Metrology Device Suppliers Strive to Provide Metrology that is Faster, Better and Cheaper. How They are Doing This is What is Interesting.
I always find IMTS 2018 a wonderful opportunity to wander among a cornucopia of offerings, both new and proven, small and large. Suppliers are finding ways to provide more value to their customers. Manufacturers seem to be getting that metrology can be more than a necessary expense. It can be a way to add value, reduce costs, and improve what they are making. The key is integrated, easy to use systems and accessibility to the data.
Devices and Machine Technology
Metrology starts with a device taking measurements, and clever suppliers are developing a host of new and improved measurement devices. Often a variation on an existing device, the improvements could simply be to make it better and faster—or to make the existing design operate in a previously inaccessible place. So, it goes with the Visionline IPS B5 from Jenoptik, Rochester Hills, Mich., a device introduced at the IMTS 2018 show.
“This is a handy device for detecting surface flaws in small IDs [and bores] down to 5 millimeters in diameter, and measures such bores as deep as 200 millimeters,” said Andreas Blind vice president of metrology at Jenoptik Automotive. “This lets users go into areas we could not access before.” He notes that it is especially useful in precision hydraulics and other delicate equipment where the slightest flaw or blemish can cause problems, such as automatic transmissions. Previous models in the Visionline IPS series include the B10 and B100. All, including the B5, collect data using optics in 360 degrees in one pass, with no moving parts. “This makes it easy to automate,” he said, and use in a production line.
Another approach to improving metrology is to make it application specific, a strategy Jenoptik used in another IMTS 2018 announcement. The IPS Gap device, using the same technology from the IPS line, it checks the gaps on the valve seat insert in internal combustion engines. “It can measure gaps from 5 to 50 microns,” he said. “The gaps cannot be too big or too small and this device checks for that.”
Marposs, Auburn Hills, Mich., a supplier of wide variety of individual metrology tools, employed an application specific philosophy with its new TTV Die Temperature Monitoring Solution. It is used for monitoring die casting of light alloys. The surface distribution of die temperature is crucial for high quality, efficient and faultless processes, according to Marposs. Most defects in die casting such as shrinkage, porosity, cracks, and blisters are caused by the die temperature being out of control. “What this vision system does is find the hot spots and cool spots in a die mold to guide spraying oil on the hot spots,” explained Gary Sicheneder manager of new market development for Marposs. The TTV systems consist of a controller and two thermographic camera units.
Off-line bench gaging remains an important tool. Marposs’ newer Super-MECLAB+.T40 laser gauging system is a precision laser micrometer for checking diameter measurements of fluted parts, with odd or even flutes. This includes drill bits, end mills, or small gears or other such precision parts with diameters ranging from 0.06 to 38 mm. Repeatability is good as +/- 0.07 microns to 2 sigma.
Another of their newer offerings is the M62 Flex for gear measurement. The M62 is a motorized system that uses a “soft touch” technology, according to Sicheneder. “The universal problem with gear measurement has been when you bring a ball contact in [to take the measurement], especially in the pitch diameter area of the gear, the contact is made of carbide and in most cases is harder than the gear,” he said, especially if the gear is in its green state, prior to heat treat. “Our soft touch technology stops the ball contact as soon as it touches the gear,” he said.
Blum Novotest Inc., Erlanger, Ky., introduced its LC50-DIGILOG laser tool measurement for use in machine tools at IMTS 2018. An improvement on past systems, the new DIGILOG laser measuring systems generates many thousands of measurement values per second while dynamically adjusting the measuring speed to the nominal speed of the tool, according to the company. The new laser measuring system LC50-DIGILOG also measures each cutting edge individually. Run-out errors are detected automatically. It detects any contaminants and cooling lubricants adhering to the tool and deducts them from the result to make measurement results. Measurement times are now 60% faster using an optimized laser beam that is 30% smaller in diameter, according to the company.
“Our customers were asking for more precision, automation, and closed loop processing and that is what we are focusing on with this new laser measurement tool,” said Lilian Barraud, president of Blum Novotest. The company’s smartDock interface is used to integrate all Blum laser measuring systems. The LC50 is supplied in a length of 150 – 500 mm. The laser optics make the system suitable for use in small high-end machines and in micro-machining scenarios, according to Blum. Repeatability varies depending on system length, from 0.1 microns for 150 mm to 0.5 microns for 500 mm.
Off the Shelf and Integrated
Quality Vision International (QVI), Rochester, N.Y., continues to expand their offerings. A couple that seemed most interesting include their new Turncheck 6-30m, a 60 mm x 300 mm benchtop optical shaft measurement system, with its first showing at IMTS 2018. This complements their existing floor models that range in measuring size from 100 x 600 mm up to 100 x 800 mm. According to Tim Sladden senior director of marketing, the TurnCheck Technology was derived from their SNAP vision system technology. It features green lasers and a telecentric lens. Sladden noted that advanced optics, thermal stability, and ease of use means they are designed for on-the shop floor or near-line inspection. TurnCheck system software does not require one to adjust lighting, focus, or image tools, optimizing features automatically, according to QVI.
The ShapeGrabber ai 620 is an interesting technology. It features a blue light scanner (450 nm wavelength) for better accuracy and better data quality, a trend you might expect to see in future laser metrology systems. The theory is that blue light is less prone to interference from ambient light. ShapeGrabber was acquired by QVI a few years ago and Pierre (Pete) Aubrey, who remains president of the now QVI subsidiary, made a point that since his company has been bought, QVI has brought its expertise in building vision systems and CMM technology to his cabinet style laser scanners. The result is the ai 620, now built on a granite base. The newest blue light sg198 3D scan head boasts data rates of 155,000 points/second, with a higher dynamic range for better material discrimination including matte black plastic, to bare metal, to grainy castings and 3D printed parts, according to QVI.
L.S. Starrett Company, Athol, Mass., also released at IMTS 2018 a newer version of its AV vision systems, the AV 450. Built to measure larger parts, its measuring envelope is 18″ x 14″ x 8″ (457 mm x 356 mm x 203 mm). “Our typical customer base includes aerospace and medical manufacturers,” said Damien Klett, vision systems product manager for Starrett, though he counts general machine shops devoted to precision parts among his customer set. “The ability to stitch together many smaller images to create a large, single picture of a larger part is something our customers were asking for. You can then measure that large image without having to examine a number of smaller areas,” he said. “It makes it easier for our customers.”
Like its other systems, the AV450 has high-resolution video zoom optics and it can be pre-programmed (CNC) for repetitive part inspection or driven manually via a trackball for individual measurements. Further analysis is provided by either QC5000 or MetLogix M3 software that controls video edge detection and multiple-channel fiber optic or LED illumination. CAD files can be imported or exported, and reports can be generated and archived.
It also features computer-controlled Quadrant (LED) ring lighting, sub-stage lighting, and optional through-the-lens lighting. The lens can be upgraded to a telecentric version, according to Klett.
When Robots meet Metrology
Another trend that is becoming apparent is the tie between robots and metrology devices. Some measuring systems go with robots like peas go with carrots. This is especially true for scanners of any sort, such as laser trackers, scanners and structured light systems.
Expanding its existing offerings in larger integrated metrology cells, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence (HMI), North Kingstown, R.I., announced new at IMTS 2018 its latest 360° FMC-Tracker. This is the latest improvement in integrated metrology devices aimed at factory implementations, on- or near-production lines. Previous versions integrated their structured light measurement systems. This latest features a Leica Absolute Tracker AT960 and the Leica T-Scan 5 laser scanner aimed at measuring parts up to 10 m. According to HMI spokeswoman Bridget Benedetti, the system collects 210,000 points/second with repeatabities as good as 16 microns. “We are also [offering] a long runway slide, that provides up to 10 meters of measurement space.” The laser tracker measures the position of the T-Scan in the measuring volume while the T-Scan collects the data from the surface of the part.
The 360° FMC-Tracker is configurable to a wide range of specific measurement applications. The system is available in ‘Solo’ and ‘Duet’ configurations featuring one or two turn tables. The cell offers further flexibility as the portable laser tracker component can be removed from the cell and used for manual measurement tasks with the supplied laser scanner, a Leica T-Probe, or a reflector for single-point measurement.
The 360° FMC-Tracker with its Leica tracker might be familiar to the aerospace and aerostructures market, since they often work with laser trackers, as well as commercial vehicle or automotive users.
Nikon Metrology Inc., Brighton, Mich., was also showing off its MV331 laser radar attached to a robot at its booth at IMTS 2018. It does require a line of sight directly to the features being measured, so movement of the part or the laser radar might be needed. With an effective radius of up to 50 meters, a Laser Radar could be set up at the 50-yard line of a football stadium and hit both end zones with 3D uncertainty of less than about 0.5 mm (0.02 in) accuracy, according to Nikon.
At a range of 5 meters it is capable of measuring to 0.05 mm or 0.002 inches. At any distance it captures up to 2,000 points/second. The Laser Radar system by itself is small and portable, able to be rolled around the factory taking measurement out to the process, according to Nikon. “Think of the [automated] laser radar as a shop floor CMM,” said Andy Stults, marketing manager for Nikon.
Tying it together
Mitutoyo, Aurora, Ill., a provider of a wealth of handy gadgets and tools for metrology had, as might be expected, a number of new small tools on display at IMTS 2018. Free access and portability of data is vital for today’s manufacturers, and Mitutoyo responds to this need by providing easy ways to get data from micrometers, calipers and other devices into a company’s quality management system. That is the purpose of the U-Wave fit, a new, compact attachment for over 1,600 different Mitutoyo calipers and micrometers. The U-Wave fit transmits measurements wirelessly to a PC using the digimatic protocol. The elimination of long, cumbersome data cables helps improve measurement efficiency and speed while maintaining precise accuracy, according to Mitutoyo, allowing data to be loaded into any software product that accepts keyboard input.
The U-Wave fit is available in models including IP67 and buzzer types for 4”, 6”, 8” and 12” IP67 calipers, standard calipers and coolant-proof (IP65) micrometers. During standard operation, the U-Wave fit has a wireless range of 20m (60 ft.) and its 220mAH battery lasts for over 400,000 transmissions.
A couple of their devices caught my eye as well. One was their MDH Micrometer that measures to an astounding 5µinch /0.1µm resolution. Sticking with the theme of how important data is, the MDH features digimatic output to a resolution of 1 millionths of an inch, and the data can be input direct to Excel, MeasurLink or other SPC programs.