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3D Metrology Performance Critical To Digital Manufacturing

Metrology News recently sat down with Laurent Monge, the new President at Metrologic, for a discussion on its future vision for 3D metrology software and how it fits into Sandvik’s strategy for the digitization of manufacturing.

Q: Congratulations on your new position. What strategic role, as an enabling software, do you envisage for Metrolog software as the manufacturing world focuses on its transition to Industry 4.0 and adaptive manufacturing?

A: As we are all aware measurement is moving from the quality laboratory onto the manufacturing floor. This brings new challenges that require enhanced tool sets from the measurement software. In addition, measurements are becoming much more integral to the manufacturing process which again requires a higher level of performance from measuring software.

The Metrologic Group has always been in front of market trends and stands ready and fully capable to support the transition to adaptive manufacturing with its suite of metrology software products. The Metrologic Group has pioneered universal robotic inspection applications using optical sensors; the next step being integration into fully automated inline applications for one hundred percent production inspection using whatever non-contact optical sensor is most suited to the application. At Metrologic, our development team is focused on delivering faster, simpler, and smarter universal metrology software providing oversight to zero-defect production operations.

Q: The Metrologic Group was an early pioneer in advanced metrology software for both coordinate measuring machines and robotic inspection cells and has remained loyal, through its various ownership changes, to being an agnostic supplier. Do you envisage any change in the agnostic role of Metrologic moving into the next phase of the company and its market development strategy?

A: Being agnostic will remain integral to the DNA of the Metrologic Group. We have to continue to focus on ensuring that as new advanced measurement sensor technologies are released we react quickly and interface with these emerging products. Being agnostic delivers a huge advantage to end-users in the delivery of a truly universal metrology platform that can be seamlessly integrated throughout a manufacturing operation regardless of measuring process, measuring technology, or hardware vendor. Our products are truly scalable for enterprises since we operate on manual data collection devices such as portable arms, laser trackers, and hand-held 3D scanners, and offer the virtual programming and simulation suite of software tools required for automated production measuring solutions. Whether CMM or industrial robot based, we offer digital twin measurement analysis negating the traditional latency associated with measured data.

Q: Software is a critical strategic component in advanced manufacturing technology. How does Metrologic fit into Sandvik’s digital manufacturing ambitions?

A: Sandvik has significant stated ambition in the field of digital manufacturing so for the Metrologic Group it’s fantastic to be integral to the core business that your corporation wants to develop into. Sandvik has stated that it wants to provide customers with software solutions enabling automation of the full component manufacturing value chain – from design and planning to preparation, production, and verification.

Sandvik has acquired digital manufacturing software technologies in the form of CAD (CIMITRON by Cambrio), CAM (MasterCam by CNC Software, Inc and Gibbs CAM), manufacturing and verification (Metrologic Group, Dimensional Control Systems and DWFritz Automation). We, as a company, are at the core of the Sandvik strategy and one of the key building blocks to connect the dots such as measuring plan and quality data management through DCS and integrated inline inspection with DWFritz Automation. The Metrologic Group, alongside the other group acquisitions, is strategically aligned with Sandvik’s focus on growth in the digital manufacturing space.

Q: Sandvik is integral in CNC machining activities and increasing its role in additive manufacturing. We are seeing a growing increase in machine tool measurements for both process validation and absolute on-machine inspection techniques. What will be the Metrologic Group role in bringing closed-loop metrology on board both subtractive and additive manufacturing processes in its market development plans?

A: Digital manufacturing leverages digital technologies thereby allowing manufacturing operations to become connected, networked, and fully integrated allowing the use of real-time data analytics to optimize the entire manufacturing process. Closed-loop manufacturing is integral to digital manufacturing but no one generic solution will satisfy all the individual customers’ requirements. For sure inline, non-contact, and in-process digital inspection techniques will increase in popularity, but for many applications, a higher degree of accuracy than those currently available will be mandated. As an agnostic software supplier, we are ready to support our customers as they implement new techniques and technologies to manage their own unique implementation of smart manufacturing.

Q: Metrology has become centric to smart manufacturing with data and digital twins driving process control and real-time decision-making driving adaptive control. What can we expect in the future from Metrologic to further drive market implementation?

A: Our Metrolog X4 software already is very capable of handling large generated point clouds, extracting geometrical entities providing a near real-time comparison with CAD, and presenting the digitally analyzed 3D data in the form of a digital twin. In the future, we will witness measured deviations and trends being automatically interpreted and predicted, through the increasing use of artificial intelligence, to provide actionable digital instructions to maintain process control thereby ensuring zero defects production.

Q: Robots are playing an increasing role in inline and near-line production measurement cells but currently, most solutions require a high degree of customized engineering, unlike coordinate measuring machines, that offer users an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution. The current level of customized engineering makes system pricing prohibitive for many, increasing implementation risks and decreasing comfort factors. Do you envisage a trend towards robotic ‘out-of-the-box’ inspection solutions increasing their market uptake?

A: The Metrologic Group had the foresight and vision for the next generation of production measurements by predicting the increasing uptake of industrial robots that automatically position optical measurement sensors to gather inspection data. From inception, the X4 i-Robot software platform was envisaged as a seamless software to handle all aspects of a robotic measuring cell including virtual programming, full 3D simulations with collision avoidance, and embedded smart tools to automate all of the robot programming and measurement processes.

The i-Robot technology is suitable for all industrial robot brands and provides a production-ready metrology solution that is accurate, reliable, and flexible in approach.

The metrology portion of the software is integral to i-robot which significantly simplifies the task of delivering a fully functional measurement cell. It is our opinion that the implementation of an i-robot driven robot measuring cell is on a par with a traditional CMM, or even less as many few sensor indexing positions are required as optical sensors capture much more part information per robot pose position making programming much simpler.

The degree of eventual customized automation is a function of the level of physical integration required by the customer for example, is the robot measuring station to be inline or nearline, but, through our software toolkit,  we have significantly simplified the robot measurement integration process. Of course, there will remain a market for very specialized cutting-edge highly customized solutions, and our products are also positioned well to serve this market as it develops further.

Q: The recent launch of NextMeasure brings the subscription model to metrology software for portable device users. How do you view the uptake of this transformational software strategy? What do you consider the equipment user benefits of subscription over purchase?

A: NextMeasure is still in its launch phase and represents a very innovative approach to measurement software focused on accessing a different customer audience than what we would typically consider our norm. NextMeasure is being developed as an autonomous and independent brand. Metrologic has integrated its reliability, knowledge and innovation into the software which is dedicated to new market segments. The initial market reaction to NextMeasure, launched in May at the Control Expo, has been very positive. We know that many manual measuring devices are only used on an as-needed basis and thus the subscription model and user experience can provide improved productivity and economics for these types of users.

Q: What experiences from your previous positions will bring new in-sights into market developments for the Metrologic Group?

A: Industrial measurement is nothing new to me having spent my prior time at Teledyne focused on numerous vertical markets including industrial, automotive, and aerospace along with higher-volume consumer product manufacturing.  My experience in imaging technologies, and their use in highly automated manufacturing operations, provides a foundation platform for my role at Metrologic. My experience is particularly apt given the direction that industrial metrology is moving as the more traditional manufacturing industries transition to smarter manufacturing initiatives.

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