The metalworking industry has always placed great emphasis on having tools that can increase measurement accuracy, help with quality control, support reliability, and that can support the objective of ‘making it right the first time’. However, as manufacturers attempt to grow their trade in the global business environment, the need for measurement accuracy has become an even higher priority due to the time and cost-savings that businesses can potentially achieve.
3D measurement solutions for the metalworking industry have been available for some time now. Some common applications that make use of these advanced technologies include parts inspection, alignment, reverse engineering, and dimensional measurement. All four categories are similar in the way that their need for measurement and documentation accuracy is tightly woven into each of their core activities. To elaborate, measurement accuracy is widely agreed to be the most important aspect in mechanical parts inspections. Machine misalignment, on the other hand, can delay an entire manufacturing line. Reverse engineering, essentially a measurement and documentation process, requires a high degree of accuracy, and of course, dimensional measurement goes hand-in-hand with measurement accuracy.
Need for greater operational precision
Naturally, manufacturers need to ensure that their measurement and documentation objectives are met. With the right 3D metrology equipment, manufacturers can be one step closer to gaining tighter size tolerances, achieving precisely calculated designs, and securing built-in form deviations to assure maximum measurement accuracy.
Application: Manufacturers can employ several metrology methods to meet these measurement objectives. Flow Link Systems (FLS) – a casting and valve component supplier based in Coimbatore, India – places great emphasis on quality and customer satisfaction. Both of these attributes were push factors that steered FLS to purchase the FaroArm®, a portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM), providing the manufacturer with an immediate increase in measurement accuracy levels. From formerly working with up to 30 microns’ tolerance using handheld tools and templates, the FaroArm improved FLS’s measurement accuracy to a tolerance level of about 24 microns. With the FaroArm, FLS is now able to obtain accurate measurements for concentricity and cylindricity tolerance in half the time that was previously spent.
Need for accurate reporting
Today, it is common for industrial suppliers to require accurate reporting of dimensional information for statistical analysis, and to safeguard quality processes. These reports can present measurement data clearly and unambiguously, allowing manufacturers to add comparison data or reproduce data for possible correction of components and production parameters. Companies are under pressure to invest in innovative solutions that can support instantaneous and accurate quality reporting on first-article and production inspection, as well as to ensure supplier quality management.
Application: Yanmar, a Japanese diesel engine manufacturer, introduced the portable FaroArm to provide technical support for its research projects requiring 3D measurement. Even when used by different operators, the FaroArm achieved the same measurement accuracy, allowing Yanmar to secure the same level of quality control across departments. Since then, the manufacturer has used the FaroArm for product and quality inspection, amongst other uses. It enables to determine and record the location of a probe in 3D space before reporting the results through software, allowing manufacturers to compile a database of scanned data measurements.
Need for lean manufacturing
Lean thinking or lean manufacturing is an efficient concept, pioneered by Toyota, to shorten the time spent between manufacturing stages. The process is largely centered on manufacturing products on demand through a technique called pull production. Manufacturers then develop products only when required, eliminating unnecessary wastage, ultimately achieving both time- and cost-savings. In order to manage pull production, measurements need to be made dimensionally correct from the start to avoid time delays for rework. Measurement accuracy is, therefore, of paramount importance in lean manufacturing.
Application: Within the metalworking industry, hot forging processes are popular due to the advantages of increased ductility, strain hardening of metal part elimination, and reduced material strength. However, retrieving accurate measurements from hot forging operations can be challenging as the high temperatures make it difficult for sensors to label characteristic points. Manufacturers are, therefore, beginning to prefer non-contact measurement systems that offer a long range, in order to take measurements of hot work pieces at a distance. There are several devices now available that can efficiently support manufacturers as they carry out hot forging processes. The FARO® Laser Scanner Focus3D is one such solution. Its non-contact dimensional measurement ability, as well as its large and flexible measuring scope, makes the device particularly suitable for some manufacturers. Additionally, the point cloud data obtained by the device can be quickly converted to 3D CAD data, enabling the direct creation of 3D design drawings, effectively shortening entire workflows for lean manufacturing.
Need for work place health & safety practices
Working with machinery can be dangerous as operators are exposed to risks that may lead to bodily injuries. Safety and control measures, therefore, need to be integrated in order to create and maintain a secure working environment. As government bodies continue to regulate in favour of safe working practices to minimise or eliminate worker injuries, manufacturers are responding by taking greater precaution towards protecting their manpower resources.
Application: When working with fixed coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), bulky and heavy parts need to be moved from the shopfloor to measuring rooms. This is potentially hazardous if not managed properly, as the activity compromises on workers’ safety. The portability feature across FARO’s range of 3D measurement and documentation solutions directly addresses this concern, as FARO devices can be brought to the parts for measurement instead. The ability to perform in-line inspections enables employees to conduct measurement assessments safely, and also provides manufacturers with better accuracy and time-savings.
The solution that keeps on giving
Why then should manufacturers consider 3D metrology tools? Comparatively, 2D tools are less capable of providing the type of precision support that is needed by the metalworking industry. Although the latter is able to define measures such as distance, diameter, and area, the results provide only a rough estimation at best. The difference in measurement quality between 3D and 2D tools is also especially evident when the spotlight is on measuring complex shapes, or for direct comparison to CAD files. Furthermore, when used by different employees, the limitations of 2D tools become more pronounced, as variations in measurement results are often recorded between operators, showing a lack in reliability.
The old adage, ‘you get what you pay for’, holds true. Some degree of capital investment needs to be made for greater measurement accuracy. At the end of the day, top manufacturers place great importance on producing quality products in the most efficient manner. 3D measurement and scanning tools are proving to be some of the most optimum solutions for the metalworking industry. They are, therefore, worthwhile investments that pay for themselves when it comes to time- and cost-savings in the long run. ☐