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Leica Geosystems’ Fifth Generation Laser Tracker Defines “What’s Next” in Portable Metrology

Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 - 22:00

(Hexagon Metrology: Miamisburg, Ohio) -- Leica Geosystems, a Hexagon company, recently unveiled the new face of laser tracking—the Leica Absolute Tracker. The all-new laser tracker offers scaled-up features in a scaled-down, sleek housing for ultimate portability, and ease of handling on the factory floor. The product introduces substantial advances in thermal stability and volumetric accuracy, accelerated start-up times, major speed improvements, and a maintenance-free internal design. The Absolute Tracker integrates future-oriented technologies, providing the basis for several new metrology products being developed by Leica Geosystems. The measurement systems are utilized for a wide range of industrial metrology applications in aerospace, automotive, power generation, shipbuilding, and general engineering.

The Leica Absolute Tracker’s compact size, at only 2 feet tall (62 cm) and 48 pounds (22 kg), enables the sensor and the stand to be safely operated and maneuvered by one person. The laser tracker can be easily transported from one site to another in an average station wagon. The system’s overall robust design and end-to-end reliability stand up to the toughest, most unforgiving industrial environments.

“After 80 years of pioneering portable metrology solutions to measure the world, Leica Geosystems understands industrial measurement like no other company,” explains Duncan Redgewell, Laser Tracker product line general manager. “The new Absolute Tracker builds upon this competitive advantage and delivers the most technologically advanced product to capture, analyze, and present 3-D coordinate data for dimensional control and other mainstream quality operations. The measurement and inspection possibilities are infinite when you combine the Leica Absolute Tracker with our suite of six degrees of freedom [6DOF] T-Products—the wireless Leica T-Probe, the Leica T-Scan high-speed hand-held laser scanner, and the Leica T-Mac tracking device for automated applications.”

Leica Geosystems combines the strengths of measurement principles of the absolute distance meter (ADM) and an interferometer (IFM). The Absolute Interferometer (AIFM) technology (patent pending) ensures high-accuracy measurements in all operating conditions, with multiple built-in redundancies that guarantee superb accuracies throughout the measurement volume.

The new Absolute Interferometer is 15 times faster than the previous model, with integration time down to 0.2 seconds. Another time-saving benefit of the Leica Absolute Tracker is its ultra-fast typical warm-up time of six minutes from a cold start, and a mere three minute warm-up time from a warm start.

New advances in thermal stability top off the major enhancement list. The Absolute Tracker’s heat-emitting components (IFM and ADM) are mounted far from the head, and sensor temperature is continually regulated. The temperature inside the new sensor varies by less than 1 degree Celsius. This improvement translates into continuous “on-spec” operation with no need for intermediate compensation routines. Leica Geosystems’ laser trackers typically need calibration once a year, even if they are moved around on-site daily.

The Absolute Tracker takes full advantage of the most mature 6DOF technology on the market. No other laser tracker manufacturer offers a scalable, all-in-one data acquisition solution comparable to the Leica T-Probe or Leica T-Scan. Impervious to changing environmental light, the Leica T-Scan covers a large range of surfaces, from near-black to shiny without powdering, and works in a measurement volume of nearly 100 feet. The wireless Leica T-Probe is used to probe hidden, hard-to-reach points, or points to which no direct line of sight exists. The device can be used to measure up to nine cars in one setup or inspect large aerospace components, all with minimal setup times.

The Leica Absolute Tracker product line has three distinct offerings. The Leica AT901-LR is the top-of-the-line Absolute Tracker in terms of application flexibility. Its measurement volume reaches a full 262 feet (80 m) when used with a corner cube, or reaches 98 feet (30 m) when measuring with the Leica T-Probe, Leica T-Scan, or the Leica T-Mac. The product is ideally suited for tooling, part mating, assembly, and inspection applications in the aerospace industry.

The Leica AT901-MR is a midrange laser tracker and is ideal for automotive applications as it supports the placement of several bodies-in-white within its measurement envelope. The sensor’s measurement volume is a full 163 feet (50 m) when inspecting with a corner cube. It operates in a measurement volume of up to 59 feet (18 m) when used with Leica T-Products.

The Leica AT901-Basic is an entry-level laser tracker with a measurement volume of up to 262 feet (80 m). This product is ideal for basic metrology applications and measurements with corner cubes only.

A new redesigned controller unit is capable of controlling any of the three models, with backward compatibility to every laser tracker Leica Geosystems has ever made. This feature is important considering the vast majority of laser trackers produced by Leica Geosystems in the past 17 years are still in service, including serial number 0001.

The new Leica Absolute Tracker supports the most popular metrology software packages:

  1. PC-DMIS: 4.2 or higher
  2. Metrolog XG for Leica: 8.002 or higher
  3. Microlog: 2.01 or higher
  4. T-Scan Collect: 7.001 or higher
  5. PolyWorks: 10.1 or higher
  6. emScon: 3.0 or higher

The metrology division of Leica Geosystems is a global supplier of comprehensive hardware and software packages to the industrial metrology market. These products integrate with popular CAD programs, various build-and-inspect tools, and reverse-engineering software. Using state-of-the-art laser technology, Leica’s laser trackers and theodolites make quality control, part mating, assembly, and construction of large and small parts easier and more accurate than ever. The U.S. headquarters for Leica Geosystems’ metrology products is located at the Hexagon Metrology Precision Center in Miamisburg, Ohio. For more information about Leica Geosystems’ metrology products and services, visit their web site at www.leica-geosystems.com/metrology, or call 937-353-1218.

Hexagon Metrology serves the high-precision measurement and inspection needs of worldwide manufacturers with its extensive line of metrology hardware, software, accessories, and customer services. The company’s name-brand portfolio of quality assurance products include Brown & Sharpe, Cognitens, Leica Geosystems, ROMER, Sheffield, PC-DMIS, DEA, Leitz, and TESA. Hexagon Metrology has an unrivaled installed base of more than 1.5 million hand-held, stationary, and portable measurement devices, and more than 30,000 seats of PC-DMIS metrology software. The company is a subsidiary of Hexagon Measurement Technologies, a business unit of Hexagon AB (Nacka Strand, Sweden), a publicly-traded company. The Hexagon group consists of nearly 8,200 employees located in 30 countries. Call 800-426-1066 or visit www.hexagonmetrology.us for more information about Hexagon Metrology Inc. and its trusted brands.

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The Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS)—presenter of the Coordinate Metrology Society Conference (CMSC)—is comprised of users, service providers, and OEMs of close-tolerance, industrial coordinate measurement systems, software, and peripherals. The metrology systems represented at the annual CMSC include articulated-arm CMMs, laser trackers, laser radar, photogrammetry and videogrammetry systems, scanners, indoor GPS, and laser projection systems. The CMS gathers each year to gain knowledge of the advancements and applications of any measurement system or software solution that produces and uses 3D coordinate data.