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Profiler shapes up to probe oil pipes

13 Feb 2003

By the end of the month, a UK start-up will deliver a laser profiler to measure the internal shape of offshore oil pipes.

A spin-off from City University, London has just received its first order for a laser profiler that measures the internal shape of pipes. The device, which is the brainchild of the Optical Metrology Centre (OMC), will be delivered by the end of month and used in the offshore oil industry for measuring steel pipes.

OMC director Tim Clarke says the instrument is likely to find many other uses. "The instrument will measure any surface from a plastic to a concrete pipe," he told Optics.org. "But you could equally use it to measure the shape of moulds. If you make something in a particular shape, you could use this as part of a quality control procedure, it doesn't have to be circular."

The device uses an optical triangulation distance-measuring sensor. Clarke believes that there are no other system based on this technique currently on the market. He adds that although other systems based on different techniques are commercially available, none of these have the accuracy of the OMC deveice.

The device head contains a rotating diode laser that fires a beam of 635nm light at the wall of the structure and a linear CCD sensor analyzes the reflection. "The sensor is capable of making 1000 measurements per second. As the head rotates, the user can collect measurements as often as they need to make a profile," Clarke said. A typical profile usually consists of 500 - 2000 measurements and takes about three seconds to acquire.

OMC's first product can collect data from structures with diameters between 150 and 500 mm with an accuracy up to 0.1 mm. Clarke says the device is more accurate for surfaces that are closer to the profiler. The device also takes variations in surface color into account automatically.

The company was founded in 2001 and specialises in non-contact metrology. Clarke's device also won the Metrology for World-Class Manufacturing award in 1997, awarded annually by NPL, UK.

Author
Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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