Virtual Inspections: Fast and Intuitive Inspections of Manufactured Parts in Virtual Reality

Haichao Miao | 22-FS-026

Project Overview

Advanced manufacturing, such as additive manufacturing, enable the fabrication of increasingly complex objects for a wide range of mission-critical applications. This complexity makes inspection one of the main bottlenecks in certifying a part. Given the current limitations of 2D screen-based methods that are fundamentally not adapted to 3D parts, modern virtual reality (VR) headsets have the potential to overcome these limitations by providing a natural and intuitive way to inspect parts in an immersive virtual environment. However, since VR is still a niche hardware, it is difficult to justify large investments in commissioning this technology for nondestructive evaluation of additively manufactured parts and funding research and development. This feasibility study aims to engage relevant stakeholders and explore application areas at LLNL that will benefit from this novel technology. We developed proof-of-concept virtual environments, conducted in-person demonstrations, and conducted interviews with stakeholders in the fields of nondestructive testing, additive manufacturing diagnostics, and general materials science. As a result of these efforts, we gained valuable insights into specific use cases that could benefit from this novel technology, general user sentiment, key challenges to using VR technology at LLNL, and lessons learned from user demonstrations.

The first very important use case is the use of intuitive interactions in VR to approximate a nominal (e.g., parametric model or CAD model) to actual (X-ray CT scan) alignment. For truss structures, this approximate alignment can then be further optimized algorithmically to extract features from the CT scan and analyze parts for defects based on deviations. Development of this use case will continue with programmatic funding in FY23. Another identified use case is to create a collaborative virtual environment for part and process level digital twin inspection to link defects in a part to an event in a process. This use case is being pursued as part of the funded LDRD SI "Virtual Inspection of AM via Process-Scale Digital Twins."

Mission Impact

Advanced manufacturing is one of the core components of LLNL's strategic vision. VR technology represents a rapidly maturing opportunity to improve inspection and consequently certification of parts with novel mechanical and thermal properties, with the potential for significant cost and time savings. Through this feasibility study, we have built internal expertise and gained a valuable understanding of use cases that contribute to our core competencies. Efforts under this FS resulted in ongoing programmatic and LDRD funding to develop scientific and technological tools to enhance our advancing manufacturing capabilities.

Publications, Presentations, and Patents

Miao, H., 2021. "Virtual Inspections: Visualization and Analysis of Complex Parts in Virtual Reality." Center for Advanced Signal and Image Sciences (CASIS) 25th Annual Workshop, Livermore, CA. August 2021.