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IMTS 2014: Putting Process in Its Place


Process control is the goal of metrology companies—and manufacturers


A visit to the IMTS Quality Assurance Pavilion is not unlike going to a science fair. The level of sophistication and technology used in testing, measurement and metrology is almost overwhelming. Plus, the pace of innovation in this segment is exceptional. Thus many of today’s ideas quickly become tomorrow’s trends and then next year’s traditions.

In addition, some companies are engaged across virtually the whole spectrum of the segment while others specialize in a few or even just one area.

Capture 3D Inc. (Costa Mesa, CA), for instance, focuses on 3D industrial measurement solutions with a particular emphasis on noncontact structured light metrology. Johan Gout, the company’s director of operations, has noticed that some customers are “replacing their traditional contact measurement equipment or adding additional measurement capacity with noncontact structured light metrology to have a better understanding of their manufacturing and production processes. 

“Being able to shorten measurement setup and data collection time,” he said, “allows them to focus on true process optimization. By having high-quality color map inspection data on their part, mold, tool, and/or die allows companies to quickly apply the optimal corrective action and accurately predict trends to help speed up time to market, eliminate iterations and save an enormous amount of costs that were once being spent on rework and waste.”

Photo Courtesy Hexagon Metrology

Sophisticated Yet Practical

In conjunction with its partner, GOM mbH—part of GOM International AG (Widen, Switzerland)—Capture 3D has found an advantage in combining both sophisticated next-generation metrology technologies and practical commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) automation solutions.

“Our noncontact ATOS 3D scanners can not only accurately scan and inspect various sized parts and components,” said Gout, “but optically track for part positioning, incorporate touch probe contact measurements, ‘back project’ onto the part features for machining or welding, and incorporate static and dynamic deformation analysis. In regards to automation, our ScanBox and MCXL automated solutions are turnkey, plug and play, and can be touchscreen operated for increased throughput, productivity, and repeatability.”

Operating as Capture 3D does in such a forward-looking segment of manufacturing, Gout has an eye on what the future may hold.

“Additive Manufacturing has become a hot topic,” he said. “Companies are able to 3D print parts and components, saving an enormous amount of money on moldmaking and tooling costs. As the technology advances and becomes a standardized process, the inspection of those parts will be necessary, and, just as the rapid prototyping process has sped up the manufacturing processes, so will task-specific automated solutions speed up the inspection process.”

A Manufacturer First

Renishaw (Hoffman Estates, IL) can truly be described as covering the broad spectrum of testing, measurement and metrology. In many ways, however, Renishaw thinks of itself as a manufacturer first.

“We’re users of our own products when we manufacture customer products,” said Denis Zayia, national sales and marketing manager. “A lot of the product ideas we come up with are generated by our own manufacturing needs, and the basic need is all about process control. Manufacturers want to make as many products a day with as little scrap as possible. Process control helps accomplish that.”

Zayia believes Renishaw’s new Sprint contact scanning system is a game changer in terms of process control for CNC machine tools.
Photo Courtesy Renishaw
At the heart of the system is an on-machine scanning probe with an analog sensor. The sensor has a resolution of 0.1 µm in three dimensions. The technology provides a continuous deflection output that combines with machine position to derive the true location of the part surface. This allows form and profile data capture from both prismatic and complex 3D components. “The benefit of scanning,” Zayia said, “is that you get a lot more data per revolution. With Sprint you get constant accurate 3D points coming back at very high speeds—up to 15 m/min. When you look at prismatic parts, you’re taking 1000 3D points a second. You have incredible cycle time advantages.

“The amount of information is revolutionary.”

New Methods of Process Control

This, he said, opens up new process control methods not possible with other measurement methods. Sprint applications are enabled and supported by software packages dedicated to specific tasks, such as Blade Toolkit for blade manufacture. The toolkits include on-machine data analysis that automatically runs in cycle, providing measurement to the CNC machining process.

By employing master part comparison, Zayia said, the system becomes an “active” control enabling measure-cut processes to be automated for accurate diameters on large parts. This capability can enable the size of diameters to be automatically controlled within a few microns of tolerance. Measurement functionality, such as part runout, also serves to enhance the manufacturing capability of multitasking machine tools.

Other functions include a rapid health check of a CNC machine tool’s linear and rotary axes in seconds, making it possible to implement a daily machine-monitoring routine with little or no operator involvement.

At Marposs Corp. (Auburn Hills, MI) there is also an appreciation of the desire of manufacturers for improvements in cost, quality and speed.

Driven by Quality

“North American manufacturers are more globally competitive than ever,” said Gary Sicheneder, manager of New Market Development. “We see many examples that the North American manufacturing renaissance is being driven, in part, by manufacturers seeking to improve quality and productivity and reduce cost by implementing advanced products for measurement, inspection and process control. For example, the new G25 gaging probe uses scanning technology to significantly reduce the time required to check parts such as gears while still fixtured in the machine.

“Likewise, our new Mida Visual Tool Setter [VTS] has been developed to satisfy the increasing requirement for micron and submicron precision on small mechanical parts and to meet the challenges of managing micro tools that can be incorrectly mounted in the toolholder or spindle due to very small chips.”

The voice of the customer also is heard at VisionX Inc., and the message being delivered to the Pointe-Claire, QC, Canada, company is much the same.

“Increased automation is very high on the list of our customers’ priorities,” said Patrick Beauchemin, VisionX president. “They are looking to speed up the entire inspection process, eliminate operator-dependent results and automatically collect measurements, statistics and other data.”

VisionX will be displaying three models of its digital optical comparators at IMTS 2014.

Hexagon Metrology Inc. (North Kingston, RI) is another concern that operates wide and deep in the area of measurement. It offers a comprehensive range of products and services for all industrial metrology applications in sectors such as automotive, aerospace, energy and medical.

Portable Scanner

Portability of metrology is one of the features on which Hexagon concentrates, so it’s no wonder that at IMTS Hexagon is introducing what it calls a first-class portable coordinate measuring system with fully-certified scanning system accuracy.

The HP-L-20.8 is a new generation of external laser scanner for use with the new Romer Absolute Arm. It replaces the CMS108 laser scanner, and is said to offer improved performance even on complex surfaces and workpieces made of shiny materials such as machined, cast, stamped or forged metals, plastics and carbon fiber.

“Thanks to the quick and easy handling, the widest line length and highest scan rate in its product class, the HP-L-20.8 gives its users increased productivity with shorter measuring times,” said Stephan Amann, product line manager for Portable Measuring Arms at Hexagon.

The scanner is fully integrated with the arm and does not need additional cables or external controllers. Manual setting of the laser power according to the surface color or reflectivity is not required as the patented scanning technology automatically adapts in real time. The system features multisensor technology, seamless change between scanning and probing at the touch of a button, and repeatable mounting for quick removal from the arm and assembly without scanner recalibration.

Complex Solutions for a “Simple” Need

While the technology used in testing and measuring is becoming more complex, the primary reason why that is so is really very simple.

“As machine tools are becoming more complex,” said Alexander Blum, president of Blum-Novotest (formerly known as Blum LMT; Ravernsburg, Germany; Erlanger, KY), “so too are the parts they’re machining. More complex machines means more expensive machines and more expensive parts. This being the case, efficiency—first part, good part—becomes critical. In addition, there’s a critical shortage of highly skilled operators which means that using those that are less skilled demands more automation, for instance, reduced setup, in-process inspection, part verification, and so on. Also, the demand for documentation has increased and the ability to accurately track and monitor the process. These and other conditions have led manufacturers of metrology equipment to come up with solutions that directly address these conditions.”

Yet while new technologies emerge, existing technologies are growing in sophistication and maintaining their worth. Contact measurement is one such technology.

“We do not foresee noncontact measurement relegating contact measurement to an inferior position in the market anytime in the near future,” said Blum. “Noncontact measurement caters to manufacturers required to hold tolerances that are more stringent than others, but many manufacturers are not required to meet these same tight tolerances. For those manufacturers, tactile-type probe accuracy will suffice at a more economical pricepoint.”

Blum’s focus at IMTS is just such a probe, the TC64-RG, developed for analysis of a part’s surface finish roughness. ME

Executive Editor James D. Sawyer


To view the complete IMTS preview for this pavilion as a PDF, click here.  

Published Date : 8/1/2014

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