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Surface fitting taking into account uncertainty structure in coordinate data

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2006 Meas. Sci. Technol. 17 553
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INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS PUBLISHING MEASUREMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Meas. Sci. Technol. 17 (2006) 553558 doi:10.1088/0957-0233/17/3/S16
Surface tting taking into account
uncertainty structure in coordinate data
Alistair Forbes
National Physical Laboratory, Hampton Road, Teddington, TW11 0LW, UK
E-mail: alistair.forbes@npl.co.uk
Received 1 July 2005, in nal form 30 September 2005
Published 31 January 2006
Online at stacks.iop.org/MST/17/553
Abstract
Standard least squares algorithms for nding the best-t geometric surface
to coordinate data implicitly assume that the uncertainties associated with
the coordinates are uncorrelated and axis-isotropic, i.e., the uncertainties
associated with the x-, y- and z-coordinates are equal (but can vary from
point to point). Very few coordinate measuring systems have such
uncertainty characteristics but, in the absence of quantitative information
about the true uncertainty structure, these assumptions can be justied.
However, more effort is now being applied to evaluate the uncertainties
associated with coordinate measuring systems and the question arises of
how best to use this extra information, for example in surface tting. This
paper describes algorithms for tting geometric surfaces to coordinate data
with general uncertainty structure and shows how these algorithms can be
implemented efciently for a class of uncertainty matrices that arise in many
practical systems. The tting algorithms are illustrated on data simulating
laser tracker and coordinate measuring machine measurements.
Keywords: coordinate metrology, form assessment, coordinate measuring
machine (CMM), laser tracker, uncertainty evaluation, GaussMarkov
regression, dimensional metrology, industrial inspection
1. Introduction
This paper is concerned with tting parametric surfaces to
measurement data gathered by a coordinate measurement
system. Let s(u, b) be a parametric surface in R
3
. The
footpoint parameters u = (u, v)
T
specify a point on the
surface and b = (b
1
, . . . , b
n
)
T
are the surface parameters
determining the shape and position of the surface. Suppose
that x
i
= (x
i
, y
i
, z
i
)
T
are the measured coordinates of data
points x

i
lying on the surface specied by parameters b

so that x

i
= s(u

i
, b

), for some u

i
, i = 1, . . . , m. We
discuss below how to obtain estimates of b

from x
i
taking
into account the random effects present in the measured data.
In section 2, we show how uncertainties associated with the
sensor measurements of a coordinate measuring systemcan be
propagated through to an uncertainty matrix associated with
the evaluated point coordinates. In section 3, we describe
algorithms for tting surfaces to coordinate data that reect
the uncertainty structure. Using a natural factorization of
the uncertainty matrix, we are able to dene algorithms that
require a number of computational steps proportional to the
number of data points. Numerical examples in section 4
show that uncertainties associated with the evaluated best-t
parameters depend on the uncertainty matrix associated with
the coordinate data and that simplifying assumptions can lead
to invalid uncertainty estimates. Our concluding remarks are
given in section 5.
2. Uncertainty matrix associated with
coordinate data
Suppose

is a 3m 1 vector of coordinates {x

i
} and
suppose represents measurements {x
i
} of

. The random
effects present in the measurements can usually be modelled
as multivariate Gaussian noise so that can be regarded
as a sample from N(

, U

) where U

is the 3m 3m
uncertainty (variancecovariance) matrix associated with the
distribution. The uncertainty matrix U

summarizes the
information required to evaluate uncertainties from quantities
0957-0233/06/030553+06$30.00 2006 IOP Publishing Ltd Printed in the UK 553
A Forbes
derived from the point set. If b() is a 1 function of and
G =

b is the p 3m matrix of partial derivatives of b


with respect to , then the uncertainty matrix U
b
associated
with the value of b is estimated by U
b
= GU

G
T
[1]. In
particular, given a tting procedure to determine a best-t
surface s(u, b) to , the uncertainty matrix U

can be used to
evaluate the uncertainty matrix U
b
associated with the tted
surface parameters b.
2.1. Example: scale and squareness model for a
conventional coordinate measuring machine
A conventional coordinate measuring machine (CMM)
provides estimates of point coordinates from scale
measurements along three nominally orthogonal axes. Non-
ideal motion of the probe system along the three axes
can be described by a kinematic model relating to scale,
squareness, straightness, roll, pitch and yaw. Various
calibration strategies can be implemented to determine and
correct for these kinematic errors [26]. However, the
kinematic errors are determined from measurements and
therefore have uncertainties that contribute to the uncertainties
associated with the corrected coordinate values. For example,
the contribution of scale and squareness errors can be modelled
as
x
i
= Sx

i
+
i
, S =
_
_
1 +
xx

xy

xz
0 1 +
yy

yz
0 0 1 +
zz
_
_
, (1)
where x

i
is the true data point, x
i
the measured coordinates
and
xx
N
_
0,
2
xx
_
, etc, represent uncertainty associated
with the corrected scale and squareness errors, and
i

N(0,
2
I) represents random effects associated with the
sensor measurements for the ith data point. Writing =
(
xx
,
yy
,
zz
,
xy
,
xz
,
yz
)
T
, (1) denes x
i
= x
i
(
i
, ) as a
function of
i
and . If G
i
and G
0,i
are the derivatives of
x
i
with respect to
i
and , then the uncertainty matrix U

associated with is given by


U

= GD
2
G
T
, G =
_
_
_
G
1
G
0,1
.
.
.
.
.
.
G
m
G
0,m
_

_,
D =
_
_
_
_
_
D
1
.
.
.
D
m
D
0
_

_
, (2)
where D
i
is the 3 3 diagonal matrix with on the diagonal
and D
0
is the 6 6 diagonal matrix with diagonal elements
(
xx
,
yy
,
zz
,
xy
,
xz
,
yz
). The fact that each x
i
depends on
means that U

is a full matrix with potentially signicant


correlation amongst all the coordinate values. (For this
model, x
i
is correlated with x
j
and similarly for the y- and
z-coordinates but x
i
, y
i
and z
i
are mutually independent.)
For this example, U

is specied by and the seven


statistical parameters = (,
xx
,
yy
,
zz
,
xy
,
xz
,
yz
)
T
. In
a more comprehensive model, could represent the residual
uncertainty associated with a self-calibration of the kinematic
CMM errors and in this case the uncertainty matrix D
0
is
likely to be a full matrix, reecting correlation between tted
parametric error parameters. In the discussion of algorithms
below, there is no requirement for the matrix D
0
(or indeed
D
i
) to be diagonal.
2.2. Example: the uncertainty matrix associated with
laser tracker measurements
A laser tracker uses laser interferometric transducers to
measure radial displacement and angle encoders to measure
azimuth and elevation angles, from which the location x of a
target is estimated. Recall that given a point p = (r, , )
T
dened in spherical coordinates by radius r, azimuth angle
and elevation angle , the corresponding Cartesian coordinates
x = (x, y, z)
T
are given by
(x, y, z) = (r cos cos , r sin cos , r sin ). (3)
A calibration procedure is required to estimate the laser
deadpath from which the displacement measurements can be
converted to radial distances. In order to convert optical
distances to geometric distances, an estimate of the bulk
refractive index of the air is required. Uncertainties associated
with the sensor measurements will propagate through to
uncertainties associated with the location of the target.
Let p

i
= (r

i
,

i
,

i
)
T
be the true spherical coordinates
associated with a target and p
i
= (r
i
,
i
,
i
)
T
the estimate
of p

i
determined from measurements, i = 1, . . . , m. The
sources of uncertainty associated with p
i
can be modelled as
follows. For the radial distance,
r

i
= l

0
+ l

i
, r
i
= (1 +
0
)(l
0
+ l
i
),
l
0
= l

0
+
0
, l
i
= l

i
+
i
,
where l

0
is the true deadpath, l

i
is the true displacement,
and
0
,
0
and
i
represent random effects, and are modelled
as samples from normal distributions:
0
N
_
0,
2
1
_
,
0

N
_
0,
2
2
_
and
i
N
_
0,
2
5
+(
6
r

i
)
2
_
. The term
0
represents
the uncertainty contribution arising from the measurement of
the refractive index of the air. The uncertainty associated with
displacement l
i
has an absolute component with a dispersion
represented by
5
, and a component proportional to the true
radial distance quantied by
6
. For the azimuth and elevation
angle measurements,

i
=

i
+
0
+
i
,
0
N
_
0,
2
3
_
,
i
N
_
0,
2
7
_
,

i
=

i
+
0
+
i
,
0
N
_
0,
2
4
_
,
i
N
_
0,
2
8
_
.
Along with (3), these equations dene x
i
= x
i
(
i
, ) as
functions of
i
= (
i
,
i
,
i
)
T
, and = (
0
,
0
,
0
,
0
)
T
.
As for the case above, the uncertainty matrix U

associated
with measurements is constructed exactly as in (2) using
the appropriate derivative and uncertainty matrices associated
with
i
and . It depends on and the eight statistical
parameters = (
1
, . . . ,
8
)
T
. In practice, the uncertainty
associated with the laser deadpath l
0
is often very signicant
so that the correlation is substantial and inferences based on
an assumption of independence are likely to be unreliable.
3. Fitting surfaces to coordinate data
Let represent measurements of

, a 3m 1 vector of
coordinates of points {x

i
} lying on a surface s(u, b) so that
x

i
= s(u

i
, b

), and U

the associated uncertainty matrix. If U

is nonsingular, setting a to be the 2m+ n vector of parameters


554
Surface tting taking into account uncertainty structure in coordinate data
u
i
and b (and dening a

similarly), then maximum likelihood


estimates a of a

are given by the solution of


min
a
f
T
(a)(U

)
1
f(a), (4)
where f(a) is the 3m1 vector of residuals x
i
s(u
i
, b) [7].
If J
a
is the 3m (2m + n) Jacobian matrix of derivatives
of f with respect to a evaluated at the solution then the
uncertainty matrix associated with the tted parameters is
given by U
a
=
_
J
a
U
1

J
T
a
_
1
and a can be regarded as a
sample from the multivariate Gaussian N(a

, U
a
). If L

is the
Cholesky factor [8] of U

= L

L
T

, (4) is equivalent to the


nonlinear least squares problem
min
a

f
T
(a)

f(a),

f(a) = L
1

f(a),
and can be solved using standard nonlinear least squares
algorithms [9]. Alternatively, if U

= BB
T
can be factorized
in terms of B (B need not be the Cholesky factor nor need it be
square) then (4) is equivalent to
min
a

T
subject to f(a) = B. (5)
This formulation has the advantage of not requiring the
calculation of a matrix inverse, but has the disadvantage
of being a constrained optimization problem. For either
formulation, the presence of the 2m footpoint parameters u
i
means that such algorithms require O(m
3
) computational steps
which could be problematic for a large number of data points.
3.1. Generalized distance regression
If there is no correlation between the ith and jth measurements
x
i
and x
j
, i = j, so that U

is a banded matrix with 3 3


matrices U
i
= B
i
B
T
i
along its diagonal, (4) can be written as
min
a
m

i=1
f
T
i
(a)U
1
i
f
i
(a), f
i
(a) = x
i
s(u
i
, b). (6)
We can solve this problem efciently using a separation of
variables approach [10, 11]. Let M
i
= U
1
i
and suppose
u

i
= u

i
(b) solves the ith footpoint problem
min
u
i
(x
i
s(u
i
, b))
T
M
i
(x
i
s(u
i
, b)). (7)
Setting
d
2
i
(b) = (x
i
s

i
(b))
T
M
i
(x
i
s

i
(b)),
s

i
(b) = s(u

i
(b), b),
(8)
a function of b, the values of b which solve (6) are the same
as those that solve
min
b
m

i=1
d
2
i
(b). (9)
In order to apply standard nonlinear least squares software to
solve (9), we need to be able to calculate the partial derivatives
d
i
/b
j
, which at rst sight involves the calculation of
u

i
/b
j
. However, the conditions that u

i
is a solution of
(7) imply that
_
s
u
_
T
M
i
(x
i
s

i
) = 0,
_
s
v
_
T
M
i
(x
i
s

i
) = 0,
showing that M
i
(x
i
s

i
) is orthogonal to the surface at s

i
=
s

i
(b) (since it is orthogonal to the two tangent vectors s/u
and s/v which are assumed to be linearly independent).
Differentiating d
2
i
(b) in (8) with respect to b
j
we have
2d
i
d
i
b
j
= 2
_
s
b
j
+
_
u

i
b
j
_
s
u
+
_
v

i
b
j
_
s
v
_
T
M
i
(x
i
s

i
),
and since s/u and s/v are orthogonal to M
i
(x
i
s

i
), we
see that
d
i
b
j
=
1
d
i
_
s
b
j
_
T
M
i
(x
i
s

i
), j = 1, . . . , n,
and involves only the partial derivatives of s with respect to b
j
.
This formula for the derivatives is not well dened if d
i
= 0.
To cover this case, let n
i
be any non-zero vector orthogonal to
the surface at s

i
, for example n
i
= (s
i
/u)(s
i
/v). It is
straightforward to check that
d
i
(b) =
1
w
i
n
T
i
(x
i
s

i
),
d
i
b
j
=
1
w
i
n
T
i
_
s
b
j
_
,
where
w
i
=
_
n
T
i
U
i
n
i
_
1/2
. (10)
Note that these formulae for d
i
and its derivatives involve
U
i
(to calculate w
i
), not its inverse. Using the factorization
U
i
= B
i
B
T
i
, the optimal footpoint parameters u

i
solve
min
u
i

T
i

i
subject to x
i
= s(u
i
, b) + B
i

i
, (11)
again, avoiding the calculation of the inverse of U
i
. Formulae
(10) hold even if U
i
is singular.
Using the approach described above, (4) can be posed as
the nonlinear least squares problem (9) in which each function
and its gradient is calculated as in (10), with all quantities
evaluated at the solution u

i
of the appropriate footpoint
problem (7) or, alternatively, (11). Using this approach the
surface t can be performed in O(m) steps.
Software implementing this approach requires a user-
supplied component to calculate s(u, b) and its derivatives with
respect to u, v and b. We regard d
i
as the generalized distance
from the data point x
i
to the surface s(u, b). If U
i
=
2
i
I,
indicating that there is no correlation between the coordinate
values, d
i
is the orthogonal distance from the data point x
i
to
the surface. For standard geometric elements such as spheres
and cylinders, such distances can be calculated explicitly
in terms of the parameters b [12]. Standard optimization
techniques can be tailored to provide efcient and stable
solutions to the footpoint problem. Solution approaches for
the problem posed as in (7) are considered in [13].
An alternative to using a separation of variables approach
to solve (4) is to optimize with respect to b and {u
i
}
simultaneously but to exploit the block-angular structure [14]
in the Jacobian matrix of partial derivatives [1518]. The
separation of variables approach has wider application in
that it is not necessary for the uncertainty matrices U
i
to be
nonsingular. It is also more stable numerically for uncertainty
matrices that are close to singular.
555
A Forbes
Table 1. Uncertainties, in micrometres, associated with CMM measurements of two sets of four points x
i
, i = 1, 2, 3, 4, and estimates of
the best-t circle parameters b.
A, r
0
= 100 mm B, r
0
= 200 mm
u(x
1
) u(x
2
) u(x
3
) u(x
4
) u(b) u(x
1
) u(x
2
) u(x
3
) u(x
4
) u(b) u
0
(b)
3.3 4.8 4.0 4.0 3.5 2.6 5.6 4.0 4.0 3.2 2.1
2.0 2.0 2.1 2.1 1.4 2.0 2.0 2.4 2.4 1.4 2.1
2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.1 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.5 1.5
3.2. Surface tting for structured uncertainty matrices
We have seen above that uncertainty matrices U

are often full


with signicant correlation amongst all coordinate values so
that generalized distance regression cannot be applied directly.
However, if the uncertainty matrix has the factored structure
as in (2), setting
_
_
_
_
_

1
.
.
.

_
= ,
B = GD =
_
_
_
G
1
D
1
G
0,1
D
0
.
.
.
.
.
.
G
m
D
m
G
0,m
D
0
_

_.
the surface tting problem (4) can be posed as the constrained
optimization (5) which in this case is equivalent to
min
{u
i
},b,
_

T
+
m

i=1

T
i

i
_
subject to
x
i
= s(u
i
, b) + G
0,i
D
0
+ G
i
D
i

i
, i = 1, . . . , m. (12)
Holding b and xed, it is seen that optimal
i
must solve
the footpoint problem (11) with B
i
= G
i
D
i
but for the surface
s
i
(u, b, ) = s(u, b)+G
0,i
D
0
. Following the same approach
as in section 3.1, we dene the generalized distance d
i
(b, )
as a function of b and evaluated at the solution of the ith
footpoint. Then (12) is equivalent to
min
b,
_

T
+
m

i=1
d
2
i
(b, )
_
,
and can be solved using standard nonlinear least squares
algorithms. This results in an O(m) algorithm. By introducing
the parameters explicitly into the optimization problem to
explain the correlation in the point coordinates, a much more
efcient algorithm is made possible. The key to exploiting the
structure in the uncertainty matrix is to use the factorization
(2) which arises naturally in the problem formulation, rather
than the Cholesky factorization in which all the structure is
irretrievably lost.
4. Numerical examples: circle tting
4.1. CMM measurement data
Section 2.1 showed how uncertainties associated with scale
and squareness errors of a conventional CMM, specied in
terms of seven statistical parameters, propagated through to
an uncertainty matrix U

associated with a set of measured


coordinates . We consider the measurement of two sets of
four points representing circles nominally lying in the xy-
plane centred at (400, 0, 0)
T
with radii (A) 100 mm and (B)
200 mm. For dataset A the point coordinates, in mm, are
x
1
= (300, 0, 0)
T
, x
2
= (500, 0, 0)
T
, x
3
= (400, 100, 0)
T
and
x
4
= (400, 100, 0)
T
, while for B, x
1
= (200, 0, 0)
T
, x
2
=
(600, 0, 0)
T
, x
3
= (400, 200, 0)
T
and x
4
= (400, 200, 0)
T
.
We simulate measurements using a CMM with statistical
parameters = 0.002 mm, and
xx
= =
yz
= 5
10
6
mm
1
representing a scale uncertainty of 0.005 mm over
1000 mm, for example.
Table 1 shows the uncertainties, in micrometres,
associated with measurements of the two sets of four points
x
i
, i = 1, 2, 3, 4, and estimates of the best-t circle parameters
b = (x
0
, y
0
, r
0
)
T
(centre coordinates and radius) determined
using the uncertainty matrix U

propagated according to the


model for the scale and squareness errors. The uncertainty
associated with r
0
for the larger circle is 0.0015 mm,
compared with 0.0011 mm for the smaller circle, reecting
the contribution of the uncertainties associated with the scale
errors. The uncertainty associated with x
0
is larger for the
smaller circle; this is because x
1
is closer to the origin for the
larger circle and provides a better anchor for the position of
the circle along the x-axis. The uncertainties associated with
y
0
are the same, even although the uncertainties associated
with the y-coordinates of the larger circle are bigger. This
is due to the greater contribution of the scale and squareness
uncertainties which affect the shape of the circle but not its
position in the y-direction. (Separating uncertainty associated
with shape from that associated with position is discussed
in [19].)
The last column gives the uncertainties associated with b
using the uncertainty matrix U
0
=
2
0
I with
0
= 0.003 mm,
corresponding to an assumption that the measurements of
the coordinates are uncorrelated and have an associated
uncertainty
0
. This simple model treats both datasets the
same and fails to reect the contribution of scale uncertainty,
for example.
4.2. Laser tracker measurement data
We consider the laser tracker measurement of two sets, A and
B, of four points nominally lying on a circle of radius 2000 mm
in the xy-plane. The uncertainties associated with the
sensor measurements, specied in terms of eight statistical
parameters are propagated through to a full uncertainty
matrix U

associated with a set of measured coordinates


, as described in section 2.2. Dataset A has coordinates,
in mm, x
1
= (2000, 0, 0)
T
, x
2
= (6000, 0, 0)
T
, x
3
=
(4000, 2000, 0)
T
and x
4
= (4000, 2000, 0)
T
while B is
556
Surface tting taking into account uncertainty structure in coordinate data
Table 2. Uncertainties, in micrometres, associated with laser tracker measurements of two sets of four points x
i
, i = 1, 2, 3, 4, and estimates
of the best-t circle parameters b.
A B
u(x
1
) u(x
2
) u(x
3
) u(x
4
) u(b) u(x
1
) u(x
2
) u(x
3
) u(x
4
) u(b) u
0
(b)
21 22 34 34 20 27 29 27 29 26 21
27 82 56 56 48 37 74 37 74 43 21
27 82 61 61 5 40 77 40 77 15 15
the same as A but with the points rotated 45

about the
axis x = 4000, y = 0. We simulate measurements using
a laser tracker located at (0, 0, 0)
T
with statistical parameters
representing a reasonably realistic scenario:
1
=
6
=
10
6
mm mm
1
,
2
= 0.020 mm,
3
=
4
=
7
=
8
=
2.0 arcseconds,
5
= 0.005 mm. Uncertainties, in
micrometres, associated with measurements of two sets of
four points x
i
, i = 1, 2, 3, 4, and estimates of the best-t circle
parameters b are determined using the uncertainty matrix U

determined by the model for the laser tracker, see table 2. For
dataset A, the uncertainty in the radius is 0.005 mm while for
B it is 0.015 mm. The difference is due to the fact that for
dataset A, data points 1 and 2 are in line with a radial measuring
line and the relatively accurate interferometric displacement
measurement determines an accurate estimate of the diameter.
For dataset B, there is no such favourable alignment. The
last column gives the uncertainties associated with b using the
uncertainty matrix U
0
=
2
0
I with
0
= 0.030 mm. This
approximate model fails to take into account the signicantly
anisotropic characteristics of the measuring instrument.
5. Concluding remarks
We have shown how models of coordinate measuring systems
such as CMMs and laser trackers lead to uncertainty
matrices associated with the measured coordinates that are
generally full but have an underlying structure that reects
how the uncertainties associated with the individual sensor
measurements are propagated through to the coordinate values.
Using a separation of variables approach, this structure can
be exploited to dene efcient algorithms to t surfaces to
data that take full account of the uncertainty information.
As a result, the evaluated uncertainties associated with
the tted surfaces reect more faithfully the uncertainties
associated with the measurement data, and enable more
reliable inferences about the artefact being measured to
be made. In particular, uncertainties due to systematic
effects that apply to all the measurements are automatically
incorporated into the uncertainties associated with the tted
parameters and there is no need to account for themas separate
components in an uncertainty budget. For standard geometric
elements such as spheres and cylinders these algorithms
require optimization techniques to nd the optimal footpoints
whereas for orthogonal distance regression (ODR), these
footpoints can be calculated explicitly. For more general
parametric surfaces such as parametric splines or NURBS
[20, 21], the determination of the footpoints require
optimization techniques even in the simple case of ODR so
that taking into account the uncertainty matrix involves no
signicant complication.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the UKs National Measurement
System Directorate Software Support for Metrology
programme. We are grateful to Dr Ian Smith, NPL, for
comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
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