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News Desk Software: Paperless, Automated Inspection Tools Help Improve Manufacturing Quality

 Ken Woodbine


Ken Woodbine is president, Wilcox and Associates Inc., developer of metrology software and a unit of Hexagon Metrology Inc. (North Kingstown, RI).

 Manufacturing Engineering: What enables paperless inspection?


Ken Woodbine: Paperless anything is a concept born of the dot-com age where everything currently printed would be available in a more efficient and user-friendly digital format. While this idea is still struggling to gain traction in consumer and corporate arenas, it is fast becoming the inspection industry standard. The advent of CAD in the mid-’80s started the paperless process before its full conception was even realized. With smarter tools and the hindsight gained from the initial paperless push, CAD professionals are making this dream a reality. By incorporating dimensional data and ‘design for manufacturing’ intent into the 3D product model in process, human interpretation of component compliance is completely eliminated, leaving all explication to software. This not only improves product lifecycle management by ensuring article data accuracy, it also lowers production cost by increasing efficiencies of process control.


ME: The transition toward 3D CAD has been good for designers, but a headache for metrologists; can you explain the problems?


Woodbine: As with any new technology, there are growing pains as mentioned in the previous example of our yet-to-materialize paperless society. The disconnect, or headache, for the metrologist is an all-in-one solution to ensure the product updates made by the designer are automatically filtered to the end user. There seems to be much more care given to the manufacturing side of this process than to their counterparts in quality. That is to say, CAM software has a long history of easily, accurately and automatically tying itself directly to the original CAD model, irrespective of software platform. While the inspection software market has only recently adopted this efficiency, this gap is rapidly closing through improved support for Model Based Definition (MBD) by inspection software like PC-DMIS Planner.


ME: How has embedded geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) transformed the CAD model, and eliminated layers of complexity for quality inspectors?


Woodbine: Embedded GD&T is the very definition of Model Based Definition. Allowing the designer to insert inspection data in the form of GD&T feature control frames and simple lateral dimensioning, the quality inspector no longer has to interpret the design intent of the component with respect to both the manufacturing process and the final assembly. This interpretation is now done completely by the inspection software. The inspector is now free to focus on managing the efficiency of the inspection routine instead of constantly defending its accuracy.


ME: What are the inherent benefits of an information-rich CAD model?


Woodbine: When the information is also the model, there is no question of correct revision level. The manufacturing and quality process stay intimately linked because they use the same CAD model directly from the same server and software platform. Over time, there is an added cost benefit in both printed materials and storage space.


ME: How does PC-DMIS Planner automate the inspection process based on design changes and embedded GD&T?


Woodbine: The inspection process starts when the quality technician loads a CAD model with embedded GD&T into PC-DMIS Planner. There is a selection of key characteristics grouped into an inspection plan, usually based on the manufacturing process. This plan is then distributed to any number of measurement devices where the component is made. This first step is key to the process efficiency. The inspection routine created by the end user is dictated by the inspection plan created by the quality technician. This first step can also be accomplished by the original component designer further increasing inspection efficiency. Once the plan hits the measurement device a CMM, vision system, portable measurement device or even a CNC fitted with a probe PC-DMIS measurement software then converts the plan into an inspection routine based on the hardware specifics defined by the device itself or, if necessary, the end user. This inspection routine maintains the link to the original CAD model. If the design changes upstream, the user is notified automatically through the Change Manager, and is given the option to accept all or part of the current changes, or apply them later when the next component lot is submitted for inspection.


ME: How does this new approach save time and money for the manufacturer?


Woodbine: With paperless inspection and automation tools, it is forecasted that most inspection routines will see a 30–50% increase in throughput using MBD. Time is money in manufacturing. With paperless inspection and MBD, the quality technician spends less time interpreting component drawings. The software takes care of that step with NIST-approved algorithms to ensure accuracy. PC-DMIS Planner and its direct CAD Interface saves time communicating changes downstream as they appear automatically when the inspection plan is reopened. PC-DMIS inspection software then adds another level of efficiency. It automatically generates and optimizes inspection routines from Planner inspection plans through a smart path optimizer tool, regardless of measurement device. This step not only saves time in creating inspection routines, but in managing multiple routines for each different device or setup. And finally, the built-in Change Manager for PC-DMIS adds its own level of efficiency by keeping design revisions in sync between the design and inspection teams by automating the communication process between them. ME


Edited by Patrick Waurzyniak; for more info, contact him at (313) 425-3256 or send an e-mail to



NC Software Shows Strong Growth

ontinuing on its rebound, the NC software market grew at a healthy 14.4% pace during 2011, according to market researcher CIMdata Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI). With estimated end-user payments increasing from $1.333 billion in 2010 to $1.525 billion in 2011, the market growth rate in 2011 reflects a strong overall PLM spend, CIMdata notes, continuing the recovery from the downturn in the global economy.

In its upcoming Version 21 of the CIMData NC market analysis report, the company estimates that worldwide shipments of machine tools increased by 35% from 2010 to 2011, which is directly related to the volume of CAM software employed to drive these tools. CIMdata projects that in 2012 growth in manufacturing will continue and end-user payments for NC software will increase by 12.4% to $1.714 billion.

Stan Przybylinski, CIMdata’s director of research, observes that "2011 saw strong recovery in the manufacturing sector, as shown in the machine tool shipments, and software investments followed. This is consistent with our results from our global PLM market analysis."

For more information, visit



New Releases

CAM developer Delcam plc (Birmingham, UK, and Windsor, ON, Canada), has released its updated PowerInspect software that includes a number of extra options to make inspection easier, plus the addition of basic reverse-engineering functionality to the point-cloud module. The 64-bit version offers much faster calculation speeds when large CAD files need to be manipulated and with very complex parts.Delcam's PowerInspect 2012

The software combines the ability to work on all types of inspection devices with a comprehensive range of measurement routines for making simple measurements, for inspecting geometric features and for checking complex surfaces. The resulting reports present detailed information in easy-to-read formats that can be understood by all engineers, not just inspection specialists.

A new option in the PowerInspect 2012 release is the new mirror command that has been added for symmetrical components offering significant time-savings, as well as improved ease of use. In addition, a new point-cloud module for laser scanners and other point-cloud devices has been added. STL export provides basic reverse-engineering functionality for scanned data and if needed, files can be used within Delcam’s PowerShape Pro design software for more advanced reverse-engineering operations.



CAD/CAM and PLM developer Dassault Systèmes (Paris) announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately held geological modeling and simulation developer Gemcom Software International (Vancouver, BC, Canada) in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $360 million.

After the closing of the transaction, all 360 of Gemcom’s employees and management will remain in place, and the company will create a new brand, called Geovia, for continued development of mining industry software solutions. Rick Moignard, Gemcom’s current president and CEO, will become CEO of the newly created Geovia brand.

Completion of the acquisition is subject to normal closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and is expected to be finalized by July.




Waterjet developer Omax Corp. (Kent, WA) and ICAM Technologies Corp. (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, Canada) have announced a partnership under which the companies will collaborate on developing new NC postprocessing software that will easily connect Omax and Maxiem brand abrasive waterjet machines with all major CAD/CAM systems including CATIA, ProE (Creo Parametric), Siemens PLM’s NX and Mastercam.

Omax’s abrasive waterjets offer the company’s Intelli-Max control software. By combining Intelli-Max with advanced NC postprocessors from ICAM, Omax customers will be able to benefit from features of high-end 3-D CAD/CAM packages including programming complex multiaxis toolpaths. ICAM’s product suite includes CAM-Post for NC postprocessor development with the option for integrated machine tool simulation using its Virtual Machine graphical system for NC postprocessing. ICAM also supports G-code verification driven with Control Emulator inside Virtual Machine. ME


This article was first published in the June 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 6/1/2012

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