QMT Features: May 2010
Global player
Global metrology company, Hexagon Metrology, pushes forward with new product innovation, technical partnerships and aftercare software.  By Brendan Coyne, QMT

Hexagon Metrology is a global player in the world of metrology. Part of the Hexagon AB Group, the company has an installed base of millions of coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), portable measuring systems and handheld instruments, together with tens of thousands of metrology software licenses. Leading metrology brands include Brown & Sharpe, DEA, Leica Geosystems (Metrology Division), Leitz,  PC-DMIS, and TESA.

As with most companies, Hexagon Metrology has experienced difficult market conditions, with a 19% drop in order intake for 2009,  but was upbeat in its  Interim Report, released this May 5th, with a strong order intake of 16 per cent organic growth in the first quarter 2010, strong margins and  cash flows.

At last month’s Control exhibition in Stuttgart, Per Holmberg, President of Hexagon Metrology Europe, said EBIT margins were trending up again and that the company were much more confident  in the industry. North America and Europe had returned to growth and the emerging markets were continuing their rapid expansion.

Investment had continued in new product development which was reflected in the number of new products and major enhancements on show at Control 2010.
David Brown, Hexagon Metrology UK director and general manager (seen here above), added to this narrative when he spoke to QMT magazine. “Driving technical innovation is key. Technical partnerships has been one way forward for us and our relationship with Formula One team, Red Bull, has worked well. We are about confirm the relationship for another 3 year period and look to push technician innovation boundaries even further with what is probably one of the most demanding  business customers in the world.”

Automation is the future and Hexagon Metrology  are making big strides in this area: for example, the company is able to monitor positions of robots  in real time. using its Leica laser trackers in a development with UK industry partners. Laser trackers is one area of technical innovation that Hexagon are keen to emphasise with the announcement of its new Leica Absolute Tracker AT401  -  a highly accurate portable CMM for 3D measurements over ultra long ranges. AT401  is the first laser tracker to be battery operated and designed for cable-less operation. It is IP54 certified and includes enhanced features such as PowerLock and Automatic Target Recognition (ATR).

Other major developments in Hexagon’s product portfolio includes the  introduction of Optiv, a range of vision and multi-sensor measuring systems. Five series are available – from the basic model to a high-performance instrument for measurements on the nano-scale.”We’ll be breaking new ground with the Optiv range,” says David Brown. “This multisensor vision technology will allow us to develop  different market sectors, such as medical and electronics.. Over the next 12 months, customer focus groups will give us insight into potential vision applications.”

Hexagon Metrology UK have a two prong strategy to support their market. Equally critical to product innovation is the aftercare relationship with their customers. “Over 50% of our revenues come form the aftercare market,” says David Brown. “We need to be more efficient and effective in this area.. To make this happen, we are investing in new service  software to track customer activity. Anyone in Hexagon can log on and contribute to what’s going on. We want to extend this to allow major customers to be able to hook into our intranet system to manage their process, eg  to view their records, calibration schedules, instrument usage and so on.”

ROMER Absolute Arm introduced
Presented for the first time at the Control Exhibition last month, the new  generation ROMER Absolute Arm is the first portable measuring arm with absolute encoders allowing it to attain high levels of speed and productivity when taking 3D measurements, explains David Brown, adding that this system, together with all the other major innovations, will be on show at the MACH 2010 exhibition,  June 7 -11th, at the NEC, Birmingham, in the UK.  Absolute Arm technology avoids the earlier need with all measuring arms to initialise the encoders – now the user simply switches the machine on and start measuring.  It is also  the most accurate ROMER CMM ever manufactured and features low weight and a systematic, ergonomic design. Additional grip positions and a  balanced main tube ensure the operator can work productively without fatigue during the inspection. “With its WiFi capability and high-capacity rechargeable batteries, the ROMER Absolute Arm can operate wirelessly. Our customers can select from two levels of precision and seven arm-lengths between 1.5 and 4.5m”, says David Brown.

Major software release
Also announced at t Control 2010 was PC-DMIS 2010 - a family of software products covering a variety of metrology hardware platforms and solutions - sold under the banner of Enterprise Metrology Solutions (EMS).
PC-DMIS 2010 is an  enhanced version of PC-DMIS CMM, PC-DMIS Portable and PC-DMIS Vision software. The release also introduces new products such as PC-DMIS Planner and the DataPage+ suite of products.

“PC-DMIS 2010 is a major product release for the metrology industry, not just an incremental software upgrade,” said Ken Woodbine, president of Wilcox Associates, Inc. “2010 is the culmination of development projects that have been in the works for several years. It also includes new hardware categories that have been added to the Hexagon Metrology group since the last major release of PC-DMIS. For example, the integration of PC-DMIS Portable with the new Leica TDRA6000 Total Station is a significant new interface. Our software development team is extremely excited about this release and we know our customers will be too.”

The core product of the EMS suite is PC-DMIS CMM, which is used primarily on automated Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs). A new feature allows users to select animation path lines and either insert a safety move at the point of selection or jump to that command location in their part program. This feature is ideal for the users who have very large part programs and want to easily navigate within them.  PC-DMIS 2010 offers enhanced support for the new Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing (GD&T) ANSI Y14.5 2009.l


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