Friday, March 2, 2012

A European look at 3-D imaging

Interest in 3-D imaging has never been greater. Everyone, it seems, is interested in knowing what applications this technology might help solve.

So when I heard that the good folks at Stemmer Imaging (Tongham, UK) were putting on an entire day's worth of seminars on the subject at Mercedes-Benz World in Weybridge (located in Surrey, England), I instructed our European correspondent to scream down there in his old Honda Civic to check things out.

Now you might think that folks who develop systems to inspect paper towels, examine the surfaces of women's skin, or scrutinize the tread on skis wouldn't have much in common. But our assiduous European editor discovered differently at the event.

That's right. At one particular seminar presented by Christian Benderoth, the sales manager of GFMesstechnik (Berlin, Germany), he discovered that manufacturers of all these products are using a rather nifty little handheld 3-D image scanner to inspect the surfaces of their products.

The product in question -- which has been developed by GFMesstechnik -- is called the MikroCADlite. It is, in essence, a small scanner that uses a digital light projector (DLP) from Texas Instruments (Dallas, TX, USA) to project a structured light pattern onto a surface. The images are captured by an imager in the scanner, then analyzed to reveal the details of surfaces.

According to Benderoth, folks that make kitchen rolls embossed with aesthetically pleasing structures have used the scanner to produce color-coded height images of the embossed paper, in a move that allows them to check the consistency of the pattern. Their counterparts in the cosmetics business have created maps of the surface of skin around women's eyes to ascertain the before and after effects of cosmetics such as anti-aging cream. Not to be left out, engineers developing skis are using the system to capture 3-D images from which they can produce plots of the variation in tread across the bottom of a ski.

After the presentation, our European Editor decided to see what literature he could pick up on the MikroCADlite system to take home and read during what little leisure time he has left after he's finished working on the Vision System Design magazine and web site.

While flipping through the page of the document back home, he discovered that the MikroCADlite system had also been put to use examining the decor of the interior of car parts too. More specifically, at the back of the document there was a comparison between the decor of a 2005 BMW and a Honda Civic not entirely dissimilar to his own (see image).

Now, of course, the sorry old fool is trying desperately to interpret the images to discover whether his UK-made Honda car has a superior interior finish to its German counterpart. It's the last time I send him anywhere.

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