Time For Metrology to Get Out of the Lab

You’ve just finished a production run and now it’s time to make sure that the components, whether they’re gears or car doors, small or large, simple or complex, meet dimensions to the tolerance standards your client expects. You take a sample of 1 from every 100 components and take it to the temperature-controlled lab, where they’re measured by a coordinate measuring machine that uses air bearings and needs to be kept in a room where the air quality is tightly controlled. If this sounds similar to your quality assurance process, it’s a good sign that it’s time to reinvest in better metrology equipment and bring metrology out of the lab and onto the shop floor.

Over the past several years, automotive has led the way toward more agile inspection processes, but all industries are beginning to move toward the “smart factory” concept which capitalizes on the interconnectivity of machines on an automated production line to achieve higher efficiencies and fewer errors. Metrology is a key component, especially when it comes to reducing errors and a reason why inspection has to get out of the lab.

In-line measurement with 100% inspection is the goal of any factory working with the expectations of higher quality parts. First of all, moving components to a lab or to an outsourcing facility takes a lot of time and energy. While some lab-based CMM machines like the gantry have an important role to play in inspecting very large components, the drive today is toward inspecting on or near the production line, and saving time is only part of the reason. Inspecting in-line can save a shop hours and dollars wasted on reworking components or scrapping defective parts. When combined with real time data analysis, in-line inspection identifies tool machine drift as it happens, meaning that you can correct errors before they’re replicated, ruining a whole batch.

With the appearance of shop-floor ready machines on the used market like the Sheffield Discovery II, which relies on hard bearings rather than air bearings, shops can now bring inspection closer to the production line (called near-line production) at an affordable price. Coordinate measuring machine dealers like CMM (Canadian Measurement Metrology) buy, inspect, refurbish, and resell used coordinate measuring machines. A shop can save considerably by buying used, without having to sacrifice reliability or durability, as these machines can last for multiple decades. Opting to buy from a dealer rather than risking an auction is a great way to find quality used CMM equipment, as you will walk away with the dealer’s guarantee, not to mention transportation and installation on your shop floor.

A used coordinate measuring machine is a cost-effective way to bring new technology to your production line, even newer machines like shop-floor ready equipment. You can also upgrade or retrofit used machines to include laser scanners, faster probing systems, and optic systems, expanding the range of materials you can measure with the same machine. Talk to a metrology dealer about how you can bring inspection closer to the action and improve your shop’s responsiveness to errors.

Author V.M. Simandan

is a Bangkok-based Romanian-born writer, archer, speaker, traveler, and vlogger.

More posts by V.M. Simandan

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