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NVision's Services Help K9 Training Company Support Military and Homeland Security

nvision handheld scanner, laser scanning helps speed production of jet fighter ejection seatsUsing NVision’s laser scanning and engineering services has helped a manufacturer of K9 training equipment save time and money while increasing the accuracy with which it can digitize prototypes. The result has been better products produced in less time at less cost. “I have become convinced of the value of laser scanning,” said Guy Hairston, President of Harddog’s Requisites. “I have also seen first-hand the dedication of NVision’s people to meeting their customers’ needs and would recommend them highly to anyone who needs a first-rate laser scanning service bureau.”


Harddog’s Requisites manufactures bite suits, muzzles, sleeves, and collars used for K9 training by military and law-enforcement agencies around the world. The company’s bite suits, for example, are worn for the protection of trainers and to provide a safe, realistic bite surface while providing protection for the decoy and the dog. The equipment manufactured by the company involves very complicated geometries that are often developed by trial and error working with dogs in the field and then must be reproduced to high levels of precision. In the past, Harddog’s Requisites’ engineers used either manual measurement methods or coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) to digitize prototypes but found it difficult to accurately duplicate the prototype geometry. “By switching to NVision’s service bureau using laser scanning we have improved the accuracy of our measurements while saving time and money,” said Hairston. “NVision’s excellent laser scanning services and dedication to our success has enabled us to produce an even better product for our customers.”


“I have been involved in K9 training for much of my adult life” Hairston said, “so I fully understand the critical requirements of K9 training equipment.” To ensure the quality of its bite suits, Harddog’s Requisites utilizes independent laboratories to verify the mechanical properties, flexibility and durability of its materials. Extensive field testing is conducted under a wide range of environmental conditions to verify its product designs. Its proprietary materials are engineered to minimize wear on the dog's teeth and to provide the realistic and safe bite surface. Special consideration has been given to the breathability of the fabrics and the comfort of the decoy. Harddog’s Requisites’™ suits provide unsurpassed durability, superior mobility and “bite-ability,” with maximum safety for the decoy and the dog.


Prototype-based Product Development Process


Harddog’s Requisites’ product development process revolves around the traditional method of building prototypes, testing them in the field, reworking the prototypes to improve their performance, re-testing, etc. This cycle is repeated until the performance of the products has been optimized. The next step is to precisely define the geometry of the prototypes so they can be manufactured using the latest computer-controlled methods. In the past this was done by using either manual measuring devices or a CMM. The accuracy of both of these methods is limited by the capabilities of the user. Manual measuring tools are dependent on the ability of the user both in positioning and reading the measuring instruments. Even when the measurements are very accurate, they provide only a fraction of the information needed to precisely digitize a 3D part. So a designer must spend a considerable amount of additional time trying to interpret the unmeasured geometry.


The primary limitation of a CMM is that the operator must manually move the steering system to track each contour to be measured while the device captures points one at a time. But to accurately model the geometry of a complex 3D shape, such as is found on many K9 training parts, you need hundreds of thousands of points, sometimes millions, to get the geometry exactly right. Another concern is that the accuracy of each measurement depends upon on the ability of the operator to keep the probe normal to the surface for every point that needs to be measured. With softer parts, there is also the risk that the operator may deform the part with the touch probe. So, when measurements are taken with a CMM, apart from the time consuming nature of the measurement task, a considerable amount of interpretation is still required to recreate 3D geometries from a relatively small number of points.


NVision’s Laser Scanning Provides Digitizing Alternative


Hairston discovered an alternative to these methods when he read an article about laser scanning in a trade journal. Laser scanning systems work by projecting a line of laser light onto the surfaces to be measured, while a camera continuously triangulates the changing distance and profile of the laser line as it sweeps along. The position and orientation of the scanning head is also continuously monitored by a highly accurate localizing device as the data is captured. A computer synchronizes these two inputs and translates the video image of the line into 3D coordinates, providing real-time data renderings that give the operator immediate feedback on areas that might have been missed. Laser scanners are able to quickly measure large parts while generating far greater numbers of data points than probes without the need for templates or fixtures. Since there is no contact tip on a laser scanner that must physically touch the object, the problems of depressing soft objects, measuring small details, and capturing complex free-form surfaces are eliminated.


Instead of collecting points one by one, the laser scanner picks up tens of thousands of points every second. This means that digitizing even the most complicated parts can often be accomplished in an hour or two. Laser scanning can digitize parts that are so complex, it would be impractical to digitize them one point at a time. Finally, the software provided with the scanner greatly simplifies the process of moving from point cloud to computer aided design (CAD) model, making it possible to generate a CAD model of the scanned part that faithfully duplicates the original part in minimal time. The software can also be used to compare the original design geometry to the actual physical part, generating an overall graduated color error plot that shows in a glance where, and by how much, surfaces deviate from the original design. This goes far beyond the dimensional checks that can be performed with touch probes.


Hairston quickly recognized the potential for improving the manufacturing process at Harddog’s Requisites but did not believe that the company’s workload could justify the purchase of a machine. He was also concerned about potential technology changes in laser scanning that might make a system that Harddog’s Requisites purchased obsolete before the company had the chance to earn a payback. He looked for a company that offers laser scanning as a service and discovered NVision. “The first time that I talked to NVision I sensed that they were willing to work with me to help me understand laser scanning as a concept and adapt the process to my needs,” Hairston said. “I asked them many questions and they always answered comprehensively. I decided to send them a prototype to see if laser scanning could work for me and picked one of our most geometrically complex products, which has so many 3D contours that it is impossible to accurately digitize it by our usual methods.”


NVision's Scanning Provides More Accurate Digitized Geometry In Less Time


NVision technicians quickly scanned the whole part, generating a point cloud consisting of over 1,000,000 points and then used special software to automatically generate a surface model of the part through the point cloud. The resulting CAD file was provided to Hairston.


“The CAD model produced by laser scanning incorporated every detail of the prototype geometry,” Hairston said. “It was much more accurate than we were ever able to produce on a CMM and because it was also so fast, we actually saved money. The laser scanning service NVision offers is so much more cost effective than measuring the part on a CMM machine. Based on the success of this project we have sent many additional models and prototypes to NVision for laser scanning. We have been very pleased with the accuracy, cost and leadtime of NVision’s laser scanning services. The result is that we can now manufacture products that more closely match the prototypes that we have optimized and tested in the field.”




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