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Steven Weeks


Quality Control Equipment

Buy new or retrofit old?

Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 12:54

Due to globalization and advancing technology, today’s manufacturing environment is increasingly competitive. Therefore, the accuracy and quality of machined durable goods is extremely important if a company is to stay competitive. Of course, having the necessary equipment to perform the inspection of these parts is critical and can require large capital investments.

Many manufacturing companies include a quality control department that will verify manufactured parts, as well as the tools used to produce parts. The measured results need to conform to standards and specifications provided by the customer. The most common machines to do this are coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), optical comparators, and video inspection machines.

Although some may look to upgrade their inspection equipment by buying new hardware technology, others may find it a better choice to retrofit their older machines and upgrade their capabilities at a fraction of the cost of a new machine. HEIDENHAIN offers various metrology products for OEMs and those who are interested in retrofitting and are aware of the pros and cons involved when making this choice. Whether the quality control equipment to be upgraded is a CMM, optical comparator, vision inspection machine, or microscope, various metrology product options are available. The choice is based on a number of factors that include accuracy requirements, complexity of the measurements, and ease of use. Budget is also a consideration when reviewing these options.

It’s worth noting that because inspection equipment requires a high level of accuracy, it is often placed in temperature-controlled labs to control environmental conditions and measurement variables. When inspection equipment is not exposed to shop floor conditions, the machine mechanics can be used for many years. In general, inspection equipment, unless it’s abused, can have a long utilization period providing precise results. For this reason, it’s often wise to first consider recycling or purchasing used inspection machines to retrofit when upgrading quality control equipment.

HEIDENHAIN’s metrology products make it possible to retrofit and extend the life of inspection equipment with simple low-cost solutions. It offers high-end solutions as well using PC-based metrology hardware/software that make even complex parts easy to measure.

Products like the QUADRA-CHEK ND123 or ND1200 for manual microscopes, video inspection machines, and optical comparators, are a good start for simple retrofit options. More advanced solutions include the QUADRA-CHEK ND1300, which offers CNC motor control and a live camera image integrated into the touchscreen making automatic point entries simple.

3-D measuring capabilities are also possible on manual touch-probe machines using the QUADRA-CHEK ND1400 digital readout (DRO).

Finally, there is a PC-based metrology solution that gives the user complete flexibility and advanced measurement routines. The IK5000 is a 2-D and 3-D hardware and software package that offers the customer the greatest measurement capability. It allows the system to be networked and run on a Windows 7 computer. It supports video, touch probe, optical edge, and touch probe CMM capability. Additionally, it has the ability to use CNC motor control and programmable options (e.g., lighting and magnification) making it possible to automate and simplify the inspection process, including the collection of production part data.

Retrofitting makes it possible to take a variety of machine types, such as comparators and CMMs, originally made by different manufacturers, and have them run on a common platform controller.

No matter what condition a manufacturer’s quality control department’s equipment is in, upgrading to new metrology encoders and DRO components can keep equipment at the top of its game and extend its usage life considerably.


About The Author

Steven Weeks’s picture

Steven Weeks

Steven Weeks is a metrology product specialist for HEIDENHAIN, manufacturer of precision measurement and control equipment utilized in high-precision motors, motion control, and machining systems. Primary industries are metalworking, machine tool, semiconductor and electronics, motor/drive, general automation, and medical.