Retelling the Story of Manufacturing
"In manufacturing, the single source of truth is metrology."
Metrology holds a clue to how the story of manufacturing can be retold along bold new lines, says Ola Rollén, president and CEO of Hexagon. In his keynote address at the recent Hxgn Live event, he made the point that, in manufacturing, dimensional measurement data have to be part of the total process narrative—from beginning to end.
In manufacturing, the single source of truth is metrology, he says. That’s because the only way to verify that a manufacturing process is producing parts that meet specifications is to measure the parts. Good parts get shipped. Bad parts get scrapped. And that, he says, is how most manufacturing stories end. He insists that this has to change. This kind of story is incomplete.
The new, complete narrative for manufacturing processes must include a feedback loop in which measurement data, the “truth” about manufactured parts, flows back to the design model in CAD, to simulation and optimization results from computer-aided engineering (CAE), and to the plan and control decisions made in CAM. The new storyline in manufacturing must be about self-improving, auto-correcting systems. “We have to leverage the lessons learned from metrology. It has to tell us what to do and what to avoid, at every step along the way,” he says, noting that the gaps that now exist can be bridged by metrology data.
This kind of data is the missing link in the story of how most products, from gears and bone screws to automobiles and airplanes, are manufactured. For example, metrology data can and should be used to adjust or refine CNC programs in CAM software to update files being executed on the shop floor—seamlessly and automatically.
Mr. Rollén says that manufacturers have been missing this link because the connections needed to close the loop have not existed before or were not fully utilized. All this changed when the Industrial Internet of Things emerged. In this context, metrology can bring new levels of automation, connectivity and intelligence to the manufacturing story.
He concluded this part of his keynote by focusing on the worldwide automotive industry and how it is being reshaped. Other activities during Hxgn Live fleshed out how the company provides these solutions to manufacturers through Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, one of Hexagon’s primary businesses. Significantly, this is a 2015 rebranding of Hexagon Metrology. This change reflects how this business has moved beyond dimensional metrology to include statistical process control and CAD/CAM software in its vision of data-driven manufacturing.
Two recent developments indicate the scope of these solutions. One is the launch of an Integrated Solutions strategic business unit dedicated to Smart Factory systems for advanced manufacturing. This team is preparing to roll out automated, commercial, off-the-shelf systems by integrating 3D measurement technologies with sensors, software and robotics. These systems will deliver actionable information for predictive manufacturing.
The second is the rollout of the company’s seven degrees of freedom (7DoF) technology, which will drive applications such as laser tracker-based machine control and robotic guidance. For example, the Leica AT960 laser tracker’s 7DoF measurement capability can provide real-time machine control for milling, drilling, grinding, polishing and other processes in a large-scale manufacturing environment. A six-axis robot could measure and correct in real time the movement of its end effector for in-place, production operations on the factory floor.
A panel discussion at the recent Top Shops Conference focused on various points of view regarding the value of connecting machine tools to a network for monitoring performance and recording results. Because machine monitoring helps a shop make better decisions about manufacturing processes, it is a good example of data-driven manufacturing in action.
A manufacturer that is distinctive for its attention to in-cycle machining productivity describes its efforts to obtain efficiency improvements outside of the machining cycle. The shop’s primary tool is a simple, daily, graphical recap that illustrates when each machine tool was and was not making parts.
MTConnect agents and their corresponding device adapters are simply small computer programs that work together so that MTConnect can make shop equipment and networks more readily connectible. In a nutshell, adapters enable existing shopfloor devices “to speak MTConnect,” and agents enable MTConnect messages and data files to be transmitted across a network to MTConnect-compatible applications.