Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) engineers were recently granted a U.S. Patent for a target mounting system that enables new applications for discrete point 3D laser scanners.
Engineers in NSWCPD’s Advanced Data Acquisition, Prototyping Technologies and Virtual Environments (ADAPT.VE) Lab developed a Spring-Loaded Target Carrier for Laser Tracking to expand the Command’s 3D scanning application portfolio.
“Patents are an important part of our competency, and this one is part of a significant innovative culture and work portfolio of the ADAPT.VE Lab,” said NSWCPD’s Technical Director, Tom Perotti.
The target carrier design allows engineers to place spherically mounted retroreflective (SMR) targets for the scanner to measure inside of cavities and other spaces that were previously unreachable. The target carrier allows engineers to take multiple measurements, further into the cavity, with more accuracy than traditional methods.
The team that was granted the patent includes NSWCPD’s Scott Storms and Patrick Violante; Nick Cifelli, who has since transferred to Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division; Bob Santoro, who recently retired from NSWCPD; and Pinkesh Bharatia, a NSWCPD employee who passed away in 2018.
The team behind the technology view this patent as an honor to Bharatia’s work in the field of naval engineering.
“Early stages when we were supporting target scanning jobs we noticed issues. When we were scanning inside a tube our hands were getting in the way and not allowing us to capture data,” said Violante, NSWCPD’s ADAPT.VE Lab team lead. “This idea stemmed from not being able to complete the job effectively and we really owe it to Pinkesh’s ideas.”
The technology allows the engineers to place targets to exactly where they want the scanner to collect data. As pointed out by Bob Santoro, previously, engineers would use feeler gauges or micrometers, which could only measure the cavity in the specific area where the tool was used, which could potentially miss imperfections and limited the amount of data able to be collected.
“The use of a 3D scanner with the target carrier enables the capture of millions of points and increases point density versus traditional methods, increasing accuracy and confidence,” Storms said. “This was really Pinkesh’s vision; we had a need to use the scanner in a way that the original equipment manufacturer hadn’t provided and he developed a tool to fix it.”
3D scanning enables NSWCPD engineers to accurately 3D model a space or part, check mechanical tolerances, and potentially create an additive manufactured version.
“The data can also be brought into a virtual or augmented reality environment, coupled with additive manufacturing to enhance situational awareness or streamline training and quality assurance procedures”, noted Cifelli.
“This type of innovative and creative solution is only a small example of the impact that Pinkesh brought to the lab and the Command,” Violante said. “The fact that we are just now getting this patent shows his diligence and what made Pinkesh such a great engineer.”
Bharatia, who passed away at age 39, was instrumental in building NSWCPD’s 3D capabilities. He was also a founder of the Command’s Naval Asian Society Employee Resource Group and was known for his mentoring roles in the Command’s robotics club working with students around the Greater Philadelphia area.
“Pinkesh was one of the founders of the ADAPT.VE Lab, we wouldn’t be where we are today without his vision,” Violante explained.
All the engineers recognized for the patent believe that Bharatia was the key to creating the solution and getting the patent awarded. The team filed for the patent on April 20, 2017 and were granted their patent US 10,508,917 B1 on Dec. 17, 2019.
The ADAPT.VE Lab is an active participant in the warfare center-wide working groups for additive manufacturing (AM), shipyard (SY) portable coordinate measurement and metrology, SY innovation, In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) of the future, and naval augmented reality (AR) consortium. Their involvement in these working groups has resulted in a variety of cross-warfare center collaborative projects such as the Repeatability Study on AM Systems, Enterprise LiDAR Scanning, and SY Infrastructure Optimization Support of PMS555. The lab routinely mentors at least three college and/or high school interns each summer and is an active participant in various Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach events with the local community.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,700 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.