Metrology’s Best-Kept Secret
Ask any quality professional who’s been in the business for a while to list what he or she thinks are the major changes to the field during the last 20 years, and “integrating the quality function into everyone’s job” will be at or near the top. Quality is no longer simply the domain of the “quality” department, although that department (if it even exists) may oversee the function. Advances in hardware and software have helped push quality to the shop floor and into in-process inspection.
Shop floor inspection of even the most complex parts has become not only doable, but more accurate and cost-effective than ever. Except for the most precise measurements, it’s no longer necessary to remove a part from the production floor and run it over to an environmentally controlled metrology lab to do a 3-D measurement on a CMM or other precision instrument. 3-D measurements, both manual and automated, with accuracies of 50 µm, 25 µm and even 5 µm, are attainable on the shop floor through a wide variety of equipment, from articulating arms and laser trackers to photogrammetry and structured-light scanners.
And yet, the variety and usefulness of portable 3-D metrology for inspection and reverse engineering seem to be a well-kept secret. For instance, the Coordinate Measurement Systems Conference, a 20-year-old show that focuses strictly on portable 3-D measurement, is almost unknown, except to those in aerospace who are almost fanatical about attending every year. Yet this show is a must for anyone currently involved in portable 3-D metrology or considering it.
If you’re thinking, “Oh no, not another show,” think again. This isn’t your typical trade show. Although there are 3-D hardware and software vendors displaying their various technologies, the CMSC is less a show for hawking product than it is for discovering solutions. At the CMSC the focus is on which equipment or, often, combination of equipment will supply the solution that you need. Many of CMSC’s learning sessions involve applying 3-D measurement to a variety of intriguing problems, and because it’s a small show--300 to 400 attendees--there’s plenty of time to interact with vendors and speakers to address your particular metrology problem.
Most exciting is how a measurement solution used to address an issue involved in assembling a jumbo jet, for instance, could be used when assembling a Chevy Suburban. You’re as likely to meet a metrologist from Airbus as you are one from BMW or Volkswagen. Note that foreign automakers seem to be much more invested in portable 3-D measurement than the domestic car makers.
Quality Digest is proud to be not only a sponsor of the CMSC but also to produce The Journal of the CMSC for this terrific organization of 3-D metrologists. Those of you who work in automotive or aerospace should have received a copy of the journal with your latest issue of Quality Digest. (If not, download it from our home page at www.qualitydigest.com.) In the premiere issue of The Journal of the CMSC, you’ll find three interesting multimodal approaches to 3-D measurement for objects as diverse as the propeller from the Civil War ship USS Monitor to the high-gain antenna on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.
You can get a taste of what’s in store at this year’s CMSC by reading the article “3-D Inspection” in this issue of Quality Digest . We’re also planning a roundup of CMSC vendors in our July issue. Look for it; better yet, plan on attending the CMSC show in Orlando, Florida, July 17–21