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.
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.
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.
Today’s products require high finishes, burr-free edges, freedom from contamination, and often close tolerances. Electropolishing provides all of those conditions and more in a matter of seconds for many metal parts. It is a process that has been used for more than a hundred years. It is widely known and the science is widely discussed, but its ability to run job shop lots and high-precision high-volume parts in the same equipment makes it a bit unique.
Advanced simulation, new toolpath techniques aid programming of highly complex machinery. CAD/CAM software developers continue to refine simulation capabilities and toolpath techniques that enable programming highly complex equipment including multiaxis and multitasking machine tools.
It is reported that, not too long ago, before the current precipitous decline in machine-tool shipments, the number of 30-taper machines that were being manufactured and sold in Japan had surpassed the numbers of 40-taper and 50-taper machining centers.
Off-line programming software tools for CMMs allow manufacturers to increase measurement capacity and throughput by programming CMMs, probes, and fixtures before parts are made.