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Configuring 5-Axis Technology On CMMs

There are growing demands within the global manufacturing industry to increase productivity and efficiency levels at faster paces. As a result of this, metrologists are starting to find out that using Coordinating Measuring Machines (CMMs) that only operate using 3-axis machining technologies is not enough anymore.

Customers have the opportunity to implement and use performing 5-axis CMMs setups since many years, and this is a key benefit in terms of productivity and versatility.

While regular measuring machines operates on X, Y and Z axes only, a 5-axis machine can rotate two additional axes – A and B – thereby enabling a multidirectional approach to working on tighter tolerances and achieving complex geometric measurements, between 2-5 times faster than existing 3-axis CMMs do.

Business Challenges

A probable question that arises here is that if 5-axis technology is so promising, why aren’t businesses investing in it more?

Major brands, such as Renishaw, indicate that for some features, like circles, the precision of the 5-axis CMM is higher as only the head moves and not the CMM. This reduces vibrations, movements, and global inertia on the CMM.

There is also much debate about exactly how much faster can 5-axis CMMs provide measurements compared to 3-axis CMMs.

There is also, of course, the cost factor, because 5-axis CMMs are more expensive, and it becomes harder for businesses to justify the additional expense if they do not fully understand the features and benefits of this recent innovation.

5-axis CMMs: The Main Features

In terms of the hardware in a 5-axis CMM, the main features include:

  • Compatibility with market leading CMMs,
  • Longevity – possibly up to 8 years,
  • Measures parts faster, but this depends on the part.

In terms of the software application that is configured with a 5-axis CMM, the main features worth noting include:

  • Flexibility in programming: it is easy to build and modify programs,
  • Modern, smart and user-friendly interfaces,
  • Compatibility with existing functionalities.

The Broader Benefits

Having gauged the main features, the next step would be to understand the broader benefits that investing in a 5-axis CMM has on offer:

  • Programming flexibility

The software is adaptable enough to work with existing, universal programming languages, such as DMIS, as well as with newer, advanced, and efficient programs.

  • Automatic avoidance

The software has a functionality that automatically detects the parts that require measurements and creates a path for the measuring device (such as a touch probe) to follow in a few mouse clicks.

  • Security

Collisions can be prevented and avoided because of a software functionality that can anticipate measuring paths and head movements.

  • Safer, closer measurements

The presence of a safety/clearance box enables parts to be measured at closer proximities than previously possible.

  • Hardware protection

The ability to program virtually on a dedicated software allows to fully protect your expensive hardware setup: only makes ‘virtual’ mistakes and use your programs on real CMM once they are 100% ready for production.

Maximizing 5-Axis CMM Performance With Software

When it comes to considering on investing in a 5-axis CMM, it is probably worth looking into the features that the software solution comprises can bring to the setup. Metrolog X4 and Silma X4 enable the user to save time and accuracy with 5-axis technology.

The ideal software solution in a 5-axis CMM should have:

  • Seamless, intuitive Human-Machine Interface (HMI)

A powerful feature that enables previews of the measurement path in which the head is moving along.

  • Easy, user-friendly interfaces

A visually appealing interface that helps to gauge measurements easily.

  • Customizable ordering of measurements

The ability to switch the order of measurements as per the preference.

  • Live and dynamic modifications

The ability to modify live and dynamic measuring elements and parameters.

  • Access to existing functionalities

Being able to access and leverage all the existing functionalities, such as mirror programming, results in different alignments, creating and editing reports, etc.

  • Functionality to run existing and newer programming languages

As some CMMs currently run on DMIS, which is a universal programming language, the 5-axis CMM should also be able to operate using DMIS as well as any newer, advanced, and more efficient programming languages too.

  • Access to offline programming and simulation functions

The ability to create new programs offline, but also to access simulation technologies as well as the ability to anticipate all the important challenges faced when going online, e.g., potential collision, optimized paths, part positioning, etc. By leveraging such enhanced features available in the right software solution for a 5-axis CMM, manufacturers are likely to gain hugely in terms of saving time saving, as the rate of measurements can be extremely fast, depending on the parts. It is worth bearing in mind that the transition from 3-axis CMMs to 5-axis CMMs has already begun and the increased adoption to the right software solution for it will mean that the global metrology industry is going to evolve radically.

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