As machine vision technologies improve, providing more data more frequently, new uses for inspection during the manufacturing process are emerging. The automotive industry might represent the ultimate challenge to providers of machine vision equipment used in robotic guidance and material inspection.
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The industrial world is continuing its adoption of Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T), the advanced tolerancing methodology. The symbolic language is intended to be both more precise while providing more latitude in allowable variations, replacing the simpler method of adding tolerances to each dimension.
Structured light systems measure surfaces by projecting a pattern of fringes, then using cameras and sophisticated software to convert them into point clouds of metrology data. Accuracy can reach the single-digit microns over millions of points.
For CMMs, the good times continue to roll. “One of the surprising things that has happened in just the last three to four years is the sheer volume of CMMs that we are shipping,” said Angus Taylor, president of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, North America (North Kingstown, RI). “The market seems to be really exploding.”
When I graduated with an engineering degree some decades ago, I learned that the organizations I was going to work for had internal communication problems. This was especially true for those that designed and manufactured complex machinery such as engines, aircraft, or automobiles.
The world of quality measurement devices and software continues to expand, and IMTS years are especially exciting times. If there is a theme in the many offerings—new devices, new software—it might be how quality devices are continuing to burrow their way into the heart of manufacturing on the shop floor.
Basic trends in modern manufacturing are driving growth in 3D optical metrology. “One is the highly complex and high-tech material that manufacturers are using today. For example, in the aerospace turbine blade market, they simply cannot touch the part like they used to—the surface finish of the material is too readily affected by any kind of contact metrology."
Technology is changing ever more rapidly. Sometimes this means topics learned in engineering or technical school become obsolete. Whole new fields emerge within a few years, so that even those with freshly minted educations suddenly find themselves faced with new challenges.
Metrology-grade laser scanners are expanding their range of applications. New users are finding the main attractions of laser scanners—speed and ease of use. What prevented more widespread use in the past were laser scanners’ perceived tradeoffs. Using one usually meant sacrificing accuracy or working with noisy data.
With the number of offline and in-process toolsetting options on the rise, developing a way to efficiently utilize this technology can be confusing. Which presetter should we buy? What about the software that’s so often part of these systems—do we really need it?