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What Role Will The CMM Play In The Future of Manufacturing

Renishaw has been at the forefront of coordinate measuring machine technology almost since the industry foundation more than 45 years ago and responsible for the deployment of precision coordinate metrology solutions throughout global manufacturing industries.

With industry set to transition through Industry 4.0 and the 4th Industrial Revolution sat down recently with Dave Wallace, Director & General Manager of Renishaw’s CMM Products Division, to get his vision on how the role of the CMM could change in coming years.

How do you see the role of the traditional CMM changing over the next ten years?

High performance manufacturing relies on control and preventative action. CMMs are optimal tools to provide the data that flows through the business and enables that ultimate control across the entire manufacturingprocess.

CMMs are robust, long lasting and with increasing versatility are an integral part of these manufacturing processes.Over the next few years we will see further developments towards the integration of CMM measurement in the production process, increased automation and an investment in more advanced and varied probe systems. This is driven by factors such as rising labour cost, factory foot print pressures and a lack of skilled employees. The demand for quieter and more fuel efficient aero engines; the ability to generate more power from smaller auto engines whilst also increasing their life; and the superbly manufactured smart phones place increased demands on manufacturers’ ability to control the quality and consistency of parts – and the costs are always being driven down too! This can’t happen without tools such as CMMs increasing in capability and throughput.

The software controlling the CMMs is also advancing with user interface improvements to ease the programming interface and tighter integration with factory information systems including Industry 4.0.

In the past coordinate metrology was deployed in plants through a centralized CMM. How do you see coordinate metrology technology being deployed in the coming future?

Metrology data flows through the manufacturing process driving quality through a virtuous loop, from design to production.

At Renishaw we practice what we preach in terms of deploying metrology as appropriate throughout the entire manufacturing process. Machine calibration ensures CNC equipment meets expected accuracy, Machine tool probing is used for part and tool set up and in some critical dimensional control situations. Our flexible gauge “Equator” is deployed next to the manufacturing process and is insensitive to shopfloor thermal effects. This approach allows both us and our customers to apply process control to critical dimensions and provide point of manufacture confidence before adding value with subsequent processes.

CMMs will still be used for verification of all dimensions to design intent, however with higher confidence due to the measurements made during the manufacturing process, the likelihood of quality issues arising at final inspection are greatly reduced.

One area where CMMs will play an increasing role on the shopfloor is where a number of different measurement types are required with data available very quickly for confirmation of quality and rapid reaction to any drift or non-conformance. The speed of measurement here being critical to allow frequent sampling and minimise the amount of unqualified work-in-progress.

What are technology limitations that must be addressed for CMM to adapt its role in coming years? Can it survive?

Yes, it will survive, CMMs are an integral part of many manufacturing businesses, but it is worth remembering that, in many cases, neither the CMMs nor their associated probing systems are used to their full extent, so the potential to increase throughput and do more with the CMM is significant.  Beyond that, CMMs are already highly flexible measuring devices and there is great scope to develop that flexibility and performance further,to deliver the responsive systems that industry demands. The great advantage is that CMMs are a robust and stable platform already integrated in production processes where fundamental change is a high risk and return on capital investment is paramount.The increasing utility that today’s modern multi-sensor CMMs offer gives users the ability to consolidate inspection footprint requirements, this has the additional benefit of requiring less routing of the part giving less opportunities for part damage. Indeed, some of the sensor additions to the CMM now offer automation of inspections that have previously been labour intensive and not auditable after the event e.g. surface finish.

It would seem advanced sensor technology will be at the forefront of all metrology solution in the future. Do you foresee sensors and software merging into a singular deliverable rather than remaining individual components of a solution?

Software enabling the full capability of the sensor to be exploited is essential. But it will also be important for sensors to be integrated with the metrology software from multiple CMM builders,so that each one can take full ownership of the customer’s offering and support.For good reason, manufacturers don’t want to be learning new software for each new type of sensor.

That said, it would be unreasonable to expect CMM users to be experts in the nuances of many different sensors; it’s up to sensor suppliers, such as Renishaw, to ensure that new sensors can be used in ways which are familiar to existing users. For example, users shouldn’t need to become skilled in the datuming/calibration of each sensor type; they need that to be taken care of by the probe supplier. And programming and planning for the use of different sensors needs to be made as intuitive as possible. For example, programming a scanning probe to sweep each blade of an IBR is a complex task, but with the use of automated planning tools which generate DMIS code, this process can be dramatically simplified. Similarly, when it comes to analysis and reporting, each sensor should produce similar and familiar reports and storage of data.

Renishaw has pioneered 5 axis CMM measurements and advanced tactile scanning. Do you see a multi-sensor CMM combining tactile, optical and structured light technologies becoming the universal CMM of the future?

Yes, the multi sensor offering is gaining more and more traction in the market. Part of this is the flexibility to select the optimum sensor for specific part features and not just for the part as a whole. In addition, we see these sensors adding value to the proposition of a CMM, thereby increasing its worth and ROI to a manufacturer. For example, adding surface texture measurement capability to a CMM can make other pieces of equipment redundant. It’s rather similar to the multitude of functions that a smart phone offers apart from being able to just make calls.

Ultimately, the multi-sensor capability, 5-axis motion and infinite positioning of Renishaw’s CMM systems offer the flexibility to adapt to the demands of diverse parts and manufacturing processes with increased speed and further capability.

As you would expect we have more sensors in development, which will extend this concept even further.

The 6 axis industrial robot is gathering momentum as a metrology sensor carrier albeit not an intrinsically accurate device. As a developer of high accuracy medical robots could we see the emergence of dedicated higher accuracy metrology robots in coming years and the cartesian CMM transition to a multi-axis device.

Yes, it seems logical to assume that robot positioning will only improve; and Renishaw supplies a number of elements required to enable this (encoders and calibration equipment for example). Whether these replace CMMs as such is doubtful given the relative accuracy numbers both the technologies are delivering today; we’ll keep a watching brief however!

Renishaw is at the forefront of Additive Manufacturing. Does the CMM have a role in supporting this next generation manufacturing technology? If not is Computed Tomography the solution or a multi-sensor CT?

Undoubtedly, CT offers a credible option to addresssome of the challenges presented by AM i.e. internal features which are out of reach once the part has been fully built. However, they do come with a cycle time and capital cost penalty. Renishaw has developed InfiniAM Spectral, sensors and software tools which are used to monitor the part quality throughout the AM build. This provides assurance that the process is well controlled, reducing the requirement for inspection post manufacture. This is particularly important as AM becomes increasingly productive, for example, the RenAM 500Q has four lasers.As output increases, time and cost-effective inspection and quality assurance will be increasingly important. Moreover, most additively manufactured parts are subsequently machined to achieve tight tolerances needed for sealing faces etc. and for these, today’s CT will not deliver a satisfactory accuracy so the CMM will still be used to verify these aspects. Some multi-sensor CT systems are available on the market and whilst they may get both internal cavities as well as external tight tolerances inspected, they would be consuming valuable time on a very expensive asset whilst inspecting in tactile mode. Finally,we are obviously intimately involved with the challenges that additive manufacturing throws up in terms of quality assurance and as such we have further CMM (REVO) sensors in development that will help here.

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