Issue: May 2011

Driving Force Industrial Metrology

Automotive companies around the world rely on industrial metrology

by Steve Barclay

With the ever-shorter design-to-production runs, automotive manufacturers and their suppliers have turned to industrial metrology solutions to find ways to decrease ramp up times, increase productivity, reduce part rejection and improve the quality of their products. 

Hexagon Metrology accompanies the complete process of car manufacturing – from inspecting multiple bodies-in-white in one setup with laser tracker systems, prototype part inspection or die build and tryout validation with white light scanner systems, checking fit-and-finish tolerances in a car's interior with portable measuring arms to entirely automated gantry and horizontal arm coordinate measurement machines (CMMs) installations and everything in-between. Not surprisingly Hexagon Metrology's customer roster reads like a "Who's Who?" of the world's most successful car companies, among them the Volkswagen Group, BMW Group, Daimler, Ford etc. 

Where the action is 

Portable coordinate measuring systems show their full potential directly at the point of manufacture. Physical models found in prototype manufacture for instance are scanned and digitalised with the ROMER Absolute Arm portable measuring machine. Measuring arms are also employed for the inspection of parts during manufacture or for the fit-and-finish inspection when features in the vehicle interior have to be measured. 

If the task is to carry out several body-in-white inspections, measure large components and fixtures or set up machines all at once, then laser tracker systems and laser stations from Leica Geosystems are suitable solutions. The compact Leica Absolute Tracker AT401 is the industry's first battery-powered laser tracker and was developed for 3D measurements over long distances. The Leica Absolute Tracker AT901 is the key piece of kit in a portable high-performance measuring system. In conjunction with manually or robot-guided optical or tactile sensors, or with the Leica T-Probe or the Leica T-Scan, the Leica Absolute Tracker AT901 proves to be an all-round star performer on the metrology stage. 

White light – a bright technology 

The new Cognitens WLS400A measuring cell uses white light technology to inspect bodywork components fully automatically. Hexagon Metrology developed both hardware and software for the new system. Customers can choose between a portable configuration and the automated system which can be operated with all common industrial robots. Cognitens systems are always turnkey solutions including the software suite CoreView by Hexagon Metrology. White light measurement uses digital stereo vision technology to generate highly accurate 3D data. This technology has especially spread throughout the global automotive industry and helps accelerating quality control. 

“The new product generation comes with innovative LED technology, extremely stable carbon fibre housing and a very compact system setup”, explained Duncan Redgewell, Hexagon Metrology’s Vice President Portable Products. “The release of this product brings our customers another powerful metrology sensor that enables them to complete a huge variety of shop floor inspection tasks. Linking sensors like the Cognitens WLS400A to positioning devices enables us to automate many production line inspection processes.” 

Highly accurate and efficient 

Besides portable coordinate measuring machines Hexagon Metrology offers a wide range of stationary highly accurate coordinate measuring machines which measure all kinds of components – from small to large-volume workpieces. In the automotive industry they are primarily responsible for the quality control of drive chains. Engine blocks, camshafts, pistons, sprocket wheels, gearbox housings, bearings, valves and gears galore are all parts of the powertrain family. The challenges they pose to metrology are manifold: traceability back to national standards is just as important as fitness for the shop-floor, reproducible measurement results and high inspection throughput. The only answer to this is the power-packed combination of stationary coordinate metrology and efficient software. DEA and Leitz coordinate measuring machines along with the QUINDOS and PC-DMIS metrology software from Hexagon Metrology have a proven track record in practice.

Multitalented systems 

For smaller components, for example electronic components including circuit boards or airbag, ABS, EPS and rain sensors, Hexagon Metrology can provide Optiv multi-sensor measuring systems, which combine optical and tactile measurements in a single system. New to the line is the OptivScan system. OptivScan offers optical sensor technology and tactile High-Speed-Scanning. The multi-sensor measuring machine is the platform for the Vision-Sensor as well as the compact 3D High-Speed-Scanning LSP-X1 probe head from Leitz. Scanning is the preferred method for acquiring the data of a part quickly with a high measuring point density. 

The Vision-Sensor has a high-resolution CCD camera. It performs non-contact measurements of the smallest items subject to the tightest tolerances as well as features that would be deformed if probed with tactile sensors. Its counterpart is the tactile LSP-X1 probe head. The LSP-X1 probe head can perform all standard measurements such as single point probing, self-centering measuring, high-precision High-Speed-Scanning for rapid, very accurate form and contour measurements on parts. 

Multitalented company 

In addition to automobile manufacture, Hexagon Metrology is active in many other industries: customers come from the fields of aerospace, machine making, the energy sector, shipbuilding and railway construction, heavy industry, medical technology etc. The objective for Hexagon Metrology remains the same in each case – to identify the most suitable system for the application.

Hexagon Metrology is part of the Hexagon AB Group and includes leading metrology brands such as Brown & Sharpe, Cognitens, DEA, Leica Geosystems (Metrology Division), Leitz, m&h Inprocess Messtechnik, Optiv, PC-DMIS, QUINDOS, ROMER and TESA. Hexagon Metrology brands represent an unrivaled global installed base of millions of Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs), portable measuring systems and handheld instruments, and tens of thousands of metrology software licenses. Hexagon Metrology empowers its customers to fully control manufacturing processes that rely on dimensional precision, ensuring that products manufactured precisely conform to the original product design. 

The company offering of machines, systems and software is complemented by a wide range of product support, aftermarket and value-added services.

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