Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI wins award for 3-D measurement tool

August 23, 2004 - Engineers at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) have earned national recognition for inventing a system that provides precise, three-dimensional measurement of surfaces without contacting the object being measured. 

R&D Magazine honored the Dynamic Structured Light (DSL) 3-D Imaging System with its R&D 100 Award. The award recognizes the 100 most significant technological achievements of the past year.

"DSL is just one application of the Institute's extensive work with machine vision," said DSL inventor Dr. Ernest Franke, an Institute engineer in the Automation and Data Systems Division. "With DSL we can provide a precision tool for manufacturing, reverse engineering or any other application where very precise digital representation of a surface is needed."

Les Hoffman, division vice president, added, "One advantage of DSL is that it is a non-contact system so that even the most fragile objects can be safely measured. Another is that it can measure small objects close-up or large objects at a distance, simply by changing lenses."

DSL projects a rotating pattern of light and shadow onto an object and records the image on video, then analyzes the way the shadows move over the surface to detect imperfections to within one thousandth of an inch. Using different lenses, it can measure scratches on a coin or hail damage on an airplane flap.

In 2003, NASA used the patent-pending DSL system to measure damage to heat-resistant tiles from impacts by insulating foam during tests following the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.

Co-inventors are Principal Scientist Dr. Michael J. Magee and Senior Research Engineer Dr. Michael P. Rigney, both of the Automation and Data Systems Division; and Research Engineer Joseph N. Mitchell of the Applied Physics Division.

SwRI's other R&D 100 Award for 2004 was for RAPTOR®, a software simulation program for virtual vehicle systems. In all, SwRI has won 28 R&D 100 awards since 1971.

The awards are to be presented in Chicago in October. 

For more information contact Robert Crowe, Communications Department, at (210) 522-4630, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.