Robotic 3D Scanner Automatically Scans Spacecraft Heat Shields

Adept Viper 850 robot arm
Adept Technology
Pleasanton, CA

NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA, performs research and technology in aeronautics, spaceflight, and information technology in a 3D vision lab. Using Adept’s robot arm and NASA 3D scanning technology, the vision lab engineers created a large-area 3D scanner to demonstrate the capability of inspecting an entire assembled Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) heat shield and its individual components.

altNASA engineers put a patented NASA laser scanner on the six-axis robot arm. The new robotic scanner uses NASA’s 3D scanning software to scan the shields as the robot moves across the surface. As it scans, it develops a 3D model of the shield from laser surface reflections. The system uses the 3D model information to look for cracks, faults, or holes in the shield.

The laser scanner uses laser triangulation to measure the 3D locations at different points as it scans. While it scans, it sends the 3D information to a control computer, and also sends a digital pulse to the robot every third scan frame at 214 Hz. The robot uses latching functionality with Adept’s V+ programming language and the digital pulses from the scanner to store positions corresponding to every third scanner frame. The control computer matches the stored positions from the robot with the scanner frames and interpolates between missing positions to create the 3D image of the shield.

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