Tolerances on blade manufacturing tightened as OEMs drove to differentiate themselves by offering high performance lawn and garden products. To achieve customer goals, Blount International knew they had to incorporate more automation into their quality inspection process. Article by Mark Thomas, Marketing Director, OGP.
As a leading manufacturer of equipment, accessories and replacement parts for the lawn and garden market, Blount International was looking to improve their profitability and exceed their customer delivery expectations. They were faced with the problem of how to economically produce a variety of nearly 1,900 different OEM lawnmower blades. The large selection of blades required by their OEM customers meant short production runs and multiple tooling changes each day. Their goal was to improve product quality while controlling costs and meeting shipment commitments.
Tolerances on blade manufacturing tightened as OEMs drove to differentiate themselves by offering high performance lawn and garden products. To achieve customer goals, Blount knew they had to incorporate more automation into their quality inspection process.
The Need For 3D Metrology Scanner
The company had always used traditional methods of measurement such as hand callipers and height gages to verify the conformance of its mower blades to customer specifications. The company’s Engineering Manager, Brian Brunk, believed that complex product features could be measured more efficiently with a 3D metrology scanner that can quickly and accurately verify part dimensions, regardless of shape complexity.
A ShapeGrabber 3D scanner from OGP was selected because of the ability to provide fast, accurate, noncontact measurements of nearly any material or shape without the need for special tools or fixtures. The scanner was also large enough to handle the largest Blount product offering.
Compared to conventional tactile CMM techniques, measuring one point at a time, 3D scanners capture millions of surface points on even the most complex geometry parts, and can quickly compare the results to a CAD design. Deviations from the CAD design are easily identified, making tooling acceptance decisions fast and accurate – meaning part production can start sooner, and with higher confidence.
Beneficial To Entire Production Process
Graphical models of ShapeGrabber measurements make part quality decisions easy without tying up other measuring systems. Melissa Rice, Continuous Improvement Coordinator at Blount detailed their process with the ShapeGrabber system: “Before we release a new die for production, we do a capability study to prove the accuracy of the die and qualify the tooling. ShapeGrabber provides the ability to do that through automation rather than manual inspection. ShapeGrabber has assisted us in improving our first-pass yield. When we can produce a quality part the first time, the entire production process benefits.”
For in-process inspection, the ShapeGrabber system has been proven to be easy-to-use and highly automated. After an initial scan, the same scanning parameters may be used for subsequent parts, delivering consistent results irrespective of operator skill or experience. Ease-of-use is manifested daily as dozens of production personnel routinely use the scanner, each having just minimal training.
Culture Of Quality
An unexpected benefit of the ShapeGrabber scanner system has also been reported: it is supporting a “culture of quality” at Blount. Employees are taking more ownership of the products and their quality. “The 3D scanner has engaged the people who use it more than they were engaged before. Now, we see employees taking more ownership of the products and their quality throughout the manufacturing organisation,” remarked Mr. Brunk.
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