Automated Inspection System to Assist USGA Golf Club Compliances
Much more than just "a gentleman's game", golf has played a significant role in American history. The sport enjoys millions of fans, many of whom are players themselves. Yet to the USGA and the manufacturers of golf equipment, the sport is big business. Products sales are a very lucrative industry as amateurs and professionals seek to improve by even one stroke. At the same time, the rules of the game are closely regulated including specifications on balls and clubs that require precision, quality, and continuous innovation while staying within the rules. Along the way it's important to validate what they actually produce is in conformance with the specifications.
Cyth are located near several of the major name brand golf manufacturers and have had the chance to work with through their shared similar technical challenges and goals. While discussing with one manufacturer how they currently validate their club's dimensions, the manufacturer elaborated their desire to move beyond their current slow random sampling process and move to a twenty-first century inspection of every club. Manufacturers need to assure the club head is the correct size, shape, angle, and weight as stated by the USGA. With the help of an engineer the team believed this process could be automated with a laser measurement.
Cyth Systems designed and developed a standardized system that would scan the head of a golf club and output important information such as size, shape, face angle, volume, and if there were any imperfections (i.e. scratches or dents). This laser profilometer, provided by one of Cyth's partners, would scan a certain part of the club head depending on the desired information and check if it's in conformance with the USGA's specifications. If the application wanted a full club head scan the system needed to be able to stitch that information together seamlessly. Beyond that, some aspects of the club's geometry are so steep that the system needed to scan at a certain angle, then change the angle by 90 degrees and scan in the other direction. Once all the data was recombined together a profile was created and the desired calculations could be executed.
The solution is a standardized system based on the Keyence LJV laser scanner. Many attempts have been made in the past to achieve such results with previous lasers with different measurements strategies, mostly in the red wavelengths, with little success. The new blue laser finds the finish and sheen of the clubs more cooperative. Depending on the measurement needed, the laser can be situated and moved to measure with the precision and resolution required by the specifications. So from start to finish the operator would put the club in the system, scans the barcode, hits start, and at the end of the process the operator receives a warning stating whether or not the club head is conforming or nonconforming along with a corresponding report.
The most challenging component of the project was Cyth's custom stitching algorithm. Specifically how to stitch data from multiple scans from different directions and orientations correctly. Bar none, the laser was the most important component of the system. When Cyth first began the project the laser was red. But after a few months a new laser hit the market with better specifications. That laser's color was blue and it provided Cyth with the level of detail required for the club head scanning. In addition to the improved laser, there were rotary and linear stage motors that were used to physically move the club and rotate the angle of the laser that was facing the club head. This was all controlled and driven by the software written by Cyth in LabVIEW.
Overall, Cyth quoted the correct amount of labor and budget. The client was extremely happy with the performance of their system and they're now able to execute the same tasks in a fraction of the time thus increasing their production and saving them money. Not only that, this automated inspection system has the potential to be used by the USGA to enforce the rules of the game. Cyth is always here to help, and it's encouraging to see such great success in a wide variety of industries including in "a gentleman's game".