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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 =

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

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

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

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

554

Surface tting taking into account uncertainty structure in coordinate data

u

i

and b (and dening a

estimates a of a

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

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

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

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

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

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

, 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.

References

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Uncertainty and Statistical Modelling (Teddington:

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[2] Balsamo A, Franke M, Trapet E, W aldele F, De Jonge L and

Vanherck P 1997 Results of the CIRP-EUROMET

intercomparison of ball plated-based techniques for

determining CMM parametric errors Ann. CIRP 46 4636

[3] Belforte G, Bona B, Canuto E, Donati F, Ferraris F, Gorini I,

Morei S, Peisino M and Sartori S 1987 Coordinate

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error correction Ann. CIRP 36 35964

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[9] Gill P E, Murray W and Wright M H 1981 Practical

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