In this exclusive interview with Manufacturing Engineering, Norbert Hanke president of Hexagon Metrology shared his views on a number of high level topics that illustrates where Hexagon Metrology – and the industry – is headed in the next few years. Manufacturing Engineering had this discussion with him at the company’s annual customer event, HxGN Live 2014 in Las Vegas on June 4, 2014.
Manufacturing Engineering: What do you see as the most important trends in metrology today?
There are four major trends, really, and they are continuations of trends we have seen for some time. The first is more metrology on the shop floor, the second trend is non-contact metrology. We had many customers tell us for high-end, precise measurements they do not want the surface touched by a probe. Some aircraft engine manufacturers were quite adamant about that. In response, we developed our new HP-O interferometric non-contact probe for micron level accuracy.
The third trend we see is the growing use of more flexible and portable devices, and finally better software user interfaces are going to be very important.
Manufacturing Engineering: Why is the software user interface so important?
It gets back to the movement to the shop floor. The skill set of the people using our equipment is changing, and we need to adapt to that. The user interface is one of the first things we need to adapt.
When it comes to user interface, we are thinking very broadly and innovatively. We are thinking about voice-activated user interfaces or motion gestures rather than input through a keyboard. We are demonstrating a Google glass prototype at the show, where operators who have to move around large parts find it inconvenient to interact with a fixed computer and keyboard.
Manufacturing Engineering: How will metrology systems adapt to better serve the shop floor?
There will be two roads, one road will be devices that are extremely flexible and able to perform many functions. The other road is very dedicated devices. For example, you may have a device such as we are developing exclusively for turbine blade measurements. Another example of that is our 360° Smart Inline Measurement Solutions (360° SIMS) for automotive applications.
Manufacturing Engineering: What might be some of the unexpected outcomes if these trends continue for the next few years?
One of the critical issues I anticipate is data overload for our customers. There will be so much metrology data, they will need experts to help them sort through the data, and we will need new ways of summarizing that information for them.
For example, the 360° SIMS features a “video of the day” to summarize what is happening. In that system, we present information in the form of traffic lights – red, yellow, and green. So, when you see the car body is being measured, it is evaluated in one of these colors and presented that way. Why? Because some manufacturing guys just want to see the trends. They are not as interested in individual measurements as they are in the general trend. This “video of the day” is summarizing those trends.