Swedish-Swiss tech corporation ABB has acquired Spanish 3D scanning and metrology equipment producers NUB3D. The acquisition of the 3D scanning enterprise will ensure that ABB are prepared for a “smart future” where 3D scanners read and collect data from components and machines in operation.

A connected future in the Internet of Things

In a Smart Factory, data from 3D scanners is stored in a collective Cloud – a wireless and internet based archive of information. Storing information in this way enhances connectivity across all areas of a business, and makes the information readily accessible when required.

The Internet of Thing loop. Image via Celent

The Internet of Things loop. Image via Celent

Devices require an internet connection to keep a record of this data in the Cloud, otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT). ABB pride themselves on an ability to provide these connected solutions to their clients, and have already installed 70 million connected devices to their worldwide customer base as part of the ABB Ability service.

ABB Ability

ABB Ability installs advanced manufacturing equipment including robotic arms and sensors within company’s existing manufacturing process to improve production output and connectivity. For this ABB contribute everything from advice and software, to the hardware used to achieve such goals.

ABB smart sensors can be installed onto existing low-voltage motors to collect data about their output. Image via: ABB Ability

ABB smart sensors can be installed onto existing low-voltage motors to collect data about their output. Image via: ABB Ability

In the case of 3D scanners, manufacturers may be looking for a more precise and effective way of quality control in their products, or a way to transform their design process through 3D scanning and CAD. This is where NUB3D adds expertise and value to ABB. Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics and Motion division, explains,

With this acquisition we are moving a step closer to the factory of the future. As our customers’ automation processes become more advanced and production cycles shorten, the ability to efficiently automate quality inspections becomes a compelling competitive advantage.

White-light 3D scanning

NUB3D’s 3D scanners are based on white light technology that provides high-definition detail of the surface of an object on a macroscopic to micrometer scale. By comparison, structured-light 3D scanners, such as Open Technologies’ Scan in a Box platform, are for capturing the 3D shape of an object, rather than inspecting its surface.

NUB3D 3D scanners are now integrated into robotic arms from ABB as the FlexInspect and InspectPack systems. Both robot 3D scanner arms are used for automatic inspection of manufactured components.

Demonstration of automated inspection by a robotic NUB3D 3D scanner. Clip via NUB3D on YouTube

Such scrutiny is essential to metal additive manufacturers producing components for critical applications such as energy generation or aerospace. By scanning with white light, the NUB3D 3D scanners can detect imperfections in a product and also create a draft 3D mesh of the object for reiteration in CAD. This 3D mesh may also be used for reverse engineering.

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Featured image shows the “sentient” Mimus robotic ABB arm that interacts with humans. Art installation by Madeline Gannon Photo via atonaton.com

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