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Quality Assurance Passes with Flying Colors at IMTS

Bruce Morey
By Bruce Morey Senior Technical Editor, SME Media

Focus is on embedding metrology in the production process

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.

Measuring quality right on a metal-cutting machine is often where it starts. “In-machine measurement has become established as an integral element of high-end CNC machining,” said Alexander Blum, president of Blum-Novotest GmbH (Erlanger, KY).

According to Blum, it wasn’t easy for the company to upgrade its laser measuring technology with NT technology. “We achieved this innovation by implementing the DIGILOG technology familiar from touch probes in the laser measuring system,” he said. The previous generation of its digital and switching laser measuring systems using NT technology generates a small number of signals for recording measurements by shadowing the tool. In contrast, the new DIGILOG laser measuring system generates many thousands of measurement values per second while dynamically adjusting the measuring speed according to the nominal speed of the tool.

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The LC50-DIGILOG from Blum Novotest is a newly developed laser measuring system.

The LC50-DIGILOG laser measuring system that Blum-Novotest will be showcasing at IMTS boasts shortened measurement times by up to 60%. The optics were improved with an optimized beam shape and a 30% smaller focus diameter. The LC50-DIGILOG also measures each cutting edge individually, rather than just determining the value for the longest cutting edge. This means it is possible to make a comparison from the shortest to the longest cutting edge. As a result, run-out errors, caused by contamination on the taper of the toolholder for example, are also automatically detected.

Furthermore, the new LC50-DIGILOG detects any contaminants and cooling lubricants adhering to the tool and factors them into the measurement result for increased reliability, according to the company.

New Devices, New Uses

Moving away from the point of production, one can find innovations as well as twists on existing equipment. The L.S. Starrett Co. (Athol, MA) is illustrative of the new and improved metrology tools one will find at IMTS, including new ways to use the proven. For example, Mark Arenal, general manager of Starrett Kinemetric Engineering, will be presenting in the IMTS Conference Sessions on “Walk-up Metrology”—how shop floor users can employ vision and multi-sensor systems for wide-ranging measurements, including engineering and development, reverse engineering, quality and inspection.

In its booth, Starrett will feature its latest solutions from automated vision technology and optical measuring systems, force testing equipment, surface measurement, hardness testing, new electronic digital measuring tools and wireless data collection to support manufacturing’s transition to Industry 4.0. New precision measuring tools to be showcased include electronic digital micrometers, indicators, height gages and new Bluetooth-enabled bore gages for wireless data acquisition via data collection devices and systems such as Starrett DataSure.

Also, Starrett will feature its new HVR100 “FLIP” digital video system. It is a vision system designed to work upright vertically or on its side horizontally for application versatility, according to the company. One of these systems will be demonstrating a fully automated metrology solution where the HVR100 will be served by a robot loading parts on the machine’s workstage.

Another addition to the metrology toolbox that has appeared in the last decade continues to expand its utility and applications—metrology grade CT Scanning. To complement its existing line of CT scanners, Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology Technology LLC (Maple Grove, MN) recently expanded its line of CT solutions with the addition of Bosello 2D X-Ray systems, which it will feature in a separate booth at IMTS. Employees based at the Bosello site near Milan, Italy, will be part of the Zeiss X-ray network and will play a key role in further expanding the business. For Zeiss, this is a key enhancement to its non-destructive measuring and inspection global strategy. Zeiss IMT now offers four different X-ray based metrology systems, the METROTOM for evaluating large parts in detail, the Volumax for high-volume production, the SRE Max from Bosello for 2D imaging analysis and the Zeiss Xradia for high-resolution microscopy applications.

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The GOM ATOS 5 has a bright LED light source with a Blue Light Equalizer that provides uniform, speckle-free light for greater accuracy. It is available from Capture 3D in North America.

Capture 3D Inc. (Santa Ana, CA), the exclusive North American partner of GOM GmbH, will be exhibiting 3D scanners, photogrammetry systems, inspection software, photogrammetry, dynamic tracking, and turnkey automated inspection robotic solutions at IMTS. The new ATOS 5 has a bright LED light source with a Blue Light Equalizer that provides uniform, speckle-free light for greater accuracy, according to the company. It is reported that it can reach high-speed acquisition times as fast as 0.2 seconds and capture up to 12 million points per scan. The ATOS 5 is especially faster on scanning dark surfaces and shiny parts, according to the company.

Tried and True—the CMM

While new devices and sensors continue to be developed, the CMM is still a go-to device. “One of the surprising things that has happened, more so in the last three to four years, is the [increasing] volume of CMM products that are being asked for in the market-place,” said Angus Taylor, president and CEO of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence (North Kingstown, RI). “As customers are trying to get more productive, they are not finding the skill set of the people in some cases to use some of the handheld metrology devices.”

He noted that a CMM is a truly automated system that can compensate to a degree for this lack of shop floor skills with pre-programmed CMMs, especially those that can fit on or near the shop floor.

Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence has released the new Optiv Performance 322, a customizable, benchtop multi-sensor coordinate measuring machine (CMM) that offers a small footprint and convenient upgradability to cater to a variety of applications. Weighing 180 kg, the fixed-bridge and moving table-top machine is light enough to be placed directly on existing workbenches and relocated without recalibration by a Hexagon engineer. The machine not only saves floorspace, it also allows for increased accuracy and repeatability at high speed (300 mm/s) and high acceleration due to the stiffness of its granite construction.

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The CMM remains an important tool for maintaining quality in manufacturing because of its programmability, easing some of the requirements for highly skilled workers who can perform metrology, according to Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence.

Hexagon offers this CMM for inspection of sheet metal stampings, injection-molded plastic parts and profile scanning. The CMM is available in an entry-level vision-only configuration. The machine’s 3D accuracy specification and future-ready pre-cabling enables in-field upgrades to a complete 3D multi-sensor solution. The machine accepts a range of contact and non-contact sensors.

For more specialized measurements of very fine tolerances combined with surface measurements, Alicona Corp. (Bartlett, IL) will be presenting its latest optical 3D Focus-Variation measuring instrument, the µCMM, at IMTS. “The optical µCMM is a new benchmark in production measurement technology that will present completely new possibilities in micro-coordinate measurement,” said Stefan Scherer, president of Alicona. “The new measurement system supplements [existing] production measurement technology with a new, purely optical solution. Users benefit from all the advantages we offer with our Focus-Variation technique. These include the high-resolution measurement of components with steep flanks and highly reflective surfaces, insensitivity to vibrations and a high number of measuring points.”

The µCMM combines the advantages of tactile coordinate technology and optical surface metrology to measure dimensions, position, shape, and roughness of components with one sensor, according to the company. With only one sensor, users measure both surface roughness and GD&T features with tolerances in the single-digit µm range. The spectrum of measurable surfaces includes
all common industrial material and composites such as plastics, PCD, and ceramics among others including matte and polished, highly reflective components. The system can be configured as either a three-axis or five-axis system. An automation manager interface enables measurements to be collected automatically. The programs to be measured are selected via drop-down menu or barcode scanner. The measurement result is then completely operator-independent.

Trends and Perceptions

Proven devices are increasingly finding improved productivity via off-the-shelf integration. “We see two major parts of the market that we believe will drive products for the next few years. At the high end of the market, we see continuous automation, accuracy, speed, and integration to IoT as the driving factors,” said Rick White, director of business development for Capture 3D. “At the lower end of the market, we’re seeing an increase in demand of metrology quality products at a much lower price point. Now we are also able to meet the more budget-conscious consumer with metrology-grade products for under $40,000. Historically, products meeting that price point have not met the quality requirements for many manufacturing processes.”

A new product that illustrates this high-end trend is the ATOS ScanBox BPS (batch processing system), offered by Capture 3D. The ScanBox is an automated robotic 3D scanning cell for near-line or in-line measurement and inspection. The BPS includes a handling system and a programmable logic controller (PLC) that allows for automated loading and unloading of parts, in addition to the automated inspection functionality of the ScanBox. The handling system loads the ScanBox with the parts
to be inspected, which are marked with an RFID chip that includes all necessary information about the measuring program and the inspection processes needed for the part. Automated part loading and unloading speed up the entire scanning process and further eliminate the potential for operator interference.

The point behind integrated systems is to provide products that are easy to use, but there are other ways of getting that, such as making it easy for a user to absorb information. “The important keywords that summarize the trends we see are non-contact, flexible and guided,” explained Matteo Zoin, Testar product manager for Marposs (Auburn Hills, MI). The company offers non-contact measurement devices, such as its Irix confocal device, OptoFlash for flexible gaging, and, especially for this year, guided sequence gaging using augmented reality (AR).

“AR was the natural evolution to a request we received last year from a customer. In that case, we were guiding the operator on which gage to use and where with a laser beam, a ‘pick-by-light’ application, but the operator was always forced to look at the computer screen for feedback, With AR this is no longer an issue,” said Zoin.

At its booth, Marposs will provide AR glasses that guide visitors through a sequence of steps and measurements to check features on a cylinder head component using the Marposs iWave2 handheld wireless gage and a Go/NoGo gage. As they progress through the sequence, the perception will be that the measurement information is adhering to the workpiece.

“AR is already in use in industrial environments, mainly for maintenance and logistics, providing information to operators in the most rapid and intuitive way,” said Zoin. “Using AR to guide operators in an interactive way through a set of steps needed to inspect a component is new and can be applicable to any inspection sequence.”

Beyond perception is what to do with the data so that others can act on it. Whether it’s a machine in an automated cell or a quality manager that needs to provide higher level direction, data and information must go somewhere. “Today the most important trend in any industry, including ours,
is connectivity. This is the reason why all our products are designed for connectivity and integration with each other, as well as in customer production systems,” explained Zoin.

Connectivity Key to Integration

An important element that is just now emerging for connectivity is using Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) and the analysis of dimensional measurement data directly from metrology sources, according to Ray Stahl, business development director, KOTEM for QVI (Rochester, NY). While the idea of attaching PMI data to CAD models has been around awhile, the practical application is just now starting to catch up in actual use through software that can use the data.

PMI can be used to compare quality assurance data to the engineering design intent, which is where QVI enters the picture. “We are coming at the problem from the metrology point of view, and it became clear to us there is a tremendous waste in the current process,” explained Stahl. “The designer created GD&T specifications but was only sending the model geometry and not the PMI, which meant that quality engineering was transcribing the same information that the designer did into another software product to evaluate a product meeting acceptable tolerance.”

QVI will demonstrate its solution to this problem, KOTEM EVOLVE software using MBE, PMI, and the analysis of dimensional measurement data directly from a variety of sources, including video and laser measurement machines. Using MBE and PMI data as a bridge between design and manufacturing can enable better decisions that create far-reaching efficiencies throughout the supply chain.

New featured products from QVI include the TurnCheck Series 10 for measuring shafts up to 100-mm diameter and 800 mm in length; the new ShapeGrabber ai620 high-performance, mid-sized 3D laser scanner that provides automated high-speed measurements; and the QVI FlexPoint new generation large-for-mat multisensor CMM. The FlexPoint boasts a multisensor head with up to three sensors simultaneously available on an articulating probe head.

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Renishaw continues to emphasize the need for integrated quality systems in manufacturing and will be showing an automated cell at IMTS.

In the same vein, Renishaw LLC (West Dundee, IL) is emphasizing its range of smart factory process control solutions at IMTS this year. “As manufacturers ourselves, Renishaw has significant first-hand process control expertise to help our global partners to apply high levels of automation
and connectivity to their production processes so that they can benefit from the factory of the future, today,” said Paul Maxted, Renishaw’s director of industrial metrology applications.

Renishaw will be showcasing again this year a high-productivity machining cell, featuring fully integrated process control. This demonstrates how high levels of automation and connectivity can be incorporated into CNC machining operations to improve productivity and process capability, reflecting Renishaw’s own techniques for automated precision manufacturing.

While Renishaw’s probes will remain important mainstays on CMMs, this emphasis on factory automation reflects a growing market for its probes embedded in manufacturing systems and purpose-built equipment, such as the Equator gaging system. The newest Equator 500 accommodates larger parts, and the introduction of IPC (intelligent process control) software allows manufacturers to automate process control and tool offset correction directly to CNC machines from any Equator gage.

The company will also demonstrate the latest in its software, which it promises will deliver improved ease-of-use as metrology moves closer to the point of manufacture on the shop floor. These include MODUS 2 software for CMMs and Equator gaging systems, mobile apps for on-machine probing and CNC controller-based apps for probing and reporting. On CNC machines, SupaScan uses the latest OSP60 probe to offer fast workpiece set-up cycles. The system can now also monitor surface condition or waviness.

Borescopes are another critical tool anywhere a precision-machined bore must be checked to ensure specifications are met. Gradient Lens Corp. (Rochester, NY) is showcasing its line of borescopes, featuring the company’s patented endoGRINS gradient-index lens technology, built into its line of Hawkeye Rigid precision borescopes. This optical design allows Hawkeye Rigids to deliver excellent image quality at prices one-third that of comparable visual inspection instruments, according to the company.

Video borescopes from the Hawkeye V-Series are fully portable and articulating. “Flexible video bore-scopes have traditionally been used for aircraft maintenance and power plant maintenance, and the Hawkeye V-series scopes are great for that,” said Dr. Doug Kindred, president and CEO of Gradient Lens. “But now, because of the quality and value combination, they are used for many more applications.” These include diesel engine inspection, compressors, generators, engine block castings, and welded stainless steel tube inspection in pharmaceutical, chemical and oil and gas applications, according to Kindred.

Borescopes are a case study in how technology evolution in society influences the design of industrial tools. Their newest portable and benchtop video borescopes display high-quality inspection images on portable or desktop video monitors and laptop or desktop computers. Those images can be saved, documented and e-mailed. “With the increase in video technology in our culture as a whole, people are just used to being able to see and record videos,” said Kindred.

Manufacturing Engineering’s IMTS Quality Assurance Pavilion coverage continues in the August Digital IssueClick here to see more products that will be showcased in this pavilion.

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