Vietnam's growth has been astronomical. In 2019, the country is set to welcome a new National Innovation Centre, IoT Innovation Hub and produce its own domestic automobiles as VinFast gears up its production plant in Haiphong.
Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Mr Lim Boon Choon, President of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, APAC, regarding current trends in metrology.
Could you provide us with an overview of the current trends regarding metrology in metalworking?
Metrology continues to be important to assure quality in the final products, but customers are beginning to see the importance of process control, not just quality control. By process control, I mean getting metrology into the production area as well, and not just the quality room. By installing hardware and software in the production area, customers can check critical dimensions directly during the production process and ensure that the products are within specifications. This will help to ensure that there is less chance of products getting into the metrology room a few hours later and finding that the products do not meet the requirements and must be scrapped or re-worked.
Another trend is the use of non-contact scanning. Customers are coming up with very highly polished materials or mixture of different materials that may be sensitive to scratch marks. Non-contact scanning prevents scratches and speeds up the inspection very quickly.
The third trend is the increasing use of additive manufacturing as a complement to traditional manufacturing.
How has Hexagon kept up with these trends?
Over the years, Hexagon has developed or acquired various technologies that allowed us to implement in-line, next-to-the-line, or off-line inspection. We help customers build quality into their process from Design and Engineering, to Production and to final inspection. Increasingly, we also provide automated inspection systems that allows customers to use metrology in the shop floor to control the process and reduce scraps and rework.
For example, our AICON TubeInspect solution is a unique equipment for customers producing tubes. They can place their tubes in our system which measures the bending angles within a second and calculates the correct bending parameters to be sent back to the tube bending machine. This kind of close loop process helps customers to get their tubes right quickly and saves a lot of time and cost of rework.
We also have software like NC-SIMUL that simulates the machining process, Hexagon production software for finding the best cutting strategy, SIMUFACT for CAE simulation of additive manufacturing, Q-DAS and eMMA to monitor the manufacturing process and manage the relationship between parts, shop floor and portable CMM that allows us to measure the parts directly in the production area.
Another example of our products being shop floor ready is that we designed our CMM to have in-built message lights (Global S CMM), and pulse sensors that monitor vibration, humidity, temperature in real time.
Hexagon is now helping customers to optimise product innovation at various stages like Design, planning, production, quality assurance and post Production, and also our ability to link and integrate all data through our Smart Factory solutions and Assets Management system.
What are the main challenges faced by the metrology industry?
With the market going for more innovative products that may be highly customized, manufacturers are faced with high mix low volume situations. They need solutions that are easy to implement, robust and well connected to their manufacturing systems.
Many customers know that they need information to make good decisions, but there is a general lack of understanding of what can be done to tap in the information from various equipment (connectivity problem), and how to get actionable data; not just data, but actionable data.
How can they be overcome?
It boils down to leadership. Leaders have to be bold, have vision and courage to change. Start small and scale up quickly.
Rethink quality. Quality is not just in the quality room but should be built into the products right from how we design the product, how we ensure the design is strong, can be produced cost effectively, and the equipment and software are suitable to produce the product consistently. Look into process control, and not just quality control in the Quality room.
Moving forward, where do you think the industry is headed in the next 5 to 10 years?
With the push towards Industry 4.0, and especially with government encouragement and funding, I think manufacturers will want to implement more and more smart systems – automated solutions on the shop floor and monitored with software that gives them smart diagnostics and even artificial intelligence built in to identify problems early. Process control and non-contact scanning will also be increasingly prevalent.
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