If you have had to visit any manufacturing exhibitions recently and had a look at what’s on show by way of metrology, what stands out is the emphasis on portability and on non contact sensor technology. Compared to, say, ten years ago, the technology and demands of the manufacturing marketplace have moved on significantly. Back then, fixed metrology systems, such as bridge type coordinate measuring machines with touch sensor probing predominated.
Today, you will see a plethora of non contact sensors, from fringe projection to laser scanning and from small scale 3D to very large volume measurement systems. Clearly, there is a technology push from the development of new sensors, software and operating systems. On the demand side, manufacturers want metrology as near as possible to the production process. They don’t want to have to take parts on and off machine tools, disassemble and reassemble components and subsystems, build expensive jigs and so on.
The drum beat of production can’t miss a beat, metrology has to come to the shopfloor. This is why we see an increasing emphasis on systems that are portable, easy to operate and can deliver the required accuracy and repeatability in a shopfloor environment. Non contact systems area also increasing coming to the fore as speed of measurement and amount of data they can generate bring big advantages, especially critical in our era of model-based manufacturing.
Some concerns manufacturers have are: how do we achieve effectiveness of application? Will we get repeatability and reproducability of results between the different measurement technologies? How do we integrate these technologies into our production, design and engineering processes without overstretching the capabilities of our workforce to absorb this new knowledge? Do we understand the technology and future support risks? What training is available? Get it right and you should achieve a winning competitive edge.
Brendan Coyne - Editor