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Portable 3D Metrology: Combating Common Challenges in Large Parts and Assemblies

Portable 3D Metrology: Combating Common Challenges in Large Parts and Assemblies

Portable 3D Metrology: Combating Common Challenges in Large Parts and Assemblies

When it comes to metrology, here’s how customers can boost confidence, accelerate delivery timelines, and reduce scrap and rework rates all at once. Article by Jim Cassady and Jutta Mayer, FARO Technologies.

In the world of manufacturing, dimensional control is fundamental to successful part assembly. It determines part-to-part variation, establishes part-to-CAD comparison to check whether specs are met, and ensures proper final fit. 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 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 cannot be moved to the lab for measurement and inspection. For example, if a ship is dry-docked for a limited time for retrofitting purposes, transporting parts that would fit on a CMM into a quality lab would not be practical. In addition, fixed CMMs are limited in terms of the size of the parts they can inspect and become costly in large working volumes.

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 on the production floor, in a dry-dock or hangar.

The resulting ability to deploy measurement devices right where the manufacturing process takes place accelerates execution timelines and allows manufacturers to deliver quality products with greater confidence. What this means for large-part manufacturers is that, instead of settling for hand tools or a bulky fixed CMM set-up, they can opt for alternatives that offer the right mix of performance, cost, and flexibility.

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