Metrology News recently sat down with Marc Soucy President of Innovmetric, developer of the Polyworks software platform, for a follow-on discussion from our previous interview – ‘Transitioning Into The Digitalization Era of Manufacturing’ – on how ‘Seamlessly Integrated Digital Metrology Data will Empower Manufacturing Enterprises’.
Q: In a previous interview, you told us of the intention to transform PolyWorks into a specialized vertical software solution that fulfills a narrow but essential set of objectives by managing all 3D measurement data digitally and opening access to this data enterprise-wide. You wanted to bring 3D measurement data to the heart of an enterprise’s global dimensional management process. Can you explain how the latest PolyWorks 2023 version takes you a step closer to this goal?
A: To simplify and facilitate the deployment of our enterprise 3D measurement data management solution, PolyWorks now interconnects to corporate identity servers and offers express cloud deployment packages.
Companies use identity servers to store and manage digital identities, for example allowing single sign-on for their employees for the corporate resources they need to access. This helps reduce the administrative overhead of distributing multiple authentication tokens. With support for Azure AD and the SAML 2.0 authentication protocol, PolyWorks can leverage the standard corporate platform to manage user access and privileges. Several customers are currently planning to leverage their identity servers to integrate suppliers into their 3D measurement data management solution.
To empower small and medium enterprises with limited IT resources to also benefit from digital transformation at a minimal cost, we offer data management solutions for Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS that can be deployed in less than 15 minutes.
Q: Can you explain how you are digitally interconnecting customer platforms such as CAD, PLM, 3D measurement software and the resulting benefits for manufacturing operations?
A: One of our major goals as a supplier of an enterprise solution is to eliminate data silos and allow product engineering, manufacturing, and 3D measurement teams to seamlessly exchange data. This has led us to offer three digital interconnections between the CAD/PLM and 3D measurement ecosystems:
- The first digital interconnection is between the CAD and 3D measurement software, to help automate the integration of an updated 3D measurement plan within an existing 3D inspection project. We have enriched the CAD software with a Model-Based Definition (MBD) solution, allowing the creation of digitally traceable 3D measurement plans associated to the native CAD geometry within the CAD platform. Integrating the 3D measurement plan within CAD allows us to automatically update it when the CAD model is modified.
- The second digital interconnection is between the PLM and 3D measurement software, to allow 3D measurement specialists to obtain CAD data directly from the PLM system and speed up the preparation of inspection projects. They can search for CAD data within the PLM and import the latest revision of a CAD model within their 3D inspection project. In many companies today, 3D measurement teams need to request CAD models from colleagues with the right credentials, which delays the preparation of inspection projects.
- And the third digital interconnection is between the CAD/PLM ecosystem and the PolyWorks data management solution, to facilitate access to 3D measurement data for CAD/PLM users. PolyWorks stores hyperlinks that refer to 3D measurement data within the CAD model properties. When a design change is triggered by a dimensional failure, the CAD operator and designers can access the 3D measurement data in a single click and review issues within the data management system’s web interface. We believe that this real-world feedback can help designers better understand the manufacturing process capabilities and improve their next product designs.
Q: Solving manufacturing issues rather than just reporting on defects discovered through the measuring process is a goal of smart manufacturing embracing industry 4.0 concepts. How is PolyWorks 2023 aiding in determining root causes and identifying the factors impacting part quality?
A: The resolution of manufacturing issues typically involves three phases: awareness, root cause finding, and issue fixing. Making issues visible through dimensional alerts, 3D measurement software solutions are the key tools for the awareness phase. With this new release, we want to facilitate root cause finding as it can be a very time-consuming phase.
Our innovation is the integration of 3D measurement data, meaningful metadata that provide process traceability, and statistical analyses of association within our data management solution. We feel that breaking data silos and making association analyses available at the fingertips of key stakeholders is the beginning of a new era in root cause finding, inching ever closer to issue fixing.
Q: Mixed reality offers great potential in aiding manufacturing processes. How do you envisage the role of mixed reality in day-to-day measuring and data collaboration operations and does it offer the potential to revolutionize traditional part measurement activities?
A: When the size of the measured piece grows, significant issues occur that rapidly hinder measurement performance. Over the years, large-scale 3D measurement operators have used large screens, projectors, and remote controls to address these issues. Mixed reality replaces all these tools and reduces the need for a second operator. Mixed reality:
- Superimposes guidance graphics and 3D measurement results directly on the measured pieces
- Projects digital readouts and computer screens as holograms in front of your eyes
- Makes measurement safer as it frees the hands of operators and untethers them from laptops
- Provides an instinctual gesture-based interface to interact with 3D measurement software
With version 2023, we have integrated Microsoft Teams within our mixed reality app. You can call a colleague in front of the piece you have just measured and review measurement results with him. Your colleague will see the measured piece and the holograms you are projecting through the live video stream. We think that mixed reality offers so many benefits that it will gradually become standard gear for 3D measurement specialists.
Q: Measurement system uncertainties play a critical role in the validation of inspection results. These become even more critical as inspection operations become directly integrated into automated manufacturing processes with repeatability and reproducibility critical when assessing measurement errors and understanding sources of variation. How do measurement system uncertainties get addressed in PolyWorks 2023?
A: Until today, to perform repeatability and gauge R&R studies manufacturing organizations had to go through complex processes that required multiple software solutions and advanced expertise in statistics. With this version, we provide an easy-to-use fully digital workflow, from the setup and execution of repeatability and Gauge R&R studies to obtaining results directly in Excel for analysis and sharing.
Launch your measurement system analysis study within PolyWorks, be guided to probe, scan, and gauge pieces, then review results directly in preformatted Excel spreadsheets digitally linked to the inspection project. If modifications are made to the inspection project, Excel spreadsheet results are automatically updated to ensure measurement data integrity.
Q: As manufacturing becomes increasingly automated, with imbedded measurement operations, process control becomes critical. How does PolyWorks 2023 fit into the automated manufacturing environment?
A: PolyWorks really shines in production environments when a dimensional alert is triggered. Because we have brought all the tools and data under one roof. You can review trends, launch root-cause analysis tools, and even review 3D measurement data within inspection software. Having access to 3D measurement data allows you to create additional dimensions and reinspect previously manufactured pieces, which is often necessary to fully understand a problem.
With PolyWorks 2023, we have also dramatically expanded the capability of our solution to handle large datasets, a key improvement for production applications. Customers can now store up to one million pieces within a single inspection project. We also offer data retention policies to control database size. For example, you can retain large scanned datasets for a predetermined period, for example 6 months or a year. The system will automatically delete those datasets after the prescribed period while retaining the complete 3D measurement results. Data retention policies allow customers to control storage costs.
Q: What role do you see AI playing in metrology software going forward?
A: As a preamble, I’d like to make a statement. There is no such thing as artificial intelligence. AI systems are not intelligent at all. They are just immense brute-force statistical technologies that are able to make predictions based on the input they have been trained on. Don’t get me wrong, AI can do amazing things. I use Google Translate every day to accelerate my work. It is a great tool, although I still need to fine-tune its translations every time.
I think that deep-learning systems have potential in the manufacturing industry. But there is one major issue that will stop it from making inroads. To train an AI system for a particular market segment, we would probably need data from nearly all manufacturers in this segment. However, manufacturing organizations are protective of their data and want to keep it private. Today, most of them would never share their data with a software vendor, knowing that it could benefit their competitors. So, we’ll have to wait for some sort of data-sharing consortium to emerge before deep-learning systems can be developed for our market.
The good news is that PolyWorks is an open solution that offers a free API. So, customers who wish to train an AI system from their own data can digitally interconnect their AI system to our data management system.
For more information: www.innovmetric.com