Measurement and alignment tasks are a considerable challenge in the overall production process when dealing with large components and assemblies. Here’s how you can address them. Article by Jim Cassady and Jutta Mayer, FARO Technologies.
In the world of manufacturing, dimensional control is a fundamental building block that cannot be compromised. It determines part-to-part variation, establishes part-to-CAD comparison to check whether specs are met, and ensures proper fit in a final assembly. Beyond getting part geometries right, however, there are additional reasons for maintaining standards in accordance with design specifications.
Investing in precision equipment for measuring and aligning components helps ensure that everything fits the first time around without any unnecessary rework, saving time and other resources for a company. Further, more serious consequences such as equipment failure or production delays can be avoided when alignment, measurements, and inspections are conducted properly and at appropriate phases of production.
A ‘Greater’ Need for Precision
For industries such as aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, heavy equipment manufacturing, and many others that handle large components and assemblies, measurement and alignment tasks are a considerable challenge in the overall production process. On the surface, these challenges may not seem too different from what most manufacturers typically encounter. Yet, the difficulties, as well as the consequences of missed specifications, are magnified manyfold owing to the size of the objects being built.
Manufacturers that handle large workpieces would candidly share that as product size increases and part geometry grows more complex, it becomes harder for them to perform measurements and inspections accurately. Conventional hand tools such as rules, gauges, calipers, micrometers, squares, and protractors are effective up to a point, but they are also demanding in terms of time and operator skill, often making them prone to human error.
The use of large, fixed Coordinate Measurement Machines (CMMs) in quality labs is impractical as many workpieces simply cannot be moved to the lab for measurement and inspection due to various reasons. In addition, fixed CMMs are limited in terms of the size of the parts they can inspect and become costly in large working volumes.
Apart from size and cost limitations, accessibility and line-of-sight issues also plague the technicians responsible for taking accurate measurements, as they struggle to find efficient ways to perform their jobs. That said, with today’s technological advancements, there are many solutions available that provide speedy and cost-effective ways around these common challenges.
Portable 3D Technology to the Rescue
Portable 3D coordinate measurement devices have long become the choice solution among manufacturers for large-volume measurement, as they combine accuracy with flexibility. Compared to conventional hand tools, portable 3D technology offers manufacturers a much higher level of precision, efficiency, and productivity all at once. Unlike fixed CMMs, these solutions require much less capital investment at the onset and are robust enough to perform even in a non-controlled environment, such as right on the production floor, in a dry-dock or hangar.
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