News

New method of processing 3D images

Computer simulation method can equip engineers, doctors with better information

13.10.2021 - Sandia National Laboratories researchers have created a method of processing 3D images that could have beneficial implications for health care, manufacturing and electric vehicles.

The new method could prove vital in certifying the credi­bility of high-per­formance computer simulations used in determining the effectiveness of various materials for weapons programs and other efforts, said Scott A. Roberts, Sandia’s principal investigator on the project. Sandia can also use the new 3D-imaging workflow to test and optimize batteries used for large-scale energy storage and in vehicles. “It’s really consistent with Sandia’s mission to do credible, high-consequence computer simulation,” he said. The researchers named the new workflow EQUIPS – Efficient Quanti­fication of Uncer­tainty in Image-based Physics Simulation.

“This workflow leads to more reliable results by exploring the effect that ambiguous object boundaries in a scanned image have in simulations,” said Michael Krygier, a Sandia post­doctoral appointee. “Instead of using one inter­pretation of that boundary, we’re suggesting you need to perform simulations using different inter­pretations of the boundary to reach a more informed decision.” EQUIPS can use machine learning to quantify the uncertainty in how an image is drawn for 3D computer simulations. By giving a range of uncertainty, the workflow allows decision-makers to consider best- and worst-case outcomes, Roberts said. Think of a doctor examining a CT scan to create a cancer treatment plan. That scan can be rendered into a 3D image, which can then be used in a computer simulation to create a radiation dose that will efficiently treat a tumor without unneces­sarily damaging surrounding tissue. Normally, the simulation would produce one result because the 3D image was rendered once, said Carianne Martinez, a Sandia computer scientist.

But, drawing object boundaries in a scan can be difficult and there is more than one sensible way to do so, she said. “CT scans aren’t perfect images. It can be hard to see boundaries in some of these images.” Humans and machines will draw different but reasonable inter­pretations of the tumor’s size and shape from those blurry images, Krygier said. Using the EQUIPS workflow, which can use machine learning to automate the drawing process, the 3D image is rendered into many viable variations showing size and location of a potential tumor. Those different renderings will produce a range of different simulation outcomes, Martinez said. Instead of one answer, the doctor will have a range of prognoses to consider that can affect risk assessments and treatment decisions, be they chemo­therapy or surgery.

“When you’re working with real-world data there is not a single-point solution,” Roberts said. “If I want to be really confident in an answer, I need to understand that the value can be anywhere between two points, and I’m going to make decisions based on knowing it’s somewhere in this range not just thinking it’s at one point.” The first step of image-based simu­lation is the image segmentation, or put simply, deciding which pixel – voxel in a 3D image – to assign to each object and therefore drawing the boundary between two objects. From there, scientists can begin to build models for compu­tational simulation. But pixels and voxels will blend with gradual gradient changes, so it is not always clear where to draw the boundary line – the gray areas in a black and white CT scan or X-ray, Krygier said.

The inherent problem with segmenting a scanned image is that whether it’s done by a person using the best software tools available or with the latest in machine learning capabilities there are many plausible ways to assign the pixels to the objects, he said. Two people performing segmen­tation on the same image are likely to choose a different combination of filtering and techniques leading to different but still valid segmen­tations. There is no reason to favor one image segmentation over another. It’s the same with advanced machine learning techniques. While it can be quicker, more consistent and more accurate than manual segmentation, different computer neural networks use varying inputs and work on different parameters. Therefore, they can produce different but still valid segmen­tations, Martinez said.

Sandia’s EQUIPS workflow does not eliminate such segmentation uncer­tainty, but it improves the credibility of the final simulations by making the previously unrecognized uncertainty visible to the decision-maker, Krygier said. EQUIPS can employ two types of machine learning techniques – Monte Carlo Dropout Networks and Bayesian Convo­lutional Neural Networks – to perform image segmentation, with both approaches creating a set of image segmen­tation samples. These samples are combined to map the proba­bility that a certain pixel or voxel is in the segmented material. To explore the impact of segmen­tation uncertainty, EQUIPS creates a probability map to obtain segmen­tations, which are then used to perform multiple simulations and calculate uncertainty distributions.

To illustrate the diverse appli­cations that can benefit from the EQUIPS workflow, the researchers demonstrated several uses for the new method: CT scans of graphite electrodes in lithium-ion batteries, most commonly found in electric vehicles, computers, medical equipment and aircraft; a scan of a woven composite being tested for thermal protec­tion on atmospheric reentry vehicles, such as a rocket or a missile; and scans of both the human aorta and spine. “What we really have done is say that you can take machine learning segmentation and not only just drop that in and get a single answer out, but you can objectively probe that machine learning segmentation to look at that ambiguity or uncer­tainty,” Roberts said. “Coming up with the uncertainty makes it more credible and gives more information to those needing to make decisions, whether in engineering, health care or other fields where high-consequence computer simu­lations are needed.” (Source: Sandia Lab)

Reference: M. C. Krygier et al.: Quantifying the unknown impact of segmentation uncertainty on image-based simulations, Nat. Commun. 12, 5414 (2021); DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-25493-8

Link: Engineering Sciences Center, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, USA

Unsere Partner


The nominees have been determined. Vote now for the inspect award 2022

Image Sensors Europe will return in 2021 in a new online format.

I want to know more

Unsere Partner


The nominees have been determined. Vote now for the inspect award 2022

Image Sensors Europe will return in 2021 in a new online format.

I want to know more