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Looking For The ‘Next Big Thing’ In Automated Metrology

As manufacturing undergoes yet another transformation into smart manufacturing, also known as Industry 4.0, measurement will no longer be a peripheral aspect but will be integral to the entire process. The goal is to deliver the necessary data in real-time to inform adaptive and automated refinements, ensuring quality at every step in the production process.

As many of us organize our travel plans to attend the upcoming CONTROL 2023 exhibition in Stuttgart, its worth looking at the changing role of measurement technology in manufacturing, and how exhibitors will be addressing the adapting market requirements as they present their various products and technologies to the inquisitive expo audience.

Automated Metrology To Play Crucial Role In Next Generation Manufacturing Operations

Automated metrology will play a crucial role in the next generation of manufacturing operations. Automated metrology systems will be inline, nearline, or offline, depending on the industry, production volume, and application. While many technologies are chasing the same measurement applications, few companies have the expertise or desire to implement automated solutions themselves. Therefore, they will increasingly look at a supplier’s record of integration and ongoing support rather than just their respective ‘boxed’ technologies.

The reason for measuring is to generate data, and in the future, there will be a significant shift towards actionable data, reducing the latency between manufacturing and measuring. Manual measurement techniques will continue to have a role in prototyping, equipment set-up, troubleshooting, and low volume production, but for high volume production, automated integrated measurement with immediate adaptive feedback will become the norm.

MEMS To Increasingly Provide Motion To 3D Sensors

The integration of 3D measurement sensors directly into manufacturing processes and equipment will see a dramatic increase. The market uptake of plug-in Smart Sensors with onboard computing and readily programmed measurement software will also increase significantly. Today, these sensors are mainly single laser line scanners that will migrate to multiple laser lines and structured light while employing MEMS as an internal mover to perform the point cloud generation over a specific region of interest.

Currently, many robotic optical sensor solutions do not have the accuracy to compete with Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM), making them mainly employed for sheet-metal, fabrications, and plastic parts. Robotic solutions will improve their accuracy through robot tracking, robot error mapping, or possibly with the emergence of a metrology robot with improved encoders, stiffer joints, and carbon fiber structures. The metrology industry is currently using standard industrial robots, and the robot industry shows no appetite to develop higher accuracy robots as few of their applications require anything other than a repeatable robot.

Despite predictions of its demise, the uptake of the CMM continues at a pace. The primary reasons are its relatively low cost and universal acceptance. However, the tactile CMM is slow, complex to program, and requires significant sensor poses. Applying optical sensing in a miniaturized form to the CMM mover is a logical next step in the evolution of both sensors and CMM.

The mapping of generated STLs to the 3D CAD model representing part geometry has revolutionized data analysis. This trend is set to increase with a dynamic virtual twin created using individual manufactured part data long before the final assembly process takes place. Design tolerances are arbitrary, but functional real-time manufacturing part tolerancing will become mainstream in the future, ensuring more cost-effective production.

Will We Get a Glimpse of ‘What Is To Come’ at Control 2023?

Adjusting to market trends, and improving technical performance in the areas of faster data acquisition, improved accuracies, AI-driven software algorithms, and more automated software will become a major focus for equipment suppliers. The next big thing in automated industrial metrology is coming, but its form and appearance are as yet unknown, making the future of industrial metrology exciting.

In conclusion, automated metrology will play a preeminent role in the next generation of manufacturing operations. Manufacturing companies will increasingly look for integrated automated solutions that provide actionable data in real-time to improve their processes’ quality and efficiency. As technologies continue to evolve, the future of industrial metrology will undoubtedly bring new and exciting advancements that will transform the industry once again.

Will we get a glimpse of ‘what’s to come’ at Control 2023? For sure Metrology News will be walking the floor looking for it!