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‘Be All You Can Be’ – 3D Scanning Evaluates US Army Artillery Turret

Mechanical engineers in the Production Engineering Division within the Directorate of Operations, Planning and Support (DOPS) at Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) , Pensylvania, USA are employing the use of an emerging technology to aid in the manufacturing process with the help of the metrology laboratory from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC).

Benjamin Thomason, metrology team lead for CCDC Aviation and Missile Center (AvMC), was on site at LEAD to demonstrate the benefits of structured light scanning to William Greenland, chief of the Production and Engineering Division, and DOPS engineers at LEAD. The scanning generates a surface measurement analysis of turrets received for customer designed upgrades at LEAD.

The metrology lab specializes in surface measurement with many of the data collecting instruments being non-contact. The structured light or laser tools gather information about the surface geometry of a part, supplying detailed dimensional measurements that provide data to support inspection, quality control, reverse engineering and manufacturing support. One of these technologies is a structured blue light scanner.

Thomason utilized the structured blue light scanner to evaluate the surface geometry of a turret that is being upgraded to an Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) turret at LEAD. The scanning process works by employing the use of stereo cameras to capture a fringe pattern that is projected onto the asset being evaluated. Thomason places a series of targets, essentially black and white dots, across the surface of the asset, and the cameras look for pixel contrast on the target, indicating a change in curvature. “Just as you would navigate using a constellation of stars at night, the scanner is orienting itself based off of the targets,” Thomason explained. The data is then fed into a system which visualizes the readings into a three-dimensional rendering of the asset. The scanning is so specific that constant calibration of the scanner is necessary to account for external factors, such as temperature change.

Detailed scanning and modeling of assets and parts can provide a multitude of insight and information to engineers, including First Article Inspection, Life Cycle Fatigue and Static Deformation Analysis. “We decided that a quick turnaround was needed for this new program to set a baseline and see how we can expand this technology into other product lines,” Greenland said in regard to implementing the scanning on the ERCA line. Optical scanning will allow mechanical engineers to gather the data necessary to compare the customer provided 3D model the actual scanned model in order to accurately estimate the amount of work to be performed. “Establishing this working partnership with CCDC is giving us the ability to implement diagnostic and technical equipment that we wouldn’t otherwise have readily available on the depot,” Greenland said. “It helps us make our process more efficient, which provides a direct benefit to meeting our customer’s requirements.”

The Aviation and Missile Center (AvMC) and the manufacturing technology division, which houses the metrology lab within the CCDC, are responsible for pursuing technology transition by looking at areas of industry and academia to see what technologies are at a high enough Technology Readiness Level (TRL) to be implemented at the depots to make a difference for the warfighter. “We’re focused on enabling readiness now for the customers, and supporting our warfighters in the problems they’re encountering now, but we’re doing it by utilizing the technology needed to support future systems,” said Thomason. As part of the Army Futures Command, Thomason believes CCDC can accomplish both missions at the same time. “By partnering with the depots, we’re able to supply experts to cross train the existing workforce, which leads to a cultural acceptance of the new technology by the workforce – allowing the artisans to see the technology as a benefit to their work, not a hindrance.” Greenland acknowledges the benefit of the technology to his team at Letterkenny, and is eager to continue the partnership with CCDC to expand the program at LEAD, which echoes Thomason’s viewpoint. “Our approach for implementation is through mutually beneficial partnerships. We will find a way together to not only solve the readiness issues of today, but to prepare for the future issues of tomorrow,” Thomason said.

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