3D applications in the defense market

Whether it is for Reverse engineering, additive manufacturing or 3D printing, the defense industry is using more and more non-contact sensors for high accuracy measurements. Air force, navy and army specialist are using sensors daily for a variety of applications such as 3D printed parts qualification and spare parts replacement, especially in distant army bases or submarines which stay months at sea. This allows them to produce parts fast and accurately, easily shortening the supply chain procedure. Optimet sensors which have the widest angular coverage in the market (170 deg) have an advantage considering that many of those parts have difficult geometric shape and the ability to cover sharp angles is critical.

As computer-aided design (CAD) has become more popular, reverse engineering has become a viable method to create a 3D virtual model of an existing physical part for use in 3D CAD, or other software’s. The reverse-engineering process involves measuring an object and then reconstructing it as a 3D model. The physical object can be measured using 3D scanning technologies like CMMs, laser scanners, structured light digitizers, or Industrial CT Scanning (computed tomography). The measured data alone, usually represented as a point cloud, lacks topological information and is therefore often processed and modeled into a more usable format (definition taken from Wikipedia).

In this video we demo 3D cloud of points created with a CP-20 sensor.

Additive manufacturing is changing the future of aviation and defense supply chains. 3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing. Unlike the more traditional material processing where we engrave and curve material from an object and create the desired shape, in additive manufacturing we add material during the process, which can be metal, plastic or other materials particles, building structures to create the final product. During the process new powder is repeatedly added to the bed from a powder reservoir. The whole process is monitored with CAD software making sure the correct shape is printed. Other than using non-contact sensor to accurately monitor the process, there is another way of using the sensor by making an autofocusing to the additive laser head. During the process the non-contact sensor can measure the laser distance from the bed and keep it at the right distance in such a way the laser will stay in focus. Keeping the laser in focus will improve the additive process and decrease yield. For better understanding of the autofocusing process in material processing watch this video.

Although 3D printing and additive manufacturing is well used in civil industry like automotive, armed forces and aerospace companies are a bit behind in that field, but clearly getting closer and closer to exploiting the potential of this technology.

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