Automated Surface Metrology with CAD Integration

Alicona, one of the top suppliers of automated measurement systems for the tooling industry, is extending its portfolio of production-integrated measurement solutions.

Being the producer of high-resolution optical 3D measurement systems, it has showed how novel automation software can be used to automatically operate laboratory measurement systems in the production process.

One major requirement of present-day production concepts that have made measurement systems an integral part of their processes is fully automatic measurement and evaluation.

In my view, there are two main trends in the development and implementation of modern production strategies. First of all, measurement systems must become an integral part of production processes. It used to be common to e.g. carry out measurements for inspection only at the very end of a product’s manufacturing process. Today, that’s simply not feasible anymore. To ensure proper integration of measurement systems into the production process, they must be fully automated and operated without metrology know-how. Second, the industry demands measurement systems that are highly customized to individual applications.

Stefan Scherer, CEO, Alicona

Being a supplier of high-resolution optical 3D measurement systems for quality assurance in laboratory and production environments, Alicona understands the complete way in which quality assurance requirements, and the needs of production managers, can be met.

Alicona’s EdgeMaster range of automated tool measurement systems are precisely customized for the measurement tasks and applications of the tooling industry. As a result, their products are employed by all major tool manufacturers around the globe. Currently, Alicona is widening its automated solutions range to other industry sectors as well. Alicona’s novel automation interface AutomationManager (Figure 1) enables users to employ InfiniteFocus, a form and roughness measurement system, to perform completely automated measurements in the production process, regardless of the industry sector.

The new automation interface Automation Manager allows users to integrate the measurement system InfiniteFocus into their production, regardless of industry sector.

Figure 1. With the new automation interface Automation Manager, users can now integrate the measurement system InfiniteFocus into their production, regardless of industry sector.

Automated Dimensional Measurements During Production

Alicona’s InfiniteFocus system is a high-resolution optical 3D surface system for measuring microstructure surfaces. The system provides various functions for the measurement of form as well as roughness. The combination of coaxial illumination and a ring light equipped in the system allows measurement of a virtually unlimited range of measurable surfaces and components.

Until now the system has been primarily employed in laboratory settings. Alicona’s novel automation interface AutomationManager enables measurements to be performed automatically (Figure 2), allowing the InfiniteFocus system to be used in production without the need for prior measurement knowledge. Moreover, the measurement results can be directly transmitted to a production control system.

The AutomationManager enables the full automation of the whole measurement process,

Figure 2. The AutomationManager enables the full automation of the whole measurement process, from the measurement itself until the evaluation of the measured micro-component. The new automation interface makes it possible to run the measurement systems without metrology knowledge; hence, the use in production gets feasible.

The main objective of carrying out automated measurements is to perform dimensional inspection of components. An administrator individually defines the positions and parameters to be measured, such as angle, roundness, distances, or flatness, in advance. Then, during the production process, workers select the to-be-measured component using a bar-code scanner or from a drop-down menu and start the measurement by simply pressing a button. The remaining processes are performed automatically. Upon completion of the processes, the system provides a report containing “OK” or “Not OK” status.

The entire dimensional measurement process, even of complex components, is automated. Users can’t influence the results in any way. This type of automation makes it possible to control the entire production process without interruption. Components can be inspected during any stage of manufacturing. This ensures consistent product quality and an economically efficient production process.

Stefan Scherer, CEO, Alicona

In describing the automation software that controls the automatic positioning of the system at the relevant surface features of the component, Stefan Scherer explained that “This also works with our rotational unit that is used to measure undercuts and chamfered edges of tools.” Detailing on the system’s technical implementation, he added that “An integrated zero-point clamping system ensures that every component is secured in a defined and repeatable position. A corresponding calibration routine makes it possible to carry out the measurement in the coordinate system of the component.”

The automated measurement procedures are appropriate for all industries, e.g. tooling, electronics, molding, aerospace, and automotive industries, as well as micro and precision manufacturing and medical engineering, where the high-resolution InfiniteFocus measurement system is commonly used.

CAD/CAM Integration

As Stefan Scherer explained, “To us, automation means to establish metrology in the entire production process and, consequently, making production more efficient. It goes beyond data exchange at a single isolated point.” An additional CAD/CAM interface (Figure 3) can be used in combination with the AutomationManager software.

A further CAD/CAM extension enables to operate the measurement system virtually. This allows the designer to define the correct and necessary measurement positions in a component’s CAD file.

Figure 3. A further CAD/CAM extension enables to operate the measurement system virtually. This allows the designer to define the correct and necessary measurement positions in a component’s CAD file.

Elaborating on Alicona’s philosophy, CEO Stefan Scherer stated the following: “Quality assurance starts in the design phase. InfiniteFocus can already be implemented at this point. The measurement system is operated virtually. This allows the designer to define the correct and necessary measurement positions in a component’s CAD file. The virtual operation of the system includes all handling, from probe positioning to defining measurement ranges in 3D.”

One of our presented innovations in the field of automation is the new CADCAM Suite: The interface allows you to virtually operate the Alicona measurement system. This enables you to define the correct and necessary measurement positions in a component's CAD file.

Closed-Loop Manufacturing as a Production Strategy

Alicona has been continuously working toward implementation of its Focus-Variation technology in various production concepts. The 3D metrology specialist Alicona celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, and from the day of beginning, it has been committed toward the refinement of Focus-Variation, which is the core technology of all its measurement systems. At present, Focus-Variation enables interaction between machine and measurement, thus allowing automatic measurement of complex high-tech products with close tolerances.

Alicona already has an extensive experience in the implementation of production-integrated measurement technology, specifically the use of a robot in combination with a high-resolution optical 3D measurement sensor, or closed-loop manufacturing. For closed-loop manufacturing, a measurement sensor is directly combined with the manufacturing machine, allowing self-optimization of the production process and offering users profit by ensuring up to four times improved machining precision. On the contrary, robot-based quality assurance involves using a robot to flexibly position the measurement system, enabling it to be combined into the production line.

Alicona

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Alicona Imaging GmbH.

For more information on this source, please visit Alicona Imaging GmbH.

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