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Compact system designed for high-precision, robot-based surface measurements: System poised to enable real-time, in-line 3D inspection and boost efficiency of high-tech manufacturing – Science Daily



Researchers have developed a lightweight optical system for 3D inspection of surfaces with micron-scale precision. The new measurement tool could greatly enhance quality control inspection for high-tech products including semiconductor chips, solar panels and consumer electronics such as flat panel televisions.

Because vibrations make it difficult to capture precision 3D measurements on the production line, samples are periodically taken for analysis in a lab. However, any defective products made while waiting for results must be discarded.

To create a system that could operate in the vibration-prone environment of an industrial manufacturing plant, researchers headed by Georg Schitter from Technische Universität Wien in Austria combined a compact 2D fast steering mirror with a high precision 1D confocal chromatic sensor.

“Robot-based inline inspection and measurement systems such as what we developed can enable 100% quality control in industrial production, replacing current sample-based methods,” said Ernst Csencsics, who co-led the research team with Daniel Wertjanz. “This creates a production process that is more efficient because it saves energy and resources.”

As described in The Optical Society (OSA) journal Applied Optics, the new system is designed to be mounted on tracking platform placed on a robotic arm for contactless 3D measurements of arbitrary shapes and surfaces. It weighs just 300 grams and measures 75 x 63 x 55 millimeters cubed, which is about the size of an espresso cup.

“Our system can measure 3D surface topographies with unprecedented combination of flexibility, precision, and speed,” said Wertjanz, who is pursuing a PhD on this research topic. “This creates less waste because manufacturing problems can be identified in real-time, and processes can be quickly adapted and optimized.”

From lab to fab

Precision measurements are usually performed with bulky instruments in the lab. To bring this capability to the production floor, the researchers developed a system based on a 1D confocal chromatic distance sensor developed by Micro-Epsilon, a partner on this research project. Confocal chromatic sensors can precisely measure displacement, distance and thickness using the same principles as confocal microscopes but in a much smaller package.

They combined the confocal sensor with a highly integrated fast steering mirror they previously developed that measured just 32 millimeters in diameter. They also developed a reconstruction process that uses the measurement data to create a 3D image of the sample’s surface topography. The 3D measurement system is compact enough to fit on a metrology platform, which serves as connection to a robotic arm and compensates for vibrations between sample and measurement system through active feedback control.

“By manipulating the optical path of the sensor with the fast-steering mirror, the measurement spot is scanned quickly and precisely across the surface area of interest,” said Wertjanz. “Because only the small mirror needs to be moved, the scan can be performed at high speeds without compromising precision.”

To test the new system, the researchers used various calibration standards featuring structures with defined lateral sizes and heights. These experiments demonstrated that the system can acquire measurements with a lateral of 2.5 microns and axial resolution of 76 nanometers.

“This system could eventually bring a variety of benefits to high-tech manufacturing,” said Wertjanz. “In-line measurements could enable zero-failure production processes, which are especially useful for low-volume fabrication. The information could also be used to optimize the manufacturing process and machine tools settings, which can increase overall throughput.”

The researchers are now working to implement the system on the metrology platform and incorporate it with a robotic arm. This will allow them to test the feasibility of robot-based precision 3D measurements on freeform surfaces in vibration-prone environments such as an industrial production line.

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Materials provided by The Optical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon cupola provides awe-inspiring view of the Earth from space –



Holy Molly.


Give a few seconds (or a minute or two if needed) to startle and gaze at the Earth’s scenery from the recently launched SpaceX Crew Dragon above.

on Wednesday, As part of the Inspiration4 mission, four civilians were blown up in a three-day orbital stay.Tied to the SpaceX Crew Dragon with one of the upgrades: Cupola. The transparent dome at the top of the Dragon Capsule provides the Inspiration 4 crew with the best views of the Earth that up-and-coming astronauts can dream of. This is the first time a cupola has been installed on a dragon. Dragons typically carry astronauts and cargo to the ISS, with docking ports at the top instead of windows.

A short video posted to the SpaceX Twitter account hours after the launch shows the cupola’s transparent dome against the Earth, which is a pale blue marble.

As the Crew Dragon orbits from a height of 585 kilometers (more than 360 miles), our planet is exposed to the sun and slowly roams around the orbs.

Inspiration 4’s crew (commander Jared Isaacman, doctor’s assistant, childhood cancer survivor Haley Arseno, aerospace engineer Chris Sembroski, African-American geology professor Sian Proctor) are in orbit for three days. Ride and stare at the cupola and the earth.

And did you say that the cupola is right next to the dragon’s toilet? Yeah, the view of the earth should be visible from the crew dragon’s bathroom. Isaacman told insiders Toilets are one of the few places where you can separate yourself from others with privacy curtains and have the best toilet windows of mankind. “When people inevitably have to use the bathroom, they will see one view of hell,” he said.

Astronauts who have been to space often talk about a phenomenon called the “overview effect.” Looking at the planet from above, the idea is that the way we think about the planet and the mass of humankind that depends on it will change. There may be a lot of revelation at the end of the Inspiration 4 journey, as I don’t know if they thought of it while sitting in the can.

The mission is the first mission to take off from the Florida coast on Wednesday night and be launched with four civilians. It is expected to return to Earth on Saturday and land in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX Crew Dragon cupola provides awe-inspiring view of the Earth from space Source link SpaceX Crew Dragon cupola provides awe-inspiring view of the Earth from space

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico – Al Jazeera English



Fossilised footprints dating 23,000 years push back the known date the continent was colonised by thousands of years.

Footprints dating back 23,000 years have been discovered in the United States, suggesting humans settled North America long before the end of the last Ice Age, according to researchers.

The findings announced on Thursday push back the date at which the continent was colonised by its first inhabitants by thousands of years.

The footprints were left in mud on the banks of a long-since dried up lake, which is now part of a New Mexico desert.

Sediment filled the indentations and hardened into rock, protecting evidence of our ancient relatives, and giving scientists a detailed insight into their lives.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the United States Geological Survey recently analysed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from 22,800 to 21,130 years ago.

“Many tracks appear to be those of teenagers and children; large adult footprints are less frequent,” write the authors of the study published in the American journal Science.

“One hypothesis for this is the division of labour, in which adults are involved in skilled tasks whereas ‘fetching and carrying’ are delegated to teenagers.

“Children accompany the teenagers, and collectively they leave a higher number of footprints.”

Researchers also found tracks left by mammoths, prehistoric wolves, and even giant sloths, which appear to have been approximately at the same time as the humans visited the lake.

Historic findings

The Americas were the last continent to be reached by humanity.

For decades, the most commonly accepted theory has been that settlers came to North America from eastern Siberia across a land bridge – the present-day Bering Strait.

From Alaska, they headed south to kinder climes.

Archaeological evidence, including spearheads used to kill mammoths, has long suggested a 13,500-year-old settlement associated with so-called Clovis culture – named after a town in New Mexico.

This was considered the continent’s first civilisation, and the forerunner of groups that became known as Native Americans.

However, the notion of Clovis culture has been challenged over the past 20 years, with new discoveries that have pushed back the age of the first settlements.

Generally, even this pushed-back estimate of the age of the first settlements had not been more than 16,000 years, after the end of the so-called “last glacial maximum” – the period when ice sheets were at their most widespread.

This episode, which lasted until about 20,000 years ago, is crucial because it is believed that with ice covering much of the northern parts of the continent, human migration from Asia into North America and beyond would have been very difficult.

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico – CTV News



Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more.

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than “cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils,” they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.

“What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location,” they said.

Based on the size of the footprints, researchers believe that at least some were made by children and teenagers who lived during the last ice age.

David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager, spotted the first footprints in ancient wetlands in 2009. He and others found more in the park over the years.

“We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top,” he said Thursday.

Made of fine silt and clay, the footprints are fragile, so the researchers had to work quickly to gather samples, Bustos said.

“The only way we can save them is to record them — to take a lot of photos and make 3D models,” he said.

Earlier excavations in White Sands National Park have uncovered fossilized tracks left by a saber-toothed cat, dire wolf, Columbian mammoth and other ice age animals.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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