Is the Time Right for a Shopfloor CMM?

You’ve integrated more effective, efficient machining equipment to improve throughput. Perhaps now it’s time to take a closer look at how part inspection impacts your overall process.

Columns From: 4/14/2011 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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While many shops invest heavily in CNC machine tools and related equipment, the implementation of new metrology strategies tends to happen more slowly. As a result, part inspection can remain a throughput bottleneck.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. After completing a workpiece, an operator ventures away from his/her machine to the quality lab so that a CMM inspector can perform first-article or other measurement routines beyond what the operator’s conventional hand gages can support. In some instances, the operator has to wait for the lab’s CMM to become available, too. Finally, if inspection shows that the part is out of specification, the operator has to return to the machine, make necessary adjustments, create a new part and jump back into the CMM queue to await another inspection routine. During all this time, of course, the machine isn’t making parts.

If this currently happens under your roof, perhaps it’s time to switch things up by bringing CMM measurement capability to your machine operators.

Proactive shops that did this in the past often enclosed their CMM in an air conditioned room. This put CMM inspection near machines, but not necessarily right next to them. However, shopfloor CMM technology has advanced a great deal over the years such that highly accurate measurements can be attained without an enclosure. That’s largely because today’s devices combine hardware and software elements to cancel out the influence of a facility’s fluctuating ambient temperature.

Shopfloor CMMs have also become easier to operate and are available in a variety of styles, including the traditional bed-type version as well as articulating measurement arms. In addition, they are compact enough to be easily installed next to a machine. Some even offer the mobility to be moved to other machines.

Of course hurdles related to comfortable practices and conventional thinking often must be overcome. Machine operators, who feel secure using hand gages, need to become just as comfortable operating a more advanced measurement device. Plus, management might have to be convinced that the benefit of a more efficient operator is worth the cost of advanced shopfloor inspection devices.

If you’ve been considering shopfloor CMMs, I suggest visiting the Inspection and Measurement Zone at mmsonline.com. There you’ll find articles and equipment write-ups as well as an expert team to which you can send specific questions about CMM inspection. Find that zone at mmsonline.com/measurement.

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