Since becoming the official metrology equipment supplier to the Super Aguri F1 Team Metris has been hailed as helping the fledgling team rapidly gain a competitive edge in the sport.
One of Metris' key innovations was in manufacturing and installing an LK co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) large enough to accommodate a complete race car chassis. In addition, Metris has supplied 3D laser scanning heads and software to upgrade and increase the performance of a pre-existing Faro portable arm and a smaller Mitutoyo CMM.
Super Aguri F1 Team's financial constraints as a start-up team in a super-rich sport, allied with a need to utilise high-end metrology equipment to compete effectively in F1 races, was a fundamental dilemma. The original measuring equipment was able to cope in some areas.
However, the larger structural elements of the car could previously only be inspected using the Faro arm, which was capable of no more than ±30 microns measuring accuracy, insufficient to chase those all-important lap time reductions measured in fractions of a second. Moreover, comprehensive checking of profiles and surfaces was impossible to achieve by single-point probing on the Mitutoyo or Faro machines in the very short lead times between races.
So there was enthusiasm among the directors of Super Aguri F1 when Metris approached them in the close season offering to provide an LK CMM with 2,500 x 1,000 x 800 mm measuring envelope capable of ±2 microns volumetric accuracy. They also suggested using Metris laser scanning heads and software on all three measuring machines to speed the inspection of features and surfaces.
Commented Tim Nolan, Inspection Manager, SAF1 Team base at the Leafield technical centre, "We are constantly trying to cut tenths of a second off lap times and to achieve that, we need to measure body panels and mechanical components to within a few microns. We could not achieve this on larger items such as a whole carbon fibre body shell.
"Another difficulty we had was an inability to capture data on freeform surfaces quickly to reverse-engineer external body parts after wind tunnel tests, as often the original CAD data was not available from the model shop, or the part had been modified by hand to optimise its aerodynamics.
"CAD to part analysis of complex surfaces such as carbon fibre patterns for which we did have the data was similarly problematic, as digitising a surface by probing discrete points was not fast enough at the frenetic pace that we operate."
The Metris Model Maker D laser scanner on the 7-axis Faro arm has a wide, single stripe and high frame rate for fast scanning, with the Metris Kube Scan software rendering the shape in real time on the screen. Filtered scan data is exported to Metris Focus Inspection software for comparing the collected point cloud data with the original CAD model and generating inspection reports. This all speeds the complete process.
The higher accuracy of CMMs allows the use of the Metris XC50 and LC15 laser scanner probes, both of which are compatible with Renishaw motorised probe heads and auto exchange rack. The XC50 uses three laser stripes to view a component from different angles simultaneously. It scans complex geometries and measures features at high speed to high accuracy in full 3D, making it especially useful for scanning holes, slots and pockets as well as gap and flush between body panels.
The LC15 was utilised for the scanning of the foam for the race car seat, which is bespoke to the driver and has to fit his form perfectly. Mr Nolan said that in the past this took two days using single-point probing, whereas the same job is now completed in one hour.
He went on to explain how a touch probe and a laser scanning head can be used sequentially to inspect a part on a CMM, the results being joined automatically by the Metris software into a single scan or inspection report. For instance, holes and machined features on a chassis are checked using the ±2 micron volumetric accuracy of the LK CMM in touch probe mode.
The laser scanner, with ±8 micron accuracy, then takes over to capture the profile, resulting in significant time savings and an improvement in accuracy compared with using the Faro arm.
Now that the Metris equipment is in place at the SAF1 Team factory, the metrology infrastructure matches that of the top F1 teams, except for the absence of a Metris Krypton optical CMM with 17 cubic metre measuring envelope for checking the entire car after assembly. F1's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), also uses such a machine to carry out legality checks on participating cars before and after each race.
Metris UK Ltd, Nottingham East Midlands Airport,
Castle Donington, Derbyshire, DE74 2SA.
Tel: +44 1332 811349. Fax: +44 1332 850149.
Contact: Paul Bexon, Technical Sales Manager
Renaat Van Cauter
Tel +32 16 74 01 14
Fax. +32 16 74 01 02
QMT Applications: August 2007
Metris appointed an official industrial supplier to Super Aguri F1 Team
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