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Scott Sandwith


A Metrology Constant

It’s all about change and integration

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 20:06

A clear constant in the portable metrology market is “change and integration.” Almost every new product launch couples existing concepts and wraps them with tools that enable integration into hybrid metrology-guided systems. These deliver value by deploying the strengths of the technologies in a package that helps mitigate potential limitations.

For example, laser tracker systems have been used to measure single points and scan at higher data rates for more than two decades. That said, they rely on expensive spherically mounted retroreflector (SMR) targets that are precise but also relatively easy to break. Laser trackers typically require operators to move a single target with a sizeable offset through the work space to complete a measurement job. These processes take time and require trained operators.

Total stations and laser radar systems have also existed in the metrology market for decades. Unlike laser trackers, these systems directly measure an object’s surface, and do not require breakable targets or target offsets. Although they’re flexible, these systems are either less precise or not as portable as other metrology systems.

Enter “change and integration.” New solutions entering the marketplace are integrating the strengths of laser trackers and laser radar in a hybrid system that can measure both dynamically and scan directly off the object’s surface, all in a portable package.

Similar integrations using laser scanning coupled with photogrammetry systems are now available. Area scanners, structured light, and computed tomography (CT) technologies are using robotics and automated part positioning to provide easy-to-use automated inspection systems.

Software interfaces are also maturing, which enable these emerging, advanced systems to be integrated into production applications. The metrology system(s) and software interfaces provide precise, flexible, and reliable feedback into positioning and monitoring systems. The value is often realized as automated virtual tooling implemented to optimally align assembly components. These automated metrology-guided systems help minimize cost and scheduling effects when the inevitable engineering, requirement, and process changes occur.

“Change and integration” isn’t limited to new hardware and software interfaces. Today’s metrology engineers, operators, and technicians are developing their skills to include programming and enhanced automation techniques. There is an increased expectation for more-skilled apprentice technicians, automation engineers, and certificated operators. As metrology automation becomes commonplace, particularly in manufacturing and assembly applications, these skills will become even more prevalent in the years to come. Those that seek out “change and integration” will survive and thrive, while those who expect to do the same kind of work for decades at one company are becoming the exception.

Our community of metrology system managers, engineers, and technicians are critically valuable and important to achieving these goals. These concepts, systems, interfaces, new tools, and training with experts will be presented at the 2019 Coordinate Metrology Society Conference (CMSC). Your big opportunity to participate, discover, and get your hands on these new technologies will happen at the CMSC, which occurs this year July 22–26, at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld in Orlando, FL. For more information or to register, visit www.CMSC.org.


About The Author

Scott Sandwith’s picture

Scott Sandwith

Scott Sandwith is the 2019 Chairperson for the Coordinate Metrology Society. He is the custom projects manager for New River Kinematics (NRK), a Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence company. Sandwith works with the entire NRK team to develop optical metrology solutions to help manufacturers to automate their operations, achieve system requirements, and meet production rate goals, as well as identify, develop, and deliver custom solutions to major customers, OEMs, and integrators. Sandwith holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Washington State University.