Current research is attempting to develop a comprehensive understanding of the material and manufacturing characteristics that have caused splitting failures in prestressed concrete railroad ties, in contrast with those characteristics that have resulted in ties that have performed well after many years in track. As part of this effort, a three-dimensional (3D) Optical Scanning System is being used to accurately scan and quantify the surface geometry and volume (abrasion and wear) of a large sample of previously manufactured ties. A commercially-available 3D Laser-Based Optical Scanning System, having a maximum spatial resolution of approximately 0.1mm, is being used to perform the surface scanning operation. The scanning procedure ideally produces an accurate 3D CAD model of the tie geometry, which can then be analyzed to determine the desired geometrical features at any given cross-section. It can likewise yield a measure of the tie volume, the variation of which gives some direct indication of the extent of abrasion and wear.

The feasibility of the scanning system has previously been demonstrated by extracting the detailed longitudinal variation of geometrical cross-section crosstie parameters of a typical CXT tie, including cross-sectional area, centroid, moment of inertia, and the eccentricity of the prestressing wires. These parameters are also known to be of importance to the accurate determination of transfer length from measured surface strain. The CXT tie geometry provides an excellent test case, and a challenge to the optical scanning system, since it has a complex scalloping along its length.

While the basic feasibility of the system operation has been demonstrated, the repeatability of the geometrical information obtained from the overall scanning and subsequent post-processing of surface geometrical data has yet to be assessed.

The main objective of this paper is to first demonstrate the volumetric measurement resolution experimentally by conducting repeated scans of the same tie by the same operator. The experimental scatter in scan results is presented for both cross-section parameter detail and tie volume assessment. The statistical variation in the measured tie volume ideally provides a reasonable measure of the expected volume resolution. In addition to assessing the statistics of these repeated scans, a CXT tie was subjected to induced abrasions of known (measurable) volume for direct comparison with the volume measurements obtained using the optical scanning procedure. This work represents an important next step toward identifying the accuracy of the assessment of abrasion and wear for the large number of ties currently being scanned after having been in long-term service.

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