QMT News: March 2014
Measurement Solutions launch the X4 i-Robot inspection concept

Traditional measurement for manufacturing inspection normally involves a fixed, co-ordinate measuring machine. Measurement Solutions believes that past efforts to ‘industrialise' inspection have failed, as the ability of a robot to position itself to the accuracy required for measurement does not match the tolerance expectations.

For some time, Metrolog X4 3D inspection software has had the ability to drive and control a traditional CMM, or to work with portable measuring devices such as laser trackers and portable CMMs. However, in every case, the accuracy of the measurement is embedded within the gauge itself.
The Metrolog X4 i-Robot takes the same measurement software, and applies it to robots. In essence, the software tells the robot to move to a position in space so that a measurement is taken.

As the software already integrates with a wide range of measuring devices, the X4 i-Robot uses the gauge itself to track the robot in space. So while the measuring head is mounted in the robot, which in turn is controlled to move to a position in space, the location of the measuring head is not defined by the robot's internal encoders. It is tracked independently using a tracking device. In this way, X4 i-Robot uses the robot to move the measuring head ‘close' to the required measuring position, and the actual position of the head is tracked independently of the robot.

The X4 i-Robot technology is suitable for all types of industrial robots, providing a production-oriented metrology solution that is accurate, reliable and flexible. It is particularly suited to applications requiring flexibility, productivity and high metrological accuracy. The robot's movements are perfectly synchronized with the measurement task, as the robot trajectory is entirely controlled by a standard Metrolog X4 CMM-style part program - the robot merely behaves as a simple tool holder.

Potential customers include automotive and aerospace OEMs and their subcontractors, who want metrology control directly integrated within a manufacturing line. A typical X4 i-Robot combination would be based around the MetraSCAN-R 3D portable optical CMM from Creaform. The MetraSCAN-R is a purpose designed laser scanning head that is mounted on a multi-axis robot, and is tracked by a pair of high-definition cameras known as the C-Track. Metrolog X4 i-Robot software is programmed just like a traditional CMM - the user selects areas of the CAD model that need to be inspected, and tells the scanner to collect scan data across the area. These commands are transmitted to the robot, which positions and moves the scanner across the face of the part, collecting scan data in real-time. Using the X4 i-Robot software, scan data is used to extract features such as holes, slots, surfaces, trim edges and conditions such as gap and flush in real-time, presenting the user with ‘live' measurement data. Results can be automatically transmitted into SPC software for further process monitoring.

The X4 i-Robot provides users with many major benefits over traditional measurement solutions. The system presents an in-line solution, rather than removing parts from the production line for measurement. As the programming of the measurement system is identical to that of a traditional CMM, with no specialised or dedicated robot synchronisation required, the system can be controlled by traditional inspectors with minimal additional training. The accuracy of the measuring system is completely independent of robot accuracy, so the need for cyclic robot calibration is completely eliminated.

When combined with the MetraSCAN-R system, seen here, users immediately gain from one other major benefit. The movement of robots often creates significant vibrations and movement within the measuring cell. The MetraSCAN-R incorporates Creaform's TRUaccuracy principle, which includes dynamic positioning, a system whereby the object being measured is continually tracked during measurement, such that the reference coordinate system is ‘attached' to the part. In this way, the effects of any movement, such as vibrations within the cell, are completely eliminated, and accuracy is guaranteed at all times.
At MACH measuring cell comprising a Kuka robot with a MetraSCAN-R scanning head will be shown taking live measurements directly through Metrolog X4 i-Robot software.

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Rob Tremain Photographer
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