Like mechanics and tools, engineers love equipment, and we’re no exception. That’s why we’d like to take a moment to showcase our newest “toy” here at Ever-Roll. We recently purchased a 7-axis Hexagon (Romer) Absolute measurement arm from our friends at Exact Metrology.
For those of you unfamiliar, the device has 7 encoders at the joints of carbon fiber members. At the end of this is attached a laser scanner and touch probe, allowing the user to measure parts and gauges in the most efficient manner. For example, if we know a hole is off location, but we just want to get an idea of how far it is out, we can use the laser scanner to produce a color map of the part and features.
Conversely, if we need to know an exact distance between planes and create a report, such as in gauge measurement, the touch probe allows us to measure those features.
Better Tools for Better Solutions
Every solution starts with a problem, and ours was in how our customers dimension drawings. In this age of specialization, the folks who draw the parts aren’t always the folks who figure out how to make the parts. Once the manufacturing engineer figures out how to make the part, then we have to figure out how to measure the part.
Some of the complication comes from the fact that we all have (thankfully) moved away from pencil and paper drafting. CAD design allows engineers to create and dimension spectacular designs, but, as the old adage goes, just because you can draw it doesn’t mean it can be made. We had many parts where dimensions terminated at a point in space or angles were held to 1 degree over many inches. It was difficult to measure these parts “the old-fashioned way” with surface and angle plates, height gauges, and calipers.
Although the tool itself is cool, you can’t really utilize the full potential without getting good at the software, and PolyWorks has a lot of functionality to discover. We attended training at Hexagon’s facility in Michigan and approached David Nichols at Exact to address some of our unconventional measurements.
Mr. Nichols was instrumental in teaching us ‘old dogs’ some new tricks. One method we discovered was to make the virtual calipers larger than one would ever imagine to measure an 18 inch part: make the jaws 20 inches!
As with many solutions in the modern era, the workflow starts with a CAD model. From there we align the physical part to the CAD model with probing or scanning, measure the features, and create a report. This sounds easy enough. The most difficult part is determining how to measure based on what dimensions are given.
What We Do with the Absolute Arm
What we gain most from use of the measurement arm is time. We can probe and record about ten times more points in about one-fourth the time it would take to use traditional instruments, not to mention the time used to average multiple measurements and building the report. When we used the arm to inspect one of our presses, we took 300 points in about 30 minutes.
This leads us to the next advantage: portability.
Although we have a dedicated surface plate for inspection, we can also move the arm to the machine for inspection of parts or inspection of machine components without disassembly. Before the measurement arm, we would wait about a week to get gauges back from inspection.
The arm gives us the ability to inspect and certify our own gauges, presenting a major cost and time savings. Sometimes we may not be able to measure a gauge or fixture in-house, but we can measure enough to know we won’t be wasting time and money by sending out an out-of-tolerance gauge for certification.
Additionally, we can monitor gauges and fixtures as they are being produced to find out if a multi-component gauge or fixture is on the right path. We once had just such an event where the plate and corresponding holes were inspected and appeared within spec. But when the gauge was assembled, it was out of tolerance. By inspecting the components, we were able to find the discrepancy, reassemble, and eliminate the error. When the gauge went for certification, we knew it was right.
What Does All of This Mean for Ever-Roll Customers?
We now have a tool to measure the complex dimensions our customers demand, accurately and efficiently. Our customers gain confidence in our measurement and inspection as they usually supply the CAD file from which we measure.
This allows us to ‘speak the same language’ when it comes to qualifying new parts. The Hexagon Absolute Arm allows for quick turnaround of part, gauge, and fixture inspections, which means we can go from prototype to production as fast as the floor can bend parts.
The Absolute Arm is just one of the ways we utilize robotics for welding, tube bending, and tube fabrication in our Ohio facility. Find out what we can do for you by contacting us today!