Modern metrology – the unsung hero behind manufacturing processes

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Today metrology plays a major role in industrial processes. The contemporary version of metrology is the result of more than 200 years of development that began with the creation of the decimal metric system at the time of the French Revolution and the beginning, at about the same time, of mass production using interchangeable parts.

Inability of traditional measurement products to analyse complex geometries will be a key factor driving the global metrology services market in the days to come. Tools of metrology need to be integrated into manufacturing processes to ensure their availability on the factory floor, thus driving the demand for the metrology service providers and leading to market growth. It is also necessary that OEMs have extensive control over the manufacturing process as well as the expertise to precisely measure components using modern metrology. Research analysts have predicted that metrology services market will register a CAGR of almost seven per cent by 2023.

The has been an increase in demand for accurate parts to be delivered on tight schedules. In order to keep pace, technology is continually advancing, enabling manufacturers to do more in the same time. Add competitive global market pressure, and the need for efficiency is more important than ever. To sustain profitability, companies need to keep up with market demands, while maintaining production quality. Let’s take a closer look at the roles of metrology in the manufacturing process.

One of the main challenges of quality control (QC) is the balance between staying within production tolerance limits and keeping lead times down. Very often one single component has many features that need to be kept within tight manufacturing tolerance limits, requiring multiple forms of measurement processes or methods.

Multi-sensor technology, including vision and touch probe capability, may be required in order to fulfil the specific measurement needs. Among these sought-after system requirements, perhaps most importantly, is the need to have fast, reliable data acquisition in the process. The more complex the part, the higher the demands are for inspection and the more important efficiency becomes. In order to solve today’s challenges, versatile measurement and inspection equipment is now more pivotal in assuring consistent quality.

Multi-sensor measurement systems help solve many of the measurement and inspection challenges arising in modern manufacturing. Providing exceptional speed and efficiency, a multi-sensor measurement system can easily increase QC throughput by performing multiple processes on a single machine, while maintaining accuracy.

These new measurement platforms may be equipped with dual optical systems that work in tandem to allow measurement of a diverse range of features with one single device. Dual optical systems, as well as touch probe capability, allow users to inspect a part on a wide variety of geometries and feature sizes.

In order to maximise the power of modern measurement technology, however, systems must also be equipped with user interfaces that make the system’s capabilities approachable from a user standpoint. One of the top benefits of modern metrology software programs is the speed of throughput due to features such as auto part recognition. A user can create a part measurement program that comprises the desired features of a part for inspection, which can automatically be saved in the system or to a network.

New advancements, when combined with CNC control, advanced edge detection, and one touch measurement, facilitate what is known as “walk-up metrology”. Walk-up metrology enables multiple operators, including those right on the shop floor, to utilise the same system for a variety of applications. This versatility and ease of use significantly helps with bottlenecks in the inspection process and dramatically increases speed of workflow efficiency.

Whenever you capture physical reality to use as part of your digital design process, you are engaging in reverse engineering. Whether you call it reverse engineering or something else, you are almost certainly measuring physical parts and using those dimensions to inform multiple aspects of your product designs. And you are probably doing this multiple times throughout each product lifecycle.

A contemporary approach to reverse engineering, backed by the latest measurement technology and software, can drive value throughout your business.

As a practice, reverse engineering is as old as engineering itself. Due to continuing advances in hardware and software technology, reverse engineering is now so fast, accurate, and effective that it has become an integral part of modern product design.

Pioneering manufacturers are deploying modern reverse engineering to drive business value throughout the design, manufacture, and maintenance of their products.

Some of the aspects of the reverse engineering process are as follows:

Product Design: Significantly reduce time to market by using reverse engineering to combine off-the-shelf parts and assemblies with custom-designed parts.

Casting: Quickly create manufacturable digital models for broken castings with no design plans to rebuild and remanufacture critical components using 3D scanning and scan-based design.

Redesign and Customisation:  Start with an existing part—like a vehicle, vehicle component, or product that precisely fits the human body and use it as a reference to create brand new or custom-fit parts.

Prototyping: Create manufacturable designs faster by digitizing hand-built prototypes and prototypes typically fabricated with foam, cardboard, or modelling clay.

Remanufacturing and Maintenance: Protect expensive heavy equipment from emergencies and keep it running efficiently by using 3D scan data to create spare and replacement parts.

Reverse engineering adds value at every step of the product lifecycle. To create and sustain long-term value, manufacturers know that they need to take a holistic view of the entire product lifecycle.

The best-performing companies have mastered the ability to move seamlessly from digital to physical, and back to digital throughout the product lifecycle using technology like 3D scanning, reverse-engineering software, digital metrology software, and 3D printing.

Article by Arijit Nag
Arijit Nag is a freelance journalist who writes on various aspects of the economy and current affairs.
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