3D computer models from those images. The images are taken while specialized light patterns are being projected on the object using a computer projector. Images and light patterns are analyzed together through a new algorithm developed by Dr. Gupta and Tao Peng, a Ph.D. student in the department of mechanical engineering. The 3D models  are then examined against specifications for a particular product.

Systems using single light patterns are also used today, but with limitations. If parts have holes or discontinuities, they can fail.

“We thought, ‘why limit yourself to one light pattern’?” said Gupta. “By using multiple patterns, we can accurately  analyze  holes and discontinuities in surfaces—within seconds.”

Results
The project enabled API to further develop and expand the market for its family of laser 3D coordinate measuring machines. The company has added 72 jobs and annual revenues of $29M.

MIPS-Related Quotes
“One out of every 200 automobiles might be sampled on a car production line,” said Aaron Sabino, Product Manager for API. “It can take 12-18 hours to  inspect a vehicle. Hundreds of cars can go through during this time.”

Download the Automated Precision spread from the upcoming book, “MIPS 25thAnniversary Commemorative Collection: Creating Partners in Innovation,” to be released at the MIPS 25th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 7.

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