Investing in a new coordinate measuring machines can be a powerful way to make your shop more efficient and more competitive, as increased inspection abilities not only make you more appealing to clients, but also help you reduce wasted materials and time. Metrology can be integrated into your shop either isolated in the lab or directly on the shop floor, even as part of a cell manufacturing set-up, thanks to shop-floor ready technology like portable arms. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into and how you can integrate metrology in your process before you invest.
Size, Accuracy, and Speed
With so many different types of coordinate measuring machines on the market, the one you decide to purchase will largely be determined by the components which you are measuring. Traditional fixed instruments like gantry and bridge-style CMMs have the highest accuracy, and gantry, horizontal, and vertical-arm versions have substantially large tables for measuring large components. However, oversized components may need to be inspected using a portable arm, which requires manual operation.
Large components that require thousands of data points can also be inspected using a laser scanner, which can collect data much more rapidly than a touch probe, but there are limitations to laser scanners, such as repeat scanning to account for angles on complex parts.
The physical characteristics of the component may also determine how you measure it, whether it’s with touch probes, a laser scanner, or a vision system. Touch probes are the most accurate way to inspect a component, but scanners can collect data faster, and vision systems can be used to collect data on malleable materials that shift when contacted. Metrology dealers like Canadian Measurement Metrology can help you determine exactly which machine will work better for your production line.
Portable arms are effective and affordable instruments with a wide range of applications, making a great introduction to coordinate measuring machines for shops that haven’t previously used them. They are manually operated, which means they take more labor hours to use, but they are simple to operate and provide accurate results, so long as they are regularly recalibrated.
Pay attention to the software you purchase with the machine, especially if you’re buying used, as older software packages are typically considered obsolete by today’s standards. Software upgrades can keep old coordinate measuring machines up-to-date; the hardware can last for decades, but new software can produce faster, more reliable results, easier programming, and better data management. PC-DMIS is the most advanced CMM software on the market with wide-ranging compatibility on controllers and machines from a variety of OEMs. Your choice of software will determine how long it takes operators to program parts routines, whether or not they can program from CAD, i.e., sparing you from needing a finished product to program the inspection routine, and how you collect data. The right software and well-trained operators can keep bottlenecks from happening, keep components moving, and effectively catch defects in the CNC equipment before they become costly mistakes.