Modern manufacturing is rapidly adopting model-based definition (MBD). When employing an MBD strategy, the CAD model becomes more than the nominal to which all parts are measured and inspected against. MBD keeps the all-important digital thread intact—from design to manufacturing to inspection and quality reporting. Everything that defines the part exists in a single digital archive, including how to manufacture and inspect the part. Comprehensive deployment of MBD in manufacturing can go far beyond this to complete Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).
The Role of Inspection Software – Quality inspection and reporting used to be a disparate process isolated in a quality lab. Today it is much more integrated with the production floor through in-process inspection.
This starts with deployment of an enterprise inspection software and extends to all CMMs and accessories. Today’s inspection software solutions must be capable of serving the entire manufacturing enterprise. In order to maintain the digital thread, software must be rooted in CAD and have the ability to import from, manipulate, annotate, model, inspect against, and export to virtually any CAD file format. At the end of the day it is the job of inspection software to align and compare the nominal CAD model with measured points collected from the finish part, whether that includes a relatively small number of manually triggered contact points, or non-contact scanned point cloud data containing millions of points.
Using an enterprise inspection software will provide the manufacturing enterprise with consistency of operation, quality reporting, data management, and reduced training and support costs. Be sure the enterprise inspection software you select is open and offers the necessary level of interoperability to support your current and future manufacturing inspection requirements:
Is the inspection software based on a CAD platform, including 3D modeling?
Does it import and export all CAD files and models seamlessly?
Will it import and allow annotation of GD&T data?
Does it accept measurement data from all digital measuring devices?
Is the software capable of controlling all popular digital measuring devices?
Does it have the flexibility and embedded tools to handle the range of inspection data, from manual contact probing to non-contact point clouds?
Once you have established your enterprise inspection software it is important to insure that all planned-use digital measuring devices support open-system, non-proprietary controls and communication protocols. Virtually all portable CMMs and 3D scanners in use today are open, however, many of the older and larger fixed CMMs still have closed proprietary controls and communication protocols. So do your homework. Open protocols like I++ DME provide integration with otherwise closed systems, but once again it requires research to know whether or not it is available on your fixed CMM.
Whether your application calls for fixed or portable CMMs, contact probing or non-contact scanning, it is important to remember, each component in the inspection value chain must work together, seamlessly and as a whole, to validate and report a finish part against the original design intent. All while maintaining the digital thread.
In doing so a virtual legacy part is preserved for future use and reference and the all-important digital thread remains intact—from design to manufacturing, to inspection and quality reporting.
This article was first published in the January 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.