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3D Laser Scanning Supports COVID-19 Response

Two NVision Inc. projects demonstrate the growing role of noncontact scanning/measurement technologies in the race to create new products that minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Texas-based NVision Inc. has provided noncontact optical measurement systems and services for reverse engineering and inspection for more than 30 years. When customers needed help developing tooling to manufacture personal protective equipment and other pandemic-related products, the company used the HandHeld laser scanner to capture the 3D geometry of plaster mask molds and credit card readers used to generate CAD models for tooling.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes clothing – gloves, coveralls, face shields, masks, and more – designed to protect the wearer against health hazards including infectious diseases. Masks in particular are a vitally important line of defense against COVID-19.

Medical manufacturers have used NVision Inc. (Southlake, TX) technology for a wide range of projects, from measuring and inspecting surgical scalpels to reverse-engineering heart stents and orthodontic braces. Now they’re using the company’s products to quickly respond to demand for face masks.

In one project, the company helped a Texas PPE manufacturer by generating CAD models required to machine dies used to form the mask’s components. Comprised of vacuum-formed plastic inner and outer parts with replaceable filter material, only handmade plaster models of the mask were available.

“We’d done work for this customer on a Peterbilt Truck project, and they came to us with this project,” says NVision President Steve Kersen. “Measuring the complex curvatures of the plaster molds with calipers and other hand tools would have taken months, and the customer had three days to develop the tooling.”

NVision technicians used the company’s HandHeld laser scanner to map the molds’ surface geometry and dimensions. Attached to a mechanical arm that move about a part or component, the scanner generates millions of data points, each with X,Y,Z coordinates and I,J,K vectors, to duplicate its surface to the most minute detail.

The scanner’s software converts the point cloud to an STL polygon. Intuitive software allows real-time rendering, full model editing, polygon reduction, and data output to all standard 3D packages.

Scanning the mask models took two hours, after which technicians converted the STL file to a native parametric SolidWorks CAD format from which tooling could be produced. “During the modeling process, we were able to make changes that improved the mask’s design,” says Kersen. “We made it more symmetrical and modified it to be more suitable for the manufacturing process.”

Another customer needed a series of scans of credit card readers to create seamlessly fitting safety covers. NVision used the HandHeld scanner to obtain measurements, converted the point cloud to a raw STL file, imported the file into specialized modeling software and processing the data to an IGES/STEP model, and provided further processing to a native SolidWorks CAD model with full feature tree. From that point, the customer’s engineers were able to use the CAD model to create tooling for manufacturing the covers.

“These two projects show how advanced measurement and inspection substantially reduce the time to market for products that are helping ensure our health and well-being,” says Kersen. “We’re proud to be part of the effort.”


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