A novel complete-surface-finding-algorithm for online surface scanning with limited view sensors

Poole, Alastair and Sutcliffe, Mark and Pierce, Gareth and Gachagan, Anthony (2021) A novel complete-surface-finding-algorithm for online surface scanning with limited view sensors. Sensors, 21 (22). 7692. ISSN 1424-8220 (https://doi.org/10.3390/s21227692)

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Robotised Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) has revolutionised the field, increasing the speed of repetitive scanning procedures and ability to reach hazardous environments. Application of robot-assisted NDT within specific industries such as remanufacturing and Aersopace, in which parts are regularly moulded and susceptible to non-critical deformation has however presented drawbacks. In these cases, digital models for robotic path planning are not always available or accurate. Cutting edge methods to counter the limited flexibility of robots require an initial pre-scan using camera-based systems in order to build a CAD model for path planning. This paper has sought to create a novel algorithm that enables robot-assisted ultrasonic testing of unknown surfaces within a single pass. Key to the impact of this article is the enabled autonomous profiling with sensors whose aperture is several orders of magnitude smaller than the target surface, for surfaces of any scale. Potential applications of the algorithm presented include autonomous drone and crawler inspections of large, complex, unknown environments in addition to situations where traditional metrological profiling equipment is not practical, such as in confined spaces. In simulation, the proposed algorithm has completely mapped significantly curved and complex shapes by utilising only local information, outputting a traditional raster pattern when curvature is present only in a single direction. In practical demonstrations, both curved and non-simple surfaces were fully mapped with no required operator intervention. The core limitations of the algorithm in practical cases is the effective range of the applied sensor, and as a stand-alone method it lacks the required knowledge of the environment to prevent collisions. However, since the approach has met success in fully scanning non-obstructive but still significantly complex surfaces, the objectives of this paper have been met. Future work will focus on low-accuracy environmental sensing capabilities to tackle the challenges faced. The method has been designed to allow single-pass scans for Conformable Wedge Probe UT scanning, but may be applied to any surface scans in the case the sensor aperture is significantly smaller than the part.