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Automating Measurement on the Shop Floor

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

It’s amazing what you can learn at a trade show. I was reminded of this at the recent EASTEC show. I visited with Joe Stanford, vice president, engineering and applications support for Applied Measurement Solutions LLC, Bristol, Conn., the largest metrology distributor for The L.S. Starrett Co., Athol, Mass. We talked about how more machine shops are integrating faster measurement systems right on the shop floor.

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The Starrett HDV400 benchtop Digital Video Comparator. (Provided by L.S. Starrett Co.)

First up on my tour was the Starrett AV450 CNC Vision System. This automated system is useful for both shops and labs, said Stanford. “It’s basically a large parts video measuring system and runs MetLogix M3 software. You put a part in, teach it what that part is, and it remembers the part.” When an operator measures the part again, “it looks for the end of the part, identifies it, then calls up and runs the program.” The AV450 has 18 x 14 x 8″ (457 x 356 x 203 mm) travel, Z-axis measuring, 12:1 zoom optics, and several LED or fiber optic illumination options.

“Once the AV450 is done measuring features, it produces a report,” said Stanford. “This eliminates all of the operator variability in a normal inspection process.” The AV450 can be loaded with one part or a whole work stage filled with parts mounted on a pallet. “The real advantage of this kind of system for manufacturers is ease of use. In about 15 minutes [of training], I could have you programming a part.” He noted that 80 percent of AV450s are used on the shop floor, next to the machine tools. “In a lot of cases, shops bring parts into [the AV450] for first article inspection, then go back and set the machine up.”

Up next was the HDV500, the largest of Starrett’s digital video comparators. “If you were measuring a part on a traditional optical comparator, it would take you five minutes, whereas it takes a second on the HDV500, and it’s accurate to a tenth. You just set a part, push the button, and watch it go,” said Stanford.

The most important elements of these types of systems in a manufacturing environment are ease of use, elimination of operator-to-operator variability, improved accuracy, speed of measurement, and reporting capability, according to Starrett.

Since the EASTEC show, Starrett has introduced the new generation of its HDV300 and HDV400 Horizontal Digital Video (HDV)Comparators, which offer increased speed and improved LED ring lighting for more consistent illumination, enabling greater user measurement throughput, according to Starrett. At 10mm/ sec., speed on the Y axis has tripled and X-axis speed has almost doubled, at 45 mm/ sec. The HDV300 and HDV400 use MetLogix M3 touch screen software with the M3 DXF/ FOV option pack. The software imports DXF CAD files and makes automatic 2D “go/no-go” comparisons to an engineering design by using video edge detection, with no need for traditional Mylar overlays. This increases measurement throughput while eliminating operator subjectivity. The HDVs’ field-of-view (FOV) measurements can encompass a part up to 2.47 x 1.85″ (62.7 x 47 mm), or a feature of a larger part. FOV measurements can be integrated with stage motion to measure larger parts.

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