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Adaptation of Measurement To Process Integrated Metrology

Metrology News recently sat down with Dr. Heiko Wenzel-Schinzer, CDO (Chief Data Officer) of the Wenzel Group, for a discussion on his views on the future role of dimensional measurement in the new era of smart manufacturing and how process-integrated metrology is viewed, along with its challenges, from both supplier and user perspectives.

Q: What trends do you currently see in Quality Assurance?

A: I see a significant change in many industries resulting from the major technology trends Industry 4.0, Internet of Things and the shift to e-mobility, but also the now very rapidly growing problems with the shortage of skilled workers at many companies. The technical innovations lead to a significant change in the parts to be measured, the measurement tasks but also the location of the measurement. The lack of personnel resources places further demands on the usability of the measurement solutions.

 Q: Quality Assurance is migrating to a direct production function. How is this impacting traditional dimensional inspection equipment?

A: In production, we have to deal with different environmental conditions in terms of temperature, air cleanliness, vibrations, etc. The measurement technology must adapt here; it must be more robust with regard to external influences and must analyze and compensate for them better. Of course, it is possible to work traditionally in production by using special enclosures and measuring rooms here, but space in production is even more precious than elsewhere in companies, so it is not an option in the long run. But the expectations for speed and quality of measurement results are ever increasing, so this is really an exciting challenge for all of us.

Q: How does the location of measurement technology change the focus of an equipment supplier?

A: From the customer’s point of view, the requirements for measurement technology suppliers are quite simple: exactly as in the measuring room, small footprint, robust in application and fast in measurement and evaluation. For us it means: Innovative mechanical engineering with resilient materials, equipping our machines with sensors and cyber-physical systems for direct feedback of the measurement to the current environment, fast measurement times through scanning, 5-axis measuring heads and optical sensors, and extreme focus on ease of use of hardware and software.

Q: What are the main changes as a supplier that are bringing change? 

A: I see the following five major changes:

 – Location of measurement changes the focus

When we use the measuring technology in the measuring room, it is primarily about checking the deviation of the actual values from the target values. Ultimately, this is a question of absolute accuracy: are we within tolerance or not? If, however, the measuring technology is installed directly in production, then we primarily want to ensure the process reliability of our production. Ultimately, therefore, it is a question of the repeatability of our production, or do we have to readjust something on the processing machines, since our results change undesirably over time.

 – Duration of the measurement is shorter

If we move the location of the measurement to production, then we have to adapt to the cycle in production and therefore have less time for the individual measurement, especially since larger random samples or even a 100% inspection is often to be carried out. Faster measurement – for this we need faster measuring systems such as optical sensors or the high-speed, tactile  5-axis measuring head such as the Renishaw Revo.

 – Quantity of measured data increases considerably

Traditionally, even before we started a measurement, we looked very closely at which features and elements really needed to be measured to ensure production quality. We touched on these points and evaluated them; the result was a manageable quantity of measurement points and a clearly focused evaluation with a measurement report.

Through high-speed scanning and optical measurements, we can collect huge amounts of data very quickly. This helps us keep pace with the cycle time of production, but we must also map this data against what is needed to control the process. Otherwise, the data is wasted. This is where collaboration with the customer can yield very innovative solutions for data handling.

 – Data quality increases enormously

Of course, the amount of data just described also opens up new possibilities for evaluation. First of all, the way in which the data is acquired has advantages for the quality of the data. We not only approach individual points, but also record surfaces, recognize features and edges, and thus have a much broader view of the measured object than before. In the case of anomalies, we can go into the neighborhood of the actually relevant measuring points and check other things; this is where the point cloud adds tremendous value.

 – Significant increase in data analysis techniques

One of the technical innovations that also significantly influences measurement technology is data mining, machine learning, numerous methods from so-called artificial intelligence. While it used to be up to the user to recognize relevant correlations and patterns, these methods can make us aware of new facts; visualize them and thus make them the object of our analyses. I believe that these techniques can support us very strongly: no more but also no less…

Q:  Traditionally equipment manufacturers in the past understandably focused more on functionality and less on useability. How do you see this changing in the future?

A: Making extensive and complex functions easy to use is the new demand on software usability.  At the beginning, we already talked about the shortage of skilled workers. When metrology shifts to production, we find users there whose job is actually something other than measuring. These people will now be given the additional task: “put the part on the measuring machine and see what comes out”. And that is exactly what the software must support. The fast operation for non-measurement experts who “only” want to see an Ok / not Ok result at the end. But the “experts” also expect more and are used to easy-to-use apps on their smartphones from their private use.

Q: How do you see automation in equipment programming simplifying equipment integration and its ongoing adaption to production part changes?

A: I see the trend and also understand why it makes sense. In many industries, we work with fewer employees on rapidly changing parts. The days when we could produce the same part for many years are over in many industries. That’s where automated manufacturing cells have to adapt quickly, without a lot of reprogramming and setup time. But for me, this is a logical consequence of our Industry 4.0 transformation. More individuality and rapid change, and that too with fewer personnel, because they are simply not available. This is a challenge for all of us, but successful implementation secures our industrial future and thus our companies.

Q: How will the generated data be put to use and by who in factories of the future?

A: I believe that we will see a new job description with the Metrology Data Scientist.

Q : What do you see as the Future Roadmap For Metrology?

A: Accuracy and speed are currently the main requirements of many customers for measurement technology. Reusability of the old programs is also a very often required secondary condition. From my point of view, speed now starts with the design, with the help of PMI to quickly generate a test plan from the design model and then a suitable measuring program; at the state of the art with all available sensors and together with the expertise of trained users at a few central locations. Then transfer these programs to measuring devices, which can be operated by “non-measurement technology experts” using very simple applications, or even be integrated completely automatically, data will then be managed by the Metrology Data Scientist to ensure efficient process control.

The company-wide centralization of metrology expertise ensures better comparability of results, regardless of the machine or sensor technology used, thus creating more independence from a specific supplier and room for innovative solutions. 

“In metrology, too, it is not the big that eats the small, but the innovative that eats the slow.”

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