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Coordinate Metrology Society Reaches Beyond Portables-Only Focus

A brief survey of leading coordinate metrology solutions

Published: Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 12:02

Founded in 1984, the Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS) has championed portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) technology ever since its inception. In some ways, the focus on portable CMMs overshadowed the traditional fixed CMM in much the same way any new technology garners the lion's share of attention in any field.

The CMS is, however, dedicated to all forms of coordinate metrology, including inspection software, traditional CMMs, theodolites, and GPS, as well as laser projection systems, laser trackers, laser radar, photogrammetry and videogrammetry systems, 3D scanning devices, and articulating arms.

The CMS's position is, and always has been, that although newer technologies are devised, many traditional tools and methods are still viable solutions for certain situations.

The old adage, "The right tool for the job" is as relevant today as ever—perhaps more so considering today's rapid rate of technological advancement. Let's take a brief look at some of the available coordinate metrology solutions and the applications for which they are suitable.

Theodolites and total stations

Theodolites and total stations are used to establish and mark the position of a point on an object by taking distance and angle readings from multiple locations. Once one feature is located you can focus on another feature and calculate the distance between those two (or more) points using basic geometry and trigonometry.

Laser projection

Laser projectors accurately project a laser outline onto 3D surfaces or objects. Laser projection is a unique solution for virtual templating, layout, and positioning of components during manufacturing.

Laser trackers

Laser trackers find their niche in large-scale measurements. Laser trackers excel as a solution for large-scale metrology applications including, but not limited to, part and assembly inspection, machine installation and alignment, and reverse engineering. Trackers are especially suited to assembly and system alignment.

Laser radar

With laser radar a laser beam is steered by rotating around horizontal and vertical axes. The unit sends a distinct, focused laser pulse to an object and reads the return signal. Unlike laser tracking and other surveying instruments, it does not need to use a retroreflector. Its signal is the reflected light from the actual objects surface. It is engineered to provide precise, industrial measurements with tolerances of thousandths or even tenths of thousandths of an inch.

Photogrammetry and videogrammetry

Photogrammetry and videogrammetry are used for many of the same applications as laser radar. The difference with this technology is cost. Typical costs for a photogrammetry/videogrammetry system are usually much less than for a laser radar system.

3D scanning devices and articulating arms

3D scanners are widely used in industrial design, engineering, and manufacturing due to their ability to quickly and precisely capture large amounts of data. Portability is one of the key features of 3D scanning solutions.

Fixed CMMs

The fixed CMM still shines as a tight-tolerance metrology solution. Fixed CMMs are excellent tools for industrial design, engineering, and manufacturing. One of the key features of the fixed CMM is its ability to reach object features not available in line-of-sight, such as deep indents and lips. Fixed CMMs also fit well within the scope of highly automated measurement systems.

This is obviously not a comprehensive, in-depth discussion of all the particulars or pros and cons of any particular technology, but it always behooves us to keep our options in mind when choosing to invest in a solution for our measurement needs.


About The Author

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest’s editor in chief.


Coordinate Metrology Society Reaches Beyond Portables-Only Focus

Nicely put. Coordinate Metrology has a long way. The current technologies of non-contact, previously portable and fixed CMM technologies are really working in parallels to provide the industrial metrology solutions. But where is the future running?