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Measuring up for digitized manufacturing

21 Aug 2019

Measuring up for digitized manufacturing

As we move into an increasingly digitalised manufacturing environment, the role of metrology becomes more and more central as it provides the bridge between the physical and digitalised worlds.

Exhibitors at MACH 2020 will be showcasing a wealth of measurement technologies - from probing and laser scanning, to vision systems, X-ray tomography, portable arms and tools for data analysis - ensuring that visitors will be able to find the tools they need to meet their production demands in the digital age.

The coordinate measurement machine (CMM) remains the workhouse for engineering metrology but is constantly evolving to reflect new demands in the market. Today, multi-sensor systems offer a toolkit of measurement technologies on a single machine and new models are being introduced that move the measurement process out of an air-conditioned, temperature-controlled quality room and onto the shop floor.

Joe Brennan, Technical Sales Manager at LK Metrology says, "We are very much going down this route and will have at least one multi-sensor CMM at MACH 2020. It is likely that we will also be demonstrating robot loading and our Industry 4.0 software. They are key areas for us at the moment."

A multi-sensor CMM can incorporate, for example, a contact probe that maps discrete points, a scanning probe that tracks along the surface of the component, a vision system and a laser scanner that creates a digital point cloud. A contact scanning head may be able to measure up to 2000 points a second and with a laser scanner you can go up to 200,000 points per second -- you get a lot of data quickly and the advanced software systems available can then interpret it and relate it back to the original CAD.

Joe Brennan says: "Each has its own pros and cons. Lasers only operate in the line of sight but with probing you can reach round corners, underneath edges and into holes. No one method is perfect for everything, so you use a multi-sensor machine so you can choose the best technology at the right time."

One of the most recent developments is 5-axis scanning using an automated 2-axis head mounted on the 3-axis CMM. This allows the accurate measurement of complex features, geometries and surfaces produced by 5-axis machining and additive manufacturing.

"The measuring head on the CMM can always come in normal to the feature on the part that you are measuring, so you know you are always getting good data," says Joe.

He says that people are now talking more and more about shop floor metrology too -- bringing the CMM out of its special temperature-controlled, air-conditioned room and out into production. This means you don't need to take production parts out of the manufacturing environment so you can measure more parts more quickly.

Whatever the technology, even though they don't cut metal, metrology systems are vital in ensuring the productivity and profitability of the whole process -- making sure the parts produced are accurate, fit for purpose and what the customer wants.

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