Smarter Factories, Better Work: Meet the New Metrology

Laser Scanner

With the rise of smart factories allowing for more efficient, streamlined operations, industrial companies across a range of different sectors are changing the way they do business. While aerospace contractors, the defense industry, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences have already boosted overall productivity by an average of 17% thanks to the new technology available, industrial manufacturers have seen a 20% increase in productivity — and that’s in addition to a 20% boost in average overall quality gain.

These trends show no sign of slowing. A study conducted by Capgemini estimates that smart factories are positioned to add $500 billion to $1.5 trillion in value to the global economy over the next five years alone.

The Measure of a Manufacturer

In the industrial manufacturing sphere, Industry 4.0 is bringing technology that is enhancing product quality, speed of service, efficiency, and even employee quality of life. Integration with the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing is making for more informed decision-making, more sophisticated modern tooling, and significantly more precise production.

And metrology and real-time measurement capabilities, which allow for advanced, real-time data collection, are bringing about immediate results for CNC machining and precision parts. When metrology tech is incorporated into a CNC workstation, a specialty evaluation system is installed alongside the tooling. The reflection of a focused, laser-style light beam systemically collects real-time data from the shop floor, pulling precise information straight from the manufacturing space.

The measurements transfer back through scanning software, feeding directly to computers powering a quality control team. The metrics allow for side-by-side comparison with a part’s original CAD file, and the part being evaluated can then be fixtured, scanned, swapped out, adjusted, and readjusted — all while machining is taking place. The finished product is then altered for absolute accuracy in real-time against the ideal design specifications. 

Break It Down, Beam It Up

Whether working in the aerospace, automotive, heavy machinery, or specialty metal fabrication industries, metrological analysis offers a huge range of benefits for parts manufacturing. Below are a few of the most popular metrology tools being used today.

  • Laser scanners with an optical system can be mounted on robotic armatures, handling areas with diameters up to 18 feet and producing almost 500,000 data points per second.
  • White/blue light scanners capture over 18 million points per second, and can be mounted on a stationary tripod or robotic arm. These tools are very versatile, managing measurements in tiny, confined spaces less than a square inch or up to several square feet.
  • CT scanning is the latest in industrial data collection. Its data points actually render complete imagery, much like a medical CT scan. The tool collects a complete set of 2D X-rays and assembles them into point cloud data, creating a voxel cloud.

How Well Does It Work?

Everyone wants to do their job better, and the above-mentioned Capgemini study illustrates how today’s manufacturers can readily become industry leaders through smart, strategic integration of digital technologies like metrology. And the added revenue potential is in the millions of dollars.

The information gained from modern metrology technology makes for more than better products and boosted profits — it opens the door to countless opportunities. Sophisticated scanners can evaluate virtually any type of material or configuration against an original CAD file, and the resulting process adjustments can save infinite time while reducing waste. Real-time data can be utilized to reverse engineer any legacy part for new use. And, with ongoing evaluation during operations, parts and tooling can be constantly adjusted for maximum accuracy without interrupting production.

While it may be tempting to write off the fuss over precision metrics, there’s no question of their value in the world of industrial manufacturing.

 

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