Fast reaction times and direct feedback make measurement technology integrated into production attractive. For the solution to be successful, mechanical engineering, ergonomics and service must result in a future-proof overall concept.
For some time now, metrology has been undergoing a change from the measuring room to the production environment or to the fully automated production line. The exciting question now is, what does this mean for the measuring machine? Or in a broader sense: What does this mean for the measuring solution in the future?
Many manufacturers appreciate the advantages of measurement in production. The material flow is easier to handle, the result is available much faster to the people who can intervene immediately - the workers. This reduces waste, because the worker can counteract trends before it is too late.
What is the difference between production and measuring room?
The requirements of the production differ in important aspects from the quality area, especially the operation, the environment and the required reliability. Ideally, the worker carries out the measurement himself near the production machine. Simple operation and an immediately available, easily readable result leaves time for the essential, the production. This is where software with intuitive controls and clear reports and trend analyses is in demand. There are already solutions available today that distinguish between programmer and operator and partially automate programming.
Go with the flow
For short distances, the measuring machine is close to the production machine and therefore a small footprint is mandatory. With modern production methods and design technologies such as topology optimization and FEM simulations, the machines can be built extremely compact and light and the control and electronics can be integrated into the machine.
A modern production measuring machine is optimized to a minimum footprint (here just 2.3 m²) and ergonomically designed for easy operation.
However, it is often small things like a cleverly integrated probe changer for maximum measuring surface that make the difference for the operator. In the case of gantry machines, for example, a level finish of the base plate on all sides can be decisive for easy loading. This means that the machine can be easily integrated into the existing hall in any orientation.
Measurement technology in step with production
In production, the cycle determines the speed, whereas previously the focus was on accurate and traceable measurement. How do you deal with this now, because the more accurate the measurement, the more time is usually needed. Fortunately, there are high-precision measuring systems where the measurement can be imaged via the very fast head movement and optical sensors that can measure large areas extremely fast with sufficient accuracy.
Schematic classification of measuring systems according to speed and accuracy.
And if this is still not enough, you can use a fast comparator or operate the measuring machines in a faster mode. Here, repeatability is maintained and trends can still be observed. The measurements are compared in random sample measurements against exact absolute measurement values.
The future - life is what happens while making plans
Production is also undergoing profound changes. Rapid series changes and demographic change are fundamentally altering the framework conditions. Therefore it is important to find a sustainable solution:
- Flexibility - Retrofitting for sensor technology and easy relocation offers adaptability for a new series
- Automation capability - Preconfigured automation solutions from the manufacturer or pre-equipment makes the machine easily expandable
- Monitoring possibilities - Online monitoring tools are already standard and provide the basis for predictive maintenance
Reliability through excellent and predictable service
Even the most beautiful machine is of no use when it is stationary. Especially in production, people are used to planning with high availability and to reliably and predictably represent this through service contracts. In the end, the overall package is decisive: Of course, an attractive purchase price is important, but at least as important are reasonable operating costs (cost of ownership) and availability as soon as the machine is in regular operation.
In addition to reliable machine construction, worldwide availability of parts, the manufacturers already offer modular service programmes that offer many advantages:
- Latest Software
- Guaranteed response time
- Planable costs
- Extended warranties
It is precisely these aspects that accompany the user in everyday operations.
Robust mechanical engineering
The production environments we encounter at customers' facilities are as diverse as the parts they produce: in machine design, workshop-suited machines are designed with a number of new aspects compared to the measuring room.
- Temperature behavior: The choice of material and connection of the individual components is essential to ensure that the machine is changed as evenly as possible. The residual errors are then recorded in the climate chamber in elaborate measurements (see illustration) and can be deducted by compensation during measurement.
- 24/7 operation: Here, drive and guide systems are used that are as proven and robust as possible. The mounting position can also be decisive for dirt resistance, such as vertical mounting of the measuring systems and protected drive rods (see illustration).
- vibrations: Many years of experience with customers show that air bearings are also suitable for the production environment. In difficult environments, air-sprung active damping or particularly robust linear guides are used.
Left: A production measurement solution undergoes extensive tests in climate chambers and vibration measuring stations until it is ready for the workshop. Right: Small details are important, such as protected scales and drive units. The mounting position also plays a role.
There is no one solution, so we and other manufacturers offer a whole portfolio of machines and options.
In the end the package decides
Of course, high-quality mechanical engineering with sensor technology tailored to the respective application is a prerequisite. In order to create a complete measuring solution, there are also
- Ergonomics: the solution is efficient when it fits into the material flow
- Operating concept: the operator can operate the solution reliably
- Future-proof: the machine can be easily adapted to new processes and expanded with modern sensor technology
- Cost-Of-Ownership: Reliable and plannable service with modern software makes everyday life easier
If the package is right, you will enjoy your measurement solution.
Dr. Christian Wuttke
Head Of R&D at WENZEL