Universal, flexible, profitable: measuring technology for sub-contract inspection
Measuring prototypes and initial samples on commission is a field of work which requires high-precision measuring technology that can be deployed flexibly and universally for a wide range of measuring tasks. For DIMESS in Winnenden, laser scanners and coordinate measuring machines made by Nikon have proven to be perfect for the job.
“Every day here is full of surprises. When we arrive at work in the morning, we often don’t yet know which measuring technology we’ll be needing, because the commissions we receive are so diverse,” says Frank Sailer, describing his daily work in Winnenden.
In March 2012, he took over business from the former company Müller & Emmert GmbH, a specialist for subcontracted measuring work. Together with three employees, he now accepts orders for measuring components for regional engineering companies and car manufacturers, as well as for equipment manufacturers and their suppliers. Generally, the injection moulded or die-cast components he has to inspect, measure and report are initial samples.
During the course of batch production, further components are then randomly selected for measurements. In this manner, DIMESS makes a significant contribution to the quality assurance processes of the respective suppliers and manufacturers. The specialists in Winnenden also receive customer orders to inspect metal and plastic prototypes to be used for moulds in tool manufacturing and medical applications.
Flexibility for a quick succession of different measuring tasks
The components measure anything from a few millimetres to over a metre in length or diameter. Not only do simple features have to be inspected – length, diameter, drilling depth and the location and position of planes, for example – but also complex geometries such as threads, radii, radius transitions and freeform surfaces. Sophisticated 3D metrology is vital in such cases. For this reason, the DIMESS specialists also deploy three CNC coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), each with a measuring volume of around 2000 x 1000 x 800 mm. They are predominantly used in conjunction with 3D touch probes.
“Naturally, we have to be incredibly flexible in order to professionally inspect such a wide range of components. For this purpose, we rely primarily on universal measuring machines,” Seiler emphasises.
After completing an apprenticeship with the global market leader for cleaning technology, Alfred Kärcher GmbH in Winnenden, Seiler started working as a Purchasing and Project Manager for an automotive supplier and manufacturer for precision measuring equipment. Amongst other things, he was responsible for quality assurance processes. As a result, he understands the sometimes contradictory requirements for measuring equipment. Seiler reports that his current company took over two coordinate measuring machines from its predecessor. He then commissioned Nikon to overhaul one of these – a Metris Integra by LK – in order to bring it up to the latest technological standards. Following the retrofit, this can now be used together with the Nikon LC60Dx laser scanner which the company also purchased, in conjunction with Focus software.
Laser scanner for 3D inspection of moulds
Particularly when measuring complex plastics, DIMESS now benefits from contactless 3D metrology. “We can now measure complex 3D moulds quickly and easily,” Seiler explains.
The data recorded by the laser scanner can be compared directly with the 3D CAD data. On a colour screen, the software clearly shows matches and deviations. Klaus Raddatz, a metrologist at DIMESSS, says that some of the most impressive features of the Nikon metrology include speed and flexibility. “The laser scanner works on all technical surfaces – whether matt or reflective – without the need for individual calibration. It immediately delivers workable and conclusive measuring data. This means we can use the scanner flexibly for a wide range of metal and plastic components,” he adds.
Using this configuration, DIMESS also inspects numerous plastic parts as initial samples for Kärcher, an equipment manufacturer. These components are frequently constructed as freeform surfaces. Some of the injection moulded parts have reflective surfaces, whilst others have a matt finish. Some have solid casing and handles, e.g., made from hard and reflective ABS plastic, whilst others have seals and nozzles made from matt black flexible plastics such as NBR or silicone. Some of the components which have to be measured even combine both types of plastic.
Sailer explains, “With the LC60Dx laser scanner by Nikon, we can capture the surfaces and contours of these components with ease. We don’t even have to perform the laborious task of matting the surfaces first. Thus, we have shorter lead times and can be more flexible”.
Thanks to the outstanding features and functions offered by the laser scanner, DIMESS was able, for example, to capture the position and geometry of threaded bushes on a connector housing in the shortest possible time, and compare the results with the nominal 3D CAD data. Touch probes were not suitable for this measuring task. A high level of flexibility is also guaranteed by the fact that the Nikon laser scanner can also be used easily on the other coordinate measuring machines at DIMESS. In particular, this applies to their most recent acquisition, an ALTERA 20.10.8. coordinate measuring machine from Nikon. Sailer reports, “We were totally satisfied with the support offered by Nikon for upgrading our LK measuring machine. A few months ago, we required a third coordinate measuring machine in order to increase our capacities. Nikon was naturally our first choice for this investment, thanks to our extremely positive experience with the company.”
Superior performance and value for money
For Sailer, another factor played a major role in this investment: “Nowadays, precision is regarded as a matter of course. With regard to highest engineering quality and precision, measuring technology made by Nikon is second to none. However, when taking measurements on commission, we also have to consider costs, because the competition is strong.”
The metrologists working at DIMESS confirm that Nikon Metrology CMMs offer the perfect balance between precision, reliability and value for money. “Nikon offers the best cost/benefit ratio for economic investment and quality performance,” The ALTERA 20.10.8 is primarily used in conjunction with measuring probes. One of the main advantages for metrologist Raddatz is the CMM-Manager software by Nikon.
“The interface for this software is very user-friendly. This makes the coordinate measuring equipment extremely easy to use and programme. This even applies to very difficult measuring processes for the complex geometric shapes we frequently encounter in moulds and tools.” Sailer emphasises that the software can be mastered within a very short space of time thanks to its clear and unambiguous structure. “It only takes a couple of days to learn how to use it productively,” he adds.
Qualified customer service
Sailer is also impressed with the customer service offered by Nikon. Competent support is always available immediately, he affirms. The Nikon experts know the user’s situation, and can accurately assess the level of existing expertise. As a result, they can offer programmers and users qualified support to enable these to find quick, practical solutions for their various measuring tasks. One aspect which both Raddatz and Sailer particularly appreciate is the fact that they can always rely on support from the same contact person.
“Particularly in the field of measuring commissions, it’s important to get an immediate and correct answer to any questions that arise regarding measuring strategies, programming of coordinate measuring machines or how to use the software. Our experience has shown that Nikon is able to provide such service. So we have no problem in unreservedly recommending measuring technology” Sailer concludes.