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Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

DOI 10.1007/s00170-012-3925-6

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Straightness and flatness evaluation using data


envelopment analysis
Sohyung Cho & Joon-Young Kim

Received: 17 May 2011 / Accepted: 10 January 2012 / Published online: 11 February 2012
# Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Abstract In today's world of precision engineering, robustness and accuracy in the evaluation of the form
tolerances are considered as competitive advantages for
manufacturing enterprises. Amongst various methods for
accurate and robust evaluation, which have been studied, nonlinear optimization methods based on operational research have proved to be successful as far as they
can ensure unique and global convergence in practical
applications. However, it is well known that ensuring
the convergence is the most difficult thing to deal with
for a nonlinear optimization technique because the performance is in general highly sensitive to parameter
setting. Therefore, this paper introduces a robust linear
programming formulation-based algorithm in which the
performance is not dependent on the quality of parameters. Interestingly, in this algorithm, the data envelopment analysis technique is used to form a convex hull
that decides the minimum enclosed zone in a robust
manner. From the computational experiments, it is
shown that the proposed algorithm can be a promising
alternative to the traditional nonlinear optimization
method for straightness and flatness evaluation.

S. Cho (*)
Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering,
Southern Illinois University,
Edwardsville, IL 62026-1805, USA
e-mail: scho@siue.edu
J.-Y. Kim
Division of Marine Equipment Engineering,
Korea Maritime University,
Youngdo-gu,
Busan 606-791, South Korea

Keywords Form tolerance . Robust algorithm . Data


envelopment analysis

1 Introduction
The geometric form of manufactured components deviates
from its nominal design to a certain extent due to errors in
manufacturing, wear, etc. that can be confirmed by measurement and evaluation. While uncertainty in measurement has
been significantly reduced by recent technological advancement in inspection methods, evaluation of geometric tolerances is still considered as a major challenge because of its
nonlinear nature. There are numerous algorithms that can
evaluate various geometric tolerances by modeling the evaluation of geometric tolerances as nonlinear optimization
problems and then solving the problems optimally (or close
to optimal). However, it is known that the convergence of
nonlinear optimization techniques is highly sensitive to setting of parameters such as starting conditions. It should be
pointed out that in today's world of precision engineering,
enhancing robustness as well as accuracy in the evaluation
of the tolerances is greatly required as important competitive
advantages for manufacturing enterprises.
The purpose of geometric tolerance evaluation is to provide the exact value of the error in measured data points
from manufactured parts conforming to a standard, for example, ANSI Y14.5M [1]. Specifically, ANSI and ISO
promote the use of the minimum zone form tolerance that
is based on minimizing the maximum deviation of the
inspected surface from a reference feature. The objective
of the minimum zone criterion is to fit the data points with
minimum peak-to-valley deviation to the fitting line. The
studies show that the minimum zone criterion yields more
accurate fitting results because: (1) it yields a zone value

732

smaller than other criteria, and (2) it is more consistent with


the standard definition of physical fittings [2]. The minimum zone form tolerance can be evaluated either using
specific computational geometry techniques [3, 4] or by
solving non-linear optimization problems [57]. However,
this optimization function has numerous local minima, and
most solution methods need a set of good starting points to
obtain the global minimum solution. In addition, the formulation for the tolerance zone is typically non-differentiable,
which limits the use of conventional gradient-based optimization techniques. Recently, evolution or machine-learning
algorithm-based evaluation methods have been studied in
order to solve nonlinear optimization problems more efficiently [810]. Examples of evolution algorithms include
particle swarm, genetic algorithm, simulated annealing, and
support vector machine learning. It has been reported that
these methods can solve the problems faster than conventional nonlinear optimization methods [10]. However, it is
known that the performance of these methods in terms of
computational efficiency and accuracy depends on the quality of initial conditions and other parameters such as specific
kernel functions in the case of support vector machine
learning.
Straightness is a condition where an element of a surface or
an axis is a straight line. A straightness tolerance specifies a
tolerance zone within which the considered element or axis
must lie. Each element of the surface must lie between two
parallel lines separated by the amount of the prescribed
straightness tolerance [1]. For discrete measurement, the
straightness error is defined as the minimum separation between two parallel lines within which all the data points must
lie. The region bounded by two parallel lines with minimum
separation is defined as the minimum zone of the data points.
The definition that confines the straightness error to the minimum zone is called minimum zone criterion. Flatness is the
condition of a surface having all elements in one plane. A
flatness tolerance specifies a tolerance zone defined by two
parallel planes within which the surface must lie [1]. Similar to
the straightness problems, evaluation of flatness under the
minimum zone criterion is to find two parallel planes that
bound all measured data with minimum separation.
Focusing on the aforementioned issue of computational
efficiency and accuracy in the evaluation of form tolerances,
this paper introduces a novel algorithm to evaluate straightness and flatness using the data envelopment analysis (DEA)
approach, which is based on the linear programming (LP)
model and used to assess an organization's operational efficiency. Due to its nature of LP model, the algorithm introduced in this paper expects to be robust (stable) in terms of
computational time and efficiency. Interestingly, the first approach to find the minimum zone using not only efficient
frontiers that are typical output of DEA but also inefficient
frontiers obtained from modified DEA is introduced and

Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

tested. This paper is organized as follows: Section 2 reviews


related research works. An overview of DEA is provided in
Section 3. In Section 4, traditional DEA is modified to be used
for evaluation of form tolerances, particularly straightness and
flatness. In Section 5, performance of the proposed algorithm
in this paper is compared to other algorithms such as least
square, nonlinear programming, and other LP-based algorithm, respectively. The robustness of the proposed algorithm
is addressed in the same section, and the conclusion of this
paper is provided in Section 6.

2 Literature review
Research works for the evaluation of form tolerances, particularly straightness and flatness, focus on one of the following techniques:
1. Least squares method (LSM): Among several techniques existing for evaluation of straightness and flatness
tolerances, LSM is a widely accepted technique used in
industry for the evaluation of form errors. This technique finds the minimum sum of squared errors of the
measured points from the nominal feature and thus
provides only an approximation solution quickly [11].
More specifically, LSM does not ensure precise values
of straightness and flatness errors due to a different
objective function from the minimum zone criterion.
2. Computational geometric approach (CGA): Lai and
Wang [12] and Traband et al. [3] proposed computational geometry-based techniques for calculating exact
values of the minimum zone straightness and flatness.
More specifically, these research works proposed the
minimum solution for straightness and flatness problems in accord with the minimum zone criterion. The
basic principle of this technique is to find the minimum
zone of the convex hull that encloses all the measured
points. The minimum zone was determined by a pair of
parallel supporting lines parallel to an edge of the convex hull. Based on the same concept, Lee [13] presented
an approach, called convex-hull edge method, which
guarantees the minimum zone solution of flatness evaluation problems. Samuel and Shunmugam [4] also used
similar computational geometric techniques to solve the
minimum zone and function-oriented solutions for the
straightness and the flatness problems.
3. Operational research techniques (OR): Wang [5] used
optimization techniques for minimum zone evaluation
of form errors. Form errors were formulated as nonlinear optimization problems, and solution procedures
were developed to solve the nonlinear optimization
problems. Kanada and Suzuki [14] studied an application of some nonlinear optimization techniques for

Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

The following summary can be drawn from the review of existing research: some reported algorithms in
CGA, such as convex hull/polygon method, minmax
method, control geometric feature rotation scheme, and
median approach, have been proved to be successful in
view of minimum zone evaluation. However, none of

these CGA algorithms satisfies the universality requirement to be able to evaluate various form tolerances. In
fact, the mathematical definition of minimum zone form
errors in the ANSI standards yields a nonlinear discontinuous optimization problem. To tackle this problem,
various nonlinear optimization techniques and OR methods have been proposed and tested. Among them are
Chebyshev approximation [17], downhill simplex method [14], and HookeJeeve direct search method [18].
Among these approaches, few have proved to be successful if unique and global convergence is ensured in
practical applications. However, it is known that ensuring the convergence is the most difficult thing to deal
with for a nonlinear optimization technique because the
performance is in general highly sensitive to parameter
setting. Therefore, a robust algorithm of which performance is not dependent on the quality of parameters is
highly required, and this paper introduces such
algorithms.

3 Overview of the DEA method


Examples of commonly used efficiency measurement
methods include ordinary least squares (OLS), corrected
ordinary least squares (COLS), stochastic frontier analysis (SFA), and DEA. Figure 1 illustrates these methods
with their unique nature. In the figure, dots represent
producers that use a set of inputs to produce a set of
outputs. For instance, consider a set of banks. Inputs
can be a square footage of space and a number of
tellers, etc., and outputs can be a number of checks
cashed and number of transactions, etc. OLS, COLS,
12

COLS
10

8
Output

minimum zone flatness. They also applied various optimization algorithms to calculate the minimum zone
straightness. Carr and Ferreira [15] developed algorithms to verify minimum zone straightness and flatness. The proposed model searched for two parallel
supporting planes so that all measured points were
below one plane and above the other while both planes
were as close together as possible. The model was a
constrained nonlinear programming problem, but the
objective function and all but one constraint were linear.
Hence, the successive linear programming algorithm
was used to solve a sequence of linear programs that
converge to the solution of the nonlinear problem. Cheraghi et al. [6] formulated straightness and flatness errors
as nonlinear optimization problems and then developed
a linear search method that reduces the nonlinear optimization problem to a linear programming problem with
only two constraints. It was reported that the exact error
values are quickly found by an iterative search procedure. Weber et al. [16] presented a unified linear approximation technique for the evaluation of various
form tolerances. They formulated a linear program model using a Taylor expansion of the minimum zone tolerance function.
4. Evolution algorithms (EAs): Malyscheff et al. [9] modeled minimum zone straightness and flatness by modifying a support vector classification that is based on
statistical learning. In this research work, a gradient
ascent approach was introduced to sequentially solve a
formulated non-convex optimization problem, noting
that straightness and flatness share some similarities
their functions are in 2D and 3D linear forms, respectively, which are also the basic functions used in support
vector machines. In Kovvur et al. [10], particle swarm
optimization, which is one of the most recent and popular EAs, has been shown to perform well for the
evaluation of minimum zone form tolerance such as
circularity, cylindricity, sphericity, flatness, and straightness form tolerances. In this approach, each particle of
the population, called the swarm, progresses toward the
optimal solution by adjusting its trajectory toward its
own previous best position and toward the previous best
position attained by any member of the population. The
advantage of using PSO over other optimization methods is the relatively insignificant impact of the starting
conditions.

733

OLS
6

DEA

SFA
4

5
Input

10

Fig. 1 Comparison of efficiency assessment methods including the


DEA method

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Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

and SFA are parametric in their nature requiring an


assumption for a functional form while DEA is nonparametric and thus requires no assumption of the functional form [19]. In the parametric approach, any misspecification of the functional form can result in
catastrophic results. Among these methods, SFA and
DEA are the two competing paradigms on efficiency
analysis [20].
Since the introduction by Charnes, Cooper, and Rhodes [21], DEA has proven to be an attractive method
for assessing and evaluating the efficiency and performance of decision-making units (DMUs) within organizations producing multiple outputs from multiple
inputs. The linear programming model for the inputoriented constant return to scale (CRS) model was introduced by Charnes et al. [21], also referred to as the
CCR model, is given by:

DEA applications for assessing performance and efficiency


have been utilized in many industries and organizations, such
as hospitals, restaurants, US Air Force wings, universities,
cities, courts, business firms, and more [24]. There is, however, another competing paradigm on how to construct frontiers
to evaluate and assess the performance and efficiency of
DMUs, which is the stochastic frontier function approach
(SFA) [25]. DEA utilizes mathematical programming techniques, whilst the SFA approach utilizes econometric regression
theory. The major advantage of the DEA approach is that no
assumption has to be made about the functional form other
than the concavity of the frontier functions. To the contrary,
the SFA approach imposes an explicit and possibly overrestrictive, functional form for the data.

min j
n
P
lj xij  j xij

This paper introduces the first-time approach that uses traditional DEA for identifying inefficient frontiers such that
both efficient and inefficient frontiers are used to form a
convex hull that encloses all the data points measured inside
as shown in Fig. 2.

j1
n
P

lj yrj  yrj

i 1; 2; . . . ; m
r 1; 2; . . . :; s

j1

lj  0

4 DEA-based algorithm for tolerance evaluation

j 1; 2; . . . :; n
4.1 Straightness evaluation

where j is the efficiency score for the jth DMU; where there
are n systems or DMUs, the jth DMU represents one of the n
DMU under evaluation, xij and yrj are the ith input and rth
output for the jth DMU, respectively, and s are dual variables. The CCR model (or CRS model) assumes constant
return to scale economies, which means that doubling output
exactly doubles inputs. The CCR model was extended to the
variable return to scale (VRS) model by Banker, Charnes, and
Cooper [22], referred to as the BCC model. The VRS inputoriented model is the same as the CRS model except for the
fact that the sum of s is equal to 1 and is written as:
min j
n
P
lj xij  j xij
j1
n
P
j1
n
P

lj yrj  yrj
lj 1;

lj  0

max j
n
P
lj xij  j xij
j1
n
P

i 1; 2; . . . ; m
r 1; 2; . . . :; s

First, the problem modeled by Eq. 2 is solved for


measured data points, set S0(xj, yj), and data points that
satisfy the condition of j 01 are identified as efficient
frontiers. Note that other DMUs (data points) with j <1
are not as efficient as the efficient frontiers. In Fig. 2,
the efficient frontiers are the ones that form the upper
envelop. Next, Eq. 2 is modified to be used for identifying inefficient frontiers as follows:

j 1; 2; . . . :n

j1
n
P

lj yrj  yrj
lj 1;

i 1; 2; . . . ; m
r 1; 2; . . . :; s

lj  0

j 1; 2; . . . :n

j1

j1

where j is the efficiency score for the jth DMU; where there
are n systems or DMUs, the jth DMU represents one of the n
DMU under evaluation, xij and yrj are the ith input and rth
output for the jth DMU, respectively, and s are dual variables. It should be emphasized here that the DEA model
assumes monotonicity [23].

The solution of Eq. 3 provides information on inefficient frontiers which are used to create the lower
envelop in Fig. 2. In fact, the inefficient frontiers are
identified with the condition of j 01, and other data
points satisfy j >1. Note that the efficient and inefficient frontiers generate a convex hull that contains the
set S. Finally, the data points form efficient and

Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

inefficient frontiers that are used to compute two parallel lines with minimum distance (d) that contains the set

735

S. The minimum distance d is straightness. The algorithm to find the minimum distance d is as follows:

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Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

Fig. 2 Efficient frontiers


(points) and inefficient frontiers
(points) out of n030 (one of the
parallel lines to enclose all the
data points passes the point
marked by *)

90
80
70

y values

60
50
40
30
20
10
0

As an example, consider a problem instance with 5 points


(n05) as shown in the following table:
n05
X values
Y values

Point 1
1.0
1.1

Point 2
2.0
1.9

Point 3
3.0
3.3

Point 4
4.0
4.0

Point 5
5.0
4.8

10

15
x values

Fig. 3 Efficient frontiers


(points) and inefficient frontiers
(points) out of n05

25

30

4.2 Flatness evaluation


Figure 4 illustrates a problem instance randomly generated
for the flatness evaluation (n0100). For these data points,
problem formulation for straightness by Eq. 2 is modified
for 3D flatness evaluation as follows:
min j
n
P
lj xij  xij

Steps 1 and 2 identify points 1, 3, and 5 as efficient frontiers


and points 1, 2, and 5 as inefficient frontiers. Step 3 gives deff,i 0
max(dk)0[0.4709 0.5600], and step 4 gives deff,i 0[0.4685
0.3116]. Finally, step 5 provides d00.3116. The following
figure shows the efficient and inefficient frontiers and the
convex hull generated for this problem instance (Fig. 3).

20

j1
n
P
j1
n
P
j1
n
P

i 1; 2; . . . ; m

lj yrj  yrj

r 1; 2; . . . :; s

lj ztj  j ztj

i 1; 2; . . . ; u

lj 1;

lj  0

j 1; 2; ::::n

j1

4.5

Y-values

3.5

2.5

1.5

1.5

2.5

3
X-values

3.5

4.5

Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

737
Table 2 Accuracy comparison for examples in Table 1

30

DEA
OTZ
NLP
LSM

25

20
15
10

n05

n010

n015

n020

n025

2.1213203
2.1213204
2.1213204
2.5860858

0.8578577
0.8578577
0.8578577
0.8877250

0.0051857
0.0051857
0.0051857
0.0053790

0.1645859
0.1645859
0.1645859
0.1705494

0.0013113
0.0013113
0.0013113
0.0014633

5
0
10
10
8

j1
n
P

4
y

2
0

max j
n
P
lj xij  xij

Fig. 4 Randomly generated data points for flatness evaluation (n0


100, scale in millimeters)

Note that z-axis values are considered as input in this approach


in order to form a 3D convex hull instead of a 2D convex hull.
Here, data points that satisfy the condition of j 01 are identified as efficient frontiers. Note that other DMUs (data points)
with j <1 are not as efficient as the efficient frontiers. Next,
Eq. 4 is modified to be used for identifying inefficient frontiers
in flatness evaluation as follows:

j1
n
P
j1
n
P

i 1; 2; . . . ; m

lj yrj  yrj

r 1; 2; . . . :; s

lj ztj  j ztj
lj 1;

i 1; 2; . . . ; u

lj  0

j 1; 2; . . . :n

j1

The solution of Eq. 5 provides information on inefficient


frontiers. In fact, the inefficient frontiers are identified with
the condition of j 01, and other data points satisfy j >1.
Note that both efficient and inefficient frontiers are used to
form a convex hull that includes the set S0(xi, yi, zi). Finally,
the data points that form efficient and inefficient frontiers

Table 1 Example problem instances from Traband et al. [3]


n05
xi
2
1
0
1
2

yi
3
5
2
1
2

n020
xi
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
0.30
0.35
0.40
0.45
0.50

n010
xi
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

yi
2.428
2.891
3.445
2.931
3.895
4.196
4.497
4.662
4.545

yi

xi

yi

n015
xi
0.3952
0.6953
0.9669
1.2762
1.5797
1.8593
2.1333
2.4197
2.6001
n025
xi

0.1288
0.1309
0.204
0.1841
0.1329
0.1570
0.2608
0.2588
0.2237
0.1891

0.55
0.60
0.65
0.70
0.75
0.80
0.85
0.90
0.95
1.00

0.1000
0.1837
0.1712
0.2304
0.1753
0.2107
0.1820
0.1730
0.2723
0.1949

0.2845
0.6600
1.2041
1.4994
1.8494
2.2261
2.5724
2.9076
3.2548
3.4142

yi
0.1010
0.1026
0.1000
0.1014
0.1005
0.1035
0.1032
0.1049
0.1049

xi
3.0662
3.2165
3.4217
3.6179
3.8185

yi
0.1067
0.1025
0.1068
0.1069
0.1089

yi

xi

yi

xi

yi

0.0006
0.0008
0.0010
0.0005
0.0004
0.0015
0.0012
0.0014
0.0009
0.0009

3.6307
3.9237
4.2647
4.5122
4.8150
5.1334
5.3603
5.6534
5.9058
6.0774

0.0011
0.0011
0.0012
0.0012
0.0013
0.0013
0.0010
0.0008
0.0020
0.0021

6.2962
6.5240
6.7114
6.9960
7.2076

0.0021
0.0021
0.0023
0.0021
0.0023

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Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

are used to compute two parallel planes with minimum


distance (d) that includes the set S, and the minimum dis-

tance d is flatness. The algorithm to find the minimum


distance d is as follows:

In step 3, an open source code developed by Kessler [26]


in Matlab is used to generate a convex hull formed by only
efficient and inefficient frontiers.

The results from the computational experiments show


that the DEA algorithm finds the optimal solution for all
the test problem instances without the fine tuning of any
parameters. In other words, while the accuracy and computational time of NLP and OTZ depend on the quality of
initial conditions and other parameters, the DEA algorithm
can evaluate the straightness and flatness in a more robust
manner due to its nature of LP model.

5 Computational experiments
Straightness First, the performance of the proposed DEAbased algorithm in this paper has been compared to other
approaches such as LSM, nonlinear programming approach
(NLP) from Malyscheff et al. [9], and optimization technique zone (OTZ) from Cheraghi et al. [6]. Problem instances are shown in Table 1, and performance comparison for
these test problems is provided in Table 2.
Next, randomly generated problem instances have been
used to test the performance of the DEA algorithm. Here,
problems have been generated based on the following linear
relationship with disturbances (): yi b 0 b 1 xi " . It
should be pointed out here that the performance of other
algorithms highly depends on the quality of parameters such
as incremental angle parameter in the case of OTZ and
initial condition in the case of NLP. Table 3 and Fig. 5 show
performance improvement (percent) by the DEA algorithm
against LSM and computational effort of the DEA compared
to OTZ and NLP. Note that each output in Table 3 has been
obtained as an average of ten replications, particularly for
NLP with different initial conditions.

Flatness First, the performance of the DEA algorithm has


been tested for problem instances from the literature [6]. For
these instances shown in Table 4, the DEA finds the optimal
values of 1.9612 (n015) and 4.8573 (n025) like other
algorithms such as NLP.
Next, the performance of the DEA has been tested for
randomly generated problem instances and Table 5 shows
that the accuracy of the DEA is identical to the performance

Table 3 Straightness performance comparison for randomly generated


data points
n

10

50

100

500

Improvement by DEA
CPU-DEA
CPU-OTZ

13.8
1.05
5.46

4.5
2.69
5.48

5.2
5.26
5.47

10.1
6.28
6.93

9.2
7.93
8.64

1.53

3.62

5.96

11.79

35.50

CPU-NLP

1,000

Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2012) 63:731740

739

Fig. 5 Performance
comparison for straightness
evaluation (n01,000) by
various algorithms

of NLP for these problem instances. In the table, each data


field has been obtained as an average of ten replications. In
the flatness evaluation, DEA reduces the number of points
that form a convex hull such that in the case of n0196 only
14% of the data (27 points) are required to form a convex
hull with which the flatness can be accurately evaluated.
Table 4 Problem instances for flatness evaluation from Cheraghi et al.
[6]
n015

n025

xi

yi

zi

xi

yi

zi

xi

yi

zi

2
1
0
1
2
2
1
0
1
2
2
1
0
1
2

1
1
1
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
1
1
1

5
4
1
2
2
4
3
3
2
2
3
4
2
1
2

0
0
0
0
0
25
25
25
25
25
50
50
50
50
50

0
25
50
75
100
0
25
50
75
100
0
25
50
75
100

2
5
6
8
9
5
7
8
9
12
6
7
8
9
11

75
75
75
75
75
100
100
100
100
100

0
25
50
75
100
0
25
50
75
100

7
7
6
7
9
7
6
6
6
8

This implies that the other 86% of the data (169 points) are
enclosed in the convex hull.

6 Conclusion
This paper has introduced a robust algorithm for the evaluation of form tolerances, especially straightness and flatness
of manufactured parts. Specifically, this paper has developed a DEA approach-based algorithm that can form a
convex hull from both efficient and inefficient frontiers,
which enclose all of the measured data points. Computational experiments showed that this algorithm is more robust
than other existing methods in terms of the accuracy and
computational effort because it is based on LP formulation.
Table 5 Flatness performance comparison for randomly generated
data points
DEA/LSM
(% improvement)

DEA/NLP
(% improvement)

(nn)/n (%)

25

9.2

15

40.0

49
100
144
196

4.2
3.8
3.4
3.5

0
0
0
0

17
21
25
27

65.3
79.0
82.6
86.2

740

Interestingly, in the case of flatness evaluation with about 200


points, the required number of points to form a convex hull is
reduced by 86% that ensures considerable saving in computational effort. Future research may focus on the application of
the DEA algorithm for circularity and sphericity tolerances.
Acknowledgments The authors acknowledge partial support for this
research from the (Unmanned Technology Research Center (UTRC) at
the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST),
originally funded by DAPA, ADD.

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