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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I traveled to Toyota headquarters in Japan with Jeff Liker for a research project. We wanted to learn more about the engineering and collaboration that created the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), the strategy and innovation behind hydrogen vehicles, and how they had adapted and improved their development system to meet the increasing demands of the ultra-competitive global auto industry.
Machine manufacturers are working to streamline the gear-making process, to deliver a more highly finished gear in fewer steps.
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.
“We are developing solutions for power workholding such as hydraulic swing clamps and block clamps, because the real estate on a fixture is so valuable,” says Jason Betz, product specialist for Carr Lane Roemheld (St. Louis). “This pushes the use of smaller workholding components as much as possible because the more parts on the fixture the greater the productivity.”
The challenges to manufacturing as it evolves into the 21st century are now familiar, and impact how metrology must contribute. Manufacturers face uncertain production volumes with roller-coaster demand, shorter production runs and faster product development cycles. Automation, while alluring as a way to reduce cost, needs to adjust.
A subsidiary of HNI Corp. (Mustacine, IA), the second-largest manufacturer of office furniture in North America, Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT; Mt. Pleasant, IA) manufactures sheetmetal fireplaces (both wood and gas-burning), vent pipe, and fireplace accessories. The company has four manufacturing facilities.
How do you boost productivity in a highly competitive industry segment while improving the quality of life for your workforce? That’s the story of Skills Inc. (Auburn, WA), a company that is so unique it has two bottom lines—one financial and one social.
These days the most important theme in superabrasive grinding wheel development isn’t the abrasive, it’s the bond. The diamond or CBN grains do the cutting, but the bond plays a decisive role in exposing the grains to the workpiece and enabling coolant to remove heat.
“Metrology and its relationship to manufacturing is rapidly evolving,” Ken Woodbine, president, Wilcox Associates, a brand of Hexagon Metrology (North Kingstown, RI), recently observed. “We are seeing larger quantities and faster speeds of measurement data collection. The next challenge is what to do with all that data.”