Conestoga news

October 14, 2015 3:27 PM

Applied research project offers manufacturing solution

A non-contact measuring system developed through an applied research project at Conestoga provided a time-saving manufacturing solution for a southern-Ontario business.

Faculty member Dr. Hamid Karbasi led the year-long project that was completed by co-op students in the Mechanical Systems Engineering program. Throughout the year the students applied skills developed through their course content to deliver a unique prototype to Data Driven Robotics (DDR) - a division of Burlington Automation. 

"DDR required a solution to precisely measure structural steel beams; the measurements are used to cut the beams with a robot-controlled plasma torch," said Karbasi. "Right now the measurements are taken by the tip of the plasma torch, which is time consuming. Since the tip is touching the beam to collect measurements it can also incur wear and damage.”

Karbasi went on to explain that precise measurements are necessary before cuts take place because of manufacturing variations in the thickness and size of the beams. This information needs to be taken into consideration by the robotic cutting tool.  

Students set out to develop a non-contact measuring system that creates a precise 3D point cloud - a set of data points that represent the external surface of an object. The measurements are then interfaced with the robotic cutting tool so the steel beams can be cut accurately. To do this, interface code was also developed to process the 3D point cloud to a 3D model.

The solution developed by the Conestoga team won positive reviews and feedback. “One of the students involved was even offered a job by DDR,” said Karbasi. “That shows the results were successful.”

The team of students did have to work through challenges though. Karbasi noted that finding a laser scanner to meet the requirements of the project was the first hurdle, stressing the importance of accuracy and reliability. The next was determining the scan points and stitching together the data collected. The solution also needed to be time efficient.

The prototype delivered to DDR uses a combination of 4 scanners and is capable of collecting up to two million points of data per second. 

The project was completed at the end of September and DDR now plans to build the students’ prototype at its plant to work on further development.

The Centre for Smart Manufacturing is administered by Conestoga’s Applied Research & Innovation group, and is designed to meet the needs of the region’s largest employment sector. For more information, visit the Centre’s website