It’s easy to become dazed by the continuing stream of buzz words. For those of us in manufacturing, all this buzz creates a sense of impending change, but no clarity on what that change might be. Uncertainty means anxiety.
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Sometimes, too many choices can be a problem. That might be the case today for manufacturers of medical devices, who are facing a host of challenges and opportunities. Devices are small and getting smaller. Their complexity is increasing. End users are demanding tighter tolerances.
GE Appliances (GEA) has been designing and manufacturing consumer appliances for over 125 years. The iconic brand, headquartered in Louisville, KY, employs nearly 6000 people, a number that rose to 12,000 employed globally after its acquisition by Haier, making the company part of the largest appliance manufacturer in the world.
When a growing backlog in the inspection room began to slow production and delay deliveries, Voisard Tool Service Inc. (Russia, OH), a division of Arch Global Precision, found a solution in a new advanced tool measurement system and software from United Grinding (Miamisburg, OH).
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.
I’m among the first to dive into the latest manufacturing innovations and see how they can improve our customers’ operations. Yet, I’m also among the first to advise them to pause and ensure that the fundamentals of their manufacturing processes are in place before adding something new into the complex mix of functionality and desired outcomes.
Metrology for medical devices needs to become more capable as those devices get more varied and complex. Manufacturers must inspect dental implants, coronary stents, orthopedic joints, and implanted electronic devices. Surgeons are increasingly using intricate, sometimes one-off, surgical tools. There is also a growing number of consumable items, such as hypodermic needles, made on rapid production lines. They all need ever more precise quality control.
While suppliers are under more pressure than ever to produce precision parts faster and with less scrap, in-process metrology means manufacturers can detect as soon as possible when a part is going wrong, correcting the issue quickly and saving it from scrap.
Consolidation along the Digital Thread seems to be all the rage among companies today, including Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. While acquiring technologies outside its core metrology might make sense as a business, is there advantage technically in adding CAE and CAD/CAM?