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April Lemois


Five Questions to Ask When Budgeting for a CMM

Get the facts to make the best decision

Published: Monday, April 18, 2016 - 13:17

Whether it’s budgeting season, or you’re preparing for the future, you need to make strategic decisions about where your allocations will go. As planning commences to replace your current coordinate measuring machine (CMM) or to add a new one, important business considerations such as prior-year performance and expenditures, market forces and trends, and your company’s goal alignment must be considered.

Is purchasing a CMM in your budgeting plan this year? If so, there are five key questions you need to ask before establishing the budget.

1. Can I use my budget from a previous CMM purchase?

The short answer: It’s not the best idea. A common mistake most consumers make is establishing a budget based on previous CMM purchases. If you purchased a CMM in the past two, five, or 10 years and begin the budgeting process based on that past acquisition, you may end up disappointed. If you use a previously established price to buy the same system, you would likely end up short due to inflation alone.

After overcoming this cost deficit, technology is the next big issue that you will face in the process. What might have been a top-of-the-line CMM for speed and accuracy just a few years ago could be drastically outdated today. Without this consideration, the budget you develop may not cover modern technology advances, forcing you to go the route of a less sophisticated system, or buying a used one from the open market.

Discuss your requirements with a metrology expert who can guide you through a measurement review. The result will be a budgetary number that can be used for financial planning.

2. What is this really going to cost me?

When establishing a budget, it’s critically important to determine the “real cost.” But what does that mean, exactly? First, you’re not just buying equipment and accessories. You’re also purchasing the installation, programming, servicing, and training. You need to evaluate your current measurement process and understand what those operations cost your business today.

Here are some questions to help you evaluate your true CMM cost and bridge the gaps in your projected budget.
1. What is your current measuring process?
2. How much time does each step of this process take on a daily basis?
3. What is the shop cost per employee?
• How many employees use the CMM?
• What is their rate of pay/hour?
• Consider benefits, 401K contributions, etc.
4. Based on these numbers, how long will it take you to receive a return on investment (ROI) of your current solution?
5. How long will it take to receive a ROI of a new machine based on time and cost using today’s process?

Once these answers are established, you’ll be better able to judge the capital investment needed to purchase the CMM.

3. Where will the new CMM live?

Every square inch of your manufacturing floor matters. If you understand metrology, then you know the area surrounding the CMM can heavily affect the reliability of your measurements. Housing the CMM in a proper environment is essential to accuracy, performance, and longevity.

Here are a few more considerations:
• Where are you thinking of locating your CMM?
• Is the area temperature controlled?
• Is there access to air?
• What are the work area measurements?
• What is the overall environment like?

The answers to these questions will guide you to the type of CMM that will fit your requirements, and help predict the associated incurring costs.

Size: Most CMMs come in a variety of sizes and are measured based on the workspace available on their x-, y- and z-axes, which could range from 400 mm × 500 mm × 400 mm to 2,000 mm × 4,000 mm × 1,500 mm and larger. Do you have enough space to accommodate the CMM and provide adequate access for operators and equipment?

Environment: The environment where your CMM machine will be is important, and understanding the different types of machines will help your selection. Depending on the model chosen, your CMM will have either air or electrical bearings inside its horizontal pillar or bridge that maneuvers its arm and probes to perform measurement tasks. Therefore, consideration must be given to the CMM’s access to air, electrical, or both.

Typically, air bearings are used in CMMs housed in a temperature-controlled metrology laboratory and require compressed air systems to be installed. These types of machines tend to be more accurate, and require clean, dry air along with the controlled temperature. Does your facility have space in its existing lab, or do you have the necessary space to build such a lab?

If you need a CMM directly on a shop floor, then electrical bearings within the horizontal pillar are a better solution. These systems are designed to handle the harsh environment of the factory floor and don’t require you to set aside special space for a temperature-controlled lab.

4. What does my future success look like?

During the planning phase, it might be tempting to think one-dimensionally based on your goals for next year. But as we move into an age where customer needs are increasing and tolerances become tighter, you need to be better prepared for what lies ahead.

The client projects you are currently servicing will be different five to 10 years down the road. Getting a firm grasp on the future bandwidth of your company is imperative to the measurement acquisition choices contemplated today. A scalable system that can be updated with accessories such as scanners and probes, or software updates and integrations, will allow greater flexibility to perform the necessary tasks required by your customers.

5. Is buying a pre-owned CMM right for me?

Your questions are answered, the costs are calculated. You stand at the buyer’s crossroads. Do your requirements fit into the budget? If your needs are high-accuracy measurements, but your budget can’t withstand a hefty price tag, perhaps a pre-owned or used CMM is the right solution.

Some metrology original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) not only offer used CMM trade-ins, but also sell pre-owned, factory-certified, demo and factory reconditioned CMMs in an effort to help customers stretch their spending dollars. They also buy used CMMs and put them through a factory reconditioning program, ensuring quality and creating an economical buying experience.

If you’re not sure about a pre-owned or used CMM, there are some considerations to help you buy with confidence. First, look for a company that backs up each and every CMM with parts and service availability, technical support, training, and a warranty. Don’t ever buy a CMM sight-unseen. It’s also important to purchase a brand name that is made by the manufacturer, because the OEM is the expert of its own product lines, not a broker, auction house, used-equipment clearing house, or third-party dealer. The manufacturer builds its reputation on selling pre-owned machines that can be supported after the sale, with parts, warranty, calibration, training, and service.

Sadly, not every CMM out there has received the proper care. To ensure you’re dealing with an OEM with high standards for used equipment, ask for a summary sheet with the specifications and details for each available machine, so you know what you’re getting. OEMs often have access to the CMM’s service records and repair history. It’s in the OEM’s best interest to sell a CMM that has been properly cared for and serviced.

It’s in your best interest to get all the facts about the CMM you’re purchasing. Because after all, you’re entrusting the quality of the products you make to this critical measurement device.


About The Author

April Lemois’s picture

April Lemois

April Lemois is a marketing specialist at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence North America located in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Lemois has written numerous articles and blog entries for both technical and nontechnical industries. Before joining Hexagon, she served as a marketing coordinator for a global analytical instrumentation manufacturer with experience in marketing, social media management, public relations, and digital marketing. Lemois holds a bachelor of science in advertising and marketing communications from Johnson & Wales University.