Interview: Leica Absolute Tracker ATS600 speeds up sailboat inspection, reverse engineering and flow analysis for WL3 Solutions

Combining cutting-edge technology with hands-on experience, WL3 Solutions provides applications solutions for 3D challenges across marine, aerospace, manufacturing and construction industries. We sat down with Will Austin, Managing Member, to discuss how they recently utilized the speed, scale and portability of the Leica Absolute Tracker ATS600 to reverse engineer the hull form of a racing sailboat.

Kyle Pheland: Will, can you tell us the vision of WL3 Solutions and how it came about?

Will Austin: WL3 Solutions was formed to provide solutions to 3D challenges. We create our solutions by using cutting-edge technology and our hands-on industry experience.

KP: What factors led to you choosing Hexagon as a technology provider?

WA: Hexagon provides WL3 with technology that is not only cutting-edge, but reliable and well-supported.

KP: Your team recently visited Hinckley Service Yard in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, generating a lot of buzz on social media. Why were you there?

WA: Our visit was to accurately capture the hull form of a performance sailing vessel with the Leica Absolute Tracker ATS600. The measurements were used to create an accurate as-built CAD model to be used for dimensional analysis and computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

KP: How important is the hull shape and accuracy for performance sailing vessels?

WA: The shape of the hull determines the flow of water across its surfaces and can affect the drag and resistance against the water. You must think of this like wings, just under the water. This is especially true regarding the keel and daggerboards with their flow dynamics acting against water rather than air. There is a delicate balance between all the forces at play when designing a racing sailboat like this. Too much drag can slow the boat down, but not enough can make it hard to handle.

A classic thought in the marine industry is this: ‘It is just a boat and if you are good to a 1/4 we are happy’. That is very untrue in the racing industry as a whole and more so with modern composites, CNC, modular construction and simulation software. Precision matters and the ability to precisely measure the resulting forms and perform accurate flow dynamics on the real form – not just the design intent – is enormous. That is why we rely on Hexagon technology.

KP: The Leica Absolute Tracker ATS600 seems to be fairly new to your fleet. How did the technology of this new solution improve upon your previous scanning processes? How have the results improved?

WA: The ATS600 allows us to essentially combine two instruments into one. Now we can perform the precision reflector-based measurement for discrete features and then switch operations to non-contact scanning. This allows us to capture medium-to-large-sized objects with precision and have real-time feedback. This live feedback also allows us to point or aim the laser to a surface or detail on the sailboat and see how far it deviates from our design intent, and adjust without having to carry a spherically mounted retroflector (SMR) to the spot. This makes the process so much faster for stability or alignment activities. We can literally measure places where it would be difficult to get an SMR into place or even trying to hold it steady, not to mention places where it would be dangerous to put a person.

KP: What other projects do you have in mind with ATS600?

WA: The ATS600 complements our entire business, not just our marine work. We plan to use this heavily in the aerospace industry segments and industrial construction. The applications are endless, and we cannot wait for our next project with this system. It is truly a game-changer.

KP: How do Hexagon technologies help you to ‘Make it Smarter’?

WA: Like I said before, we can now measure things we have never been able to measure before. That alone makes us as an organization, the system and our customers smarter. To be able to keep people safer and not place them in potentially compromising positions when trying to get the SMR attached to something that is difficult to safely reach, that is making it smarter for WL3 Solutions.

Leica Absolute Tracker ATS600


  • Kyle Pheland

    Kyle Pheland is the Marketing Promotions Specialist for Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, North America. Pheland is responsible for the development and execution of marketing and advertising materials including product promotions, public relations activities, media advertising, customer communications, social media, web content, email marketing, sales tools and events for North America. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Salve Regina University.

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