Common Software Speeds Up ROI on Multi-Sensor CMM Purchase

Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) are ideal for 3D inspection. They check the shape and size of parts using tactile measurement. But for a variety of applications, many shops are looking to add the capabilities of a vision machine, typically to handle 2D applications. Of course there are pure vision machines available and have been for some time. But multi-sensor machines with 2D optical and 3D touch-probe capabilities are increasingly the preferred choice for adding vision capability.

They can handle 3D work when not being used for 2D applications, speeding up ROI. But there is an even bigger economy of scale available when adding multi-sensor capability to a shop that already has a CMM, and economy that is lost if the two machines – the CMM and the multi-sensor machine – use different software.

The fact that some types of work can be peformed by either machine gives a shop valuable flexibility. Unfortunately most available systems require separate software for the two types of machines, even if they both come from the same manufacturer. Programming separately to do the same job on both machines would be expensive, so offloading work from the CMM to the multi-sensor machine isn’t really worth the duplicate programming effort that would be required. And there is a second, even bigger problem. Two machines, each running its own software, will probably require two programmers, each familiar with a different sophisticated software system (or one extremely unique individual with expertise in both). A cross-trained expert would be nice, but good luck finding that individual! It would be more realistic, though costly, to hire two specialists, one for each machine.

Fortunately there is a better solution. There are measuring systems, though not many, that use the same software for both traditional CMM and multi-sensor machine, allowing one person to program and manage both. And because they use the same software, there is a significant overlap in the measuring tasks the two types of machines can cost effectively handle.

For a shop with a CMM and a multi-sensor machine sharing a single software system, larger parts will typically be handled by the CMM; 2D jobs will be handled by the multi-sensor machine; and smaller 3D parts could be handled by either without the need to program twice to balance workload and keep work flowing smoothly. This radically changes the economics of a multi-sensor machine purchase decision. Bringing a multi-sensor machine into a shop that already has a CMM will no longer require hiring a second programmer. And it will allow backed up work on the CMM to overflow onto the multi-sensor machine, removing a bottleneck from the CMM and maximizing use of both.

Such a practical scenario makes it easier to justify purchase of the multi-sensor measuring machine, while extending a company capabilities into 2D work that could not be handled by a CMM. And with training time eliminated and no need to hire a second programmer, return on the multi-sensor investment comes much faster than if you have two machines each with its own independent stream of work.

And for a shop that is not ready to own both CMM and multi-sensor machines, the crossover capabilities enabled by shared software can even impact the choice of the initial selected CMM equipment. Along with other factors, a purchaser should consider the potential value of being able to use the first machine’s software to run a machine of the other type and the fact that a single programmer will be able to support a second type of scanning in the future, changing the payback calculation in considering the initial purchase.

Once you own a CMM, having software that can be shared significantly improves the ROI on a multi-sensor machine purchase.

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