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Hubert Meagher

CMSC

Top Reasons to Outsource 3D Metrology

Published: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 14:32

Most manufacturing facilities have to manage the seemingly never-ending cycle of having to keep costs down while increasing production levels and maintaining high quality standards. Often, this ongoing struggle includes a reduction in staff and resources, and a lower-than-ever budget for maintaining the very equipment that is being pushed to produce at a higher rate. Rare (if not nonexistent) is the manufacturing company that has an unlimited budget, an excess of trained staff, and a room housing every high-tech mechanical or measurement tool available today.

So, what is a company to do when utopia is so far out of reach? Outsourcing could be the answer. There are many reasons for outsourcing 3D metrology services; here are the major reasons why it makes good business sense to do so.

Cost

This is one of the biggest reasons for sure. Achieving a level of ROI that fits within a business plan can be difficult given the numerous costs associated with building a qualified metrology department. Hiring an outside vendor who specializes in this field and who owns the metrology tooling is a great alternative to trying to stretch an already tight budget. Some of the factors to consider with regards to cost savings and control include:
• 3D metrology tools are expensive—very expensive
• Hiring full-time metrologists and providing consistent training is also costly
• Metrology software maintenance and updates are typically fee-based
• Metrology tools require maintenance and calibration—at a price
• Overtime pay can add up when there is a shortage of skilled metrologists on staff

Expertise

Metrology vendors often have more knowledge and skills with the measurement process and metrology tooling than most in-house technicians. It’s not surprising, really; outside suppliers simply use their knowledge and training on a consistent basis and on a wider array of projects and problems. Production metrology staff perform routine inspections that make daily work more efficient. However, when out-of-the-ordinary tasks arise, some technicians can be left scratching their heads. First-article inspections, jig calibrations, machine calibrations, and even part reworks require training and expertise that, unless used on a regular basis, can be challenging for many.

Quality

This ties in closely with the expertise of an outside metrology provider. By outsourcing to an expert in dimensional metrology, you can know that the data will be highly accurate, consistent, and unbiased. Additionally, 3D metrology suppliers train their measurement engineers constantly on the latest tools and software, and maintain and calibrate their equipment regularly, assuring the highest level of data quality and repeatability.

Portability

With portable coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), outside suppliers can bring the measuring tool directly to your facility. By measuring directly on the part, manufacturers save the time and cost of sending parts out for measurement. Additionally, when fabricators make components that will be assembled or reassembled in the field, it often makes sense to hire a metrology firm to travel to the installation site rather than displace shop personnel to complete the inspections.

Work overload

This is a nice problem to have, but one that can create havoc when trying to maintain production levels and quality. When a manufacturing facility simply has too much work and not enough measurement personnel, outsourcing is an ideal solution. Likewise, a facility may have enough staff, but a limited amount of equipment with which to take the measurements. Some 3D metrology providers will rent their equipment either on a short-term or long-term basis. Outsourcing is additionally helpful for companies involved in short-term projects where investing in the metrology equipment and staff isn’t practical.


OASIS metrology engineer with a laser scanner. In just minutes, laser scanners can produce incredibly detailed 3D images of complex environments and geometries.

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About The Author

Hubert Meagher’s picture

Hubert Meagher

Hubert Meagher spent many years in the field as an alignment engineer specializing in precision measurement prior to his role as director of metrology services at OASIS Alignment Services Inc. He is an expert in using both optical tooling and portable metrology tools in manufacturing facilities. Meagher was instrumental in researching and developing the 3D Metrology Services segment of OASIS, and has been heavily involved with testing the use of laser trackers, coordinate measuring arms, and laser scanners in industrial environments.