Author: Iain Caville Managing Director Measurement Solutions Limited
Metrology has come a long way since its conception during the era of the pharaohs. It has particularly evolved in the last 25 years with the advent of lasers, 3D scanners, and optical technology. The field of Metrology will continue to evolve further to improve quality control & inspection and new developments will change manufacturing processes.
Here, we take a brief look into the future to see what metrology solutions and metrology equipment will like in 5‑10 years.
One thing is for sure – inspection will move away from the metrology laboratory to become fully integrated into shop-floor processes. The keys to this transition will be equipment portability, simplicity, and flexibility. Moreover, measurements will be performed without the need for human intervention, and manufacturing processes will self-correct based on these automated‑measurements.
Measurement Closer To Manufacturing
Now that metrology equipment is moving closer to the production floor, their simplicity and ease of use will become mandatory to enable those who manufacture the parts to also inspect them. Inspection and quality control will no longer be considered as a parallel procedure, but rather an integral part of the manufacturing process. Measurements will occur on several occasions during manufacturing so that the manufactured part will have already been measured at several key locations before completing its production process.
Simplicity and Flexibility
More production operators will be asked to perform quality control and inspection directly on the production floor. Therefore, metrology equipment will be intuitive, simple to use, and easy to understand. The level of expertise required to operate metrology and measuring equipment will decrease. Moreover, there will be a transition period where inspection will still be managed by quality control teams, who may not necessarily be familiar with automation and robot programming, and will progressively move to production teams that may not be completely used to measuring methods. Metrology will have to rely on flexible solutions during this transition period to get measurements, which will soon be automated and self‑corrected.
3D Scanning – More Measurement Data Means More Knowledge
Another fact we can be certain of is that 3D scanning metrology solutions will gradually replace traditional probing solutions for three major reasons: speed of acquisition, density of information analyzed, and the short time required to characterize a complete part. Scanning devices will need to be far more flexible than those generally available today, most of which currently exhibit many limitations when applied to a wide spectrum of measurement activities.
Software And hardware Integration
In the future, there will be better synergy between each of the system components, and standardization of software across multiple devices will be vital. Indeed, both software and hardware of metrology equipment will be jointly developed to fully interact, operate and give users maximum capabilities. Therefore, generic software compatible with single devices will give way to an integration of all devices. It will allow for more possibilities and provide users with important benefits, especially in terms of simplicity and ease of use.
Automation – The Robots are Coming
In the future, human intervention during inspection will be replaced by fully automated measurement systems. Since programming may quickly become a nightmare for quality control teams, they will prefer using flexible and intuitive software integrated with the hardware. Ultimately, with collaborative robots becoming available, it could be as easy as manually making a motion, so the robot can record and program its own movement and trajectory independently.