In-Line, Automated Metrology Measurements to Improve Manufacturing Quality

Integrated and automated measurement solutions help in expanding the quality standards in manufacturing. Buffalo Manufacturing Works, controlled by EWI, enables innovation-driven organizations from all over North America to succeed by collaborating with their internal research and development, engineering, and manufacturing teams in order to deliver improved products, expand, and compete.

Alicona Manufacturing was discovered by Buffalo Manufacturing during its search for a technology that could guarantee high areal surface roughness quality in the most reliable way.

We liked the robot from Alicona Manufacturing because it was ready to be implemented for potential automation applications.

Alex Kitt, Applications Engineer, Buffalo Manufacturing Works

Advanced Manufacturing Asks for an Advanced Metrology

Surface finish is important for both the durability and quality of a product, and because of this Buffalo Manufacturing Works is continuously fielding requests from its customers to determine the surface roughness of a wide range of components, e.g. 3D printed or injection molded components. For these various types of requests, the Focus-Variation based robot is considered to be the most appropriate for the 3D measurement of complicated components.

“The robot by Alicona Manufacturing is extremely flexible to use. For our current applications we use the robot because of its ability to measure large parts and the ability to measure the steep roughness profiles on rough 3D printed parts,” Alex Kitt points out.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works has modern equipment to enable applied research and development projects with manufacturers and also a group of individuals dedicated towards four major technology focus areas, such as machining and finishing, materials and testing, additive manufacturing, and flexible manufacturing. Buffalo Manufacturing Works was searching for an in-line measuring system that will help to verify area surface roughness and form in order to support their client-driven projects (Figures 1 and 2). “We were looking for a system that could be used to measure surface roughness and form of 3D printed parts as well as machined and finished parts,” Alex Kitt said.

The part (Figure 1) was printed by utilizing EWI’s EOS laser-powder bed printer from Nickel Alloy 625, and was measured using a 5XSX objective with a 2 µm vertical resolution and a 2 µm horizontal resolution. The measurement head was tiled in correspondence to the top surface to better resolve the letters’ edges and to view a portion of the part edge.

Part printed using EWI’s EOS laser-powder bed printer from Nickel Alloy 625.

Figure 1. Part printed using EWI’s EOS laser-powder bed printer from Nickel Alloy 625.

The part shown in Figure 2 was printed by using an Arcam A2 e-beam powder bed printer from Ti-6Al-4V, and was measured using a 10XSX objective with a 1 µm vertical resolution and a 1 µm horizontal resolution.

Part printed using the Arcam A2 e-beam powder bed printer from Ti-6Al-4V.

Figure 2. Part printed using the Arcam A2 e-beam powder bed printer from Ti-6Al-4V.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works’ engineering team discovered an ideal partner in Alicona Manufacturing to balance the currently available solutions for quality assurance. The robot is particularly useful for in-line quality testing processes. They have deployed the Alicona system in their initial projects.

Our first applications have consisted of measuring the form of injected parts for failure forensics and measuring both the roughness and form of 3D printed parts Our member companies range across key manufacturing market sectors and so do our applications. I may be working on an aerospace project one day and a medical project the next day. With the robot measurement solution by Alicona Manufacturing, we have found a solution that is applicable across all our technology focus areas. Particularly in terms of automated quality assurance we believe that we can do a number of measurements that are not achievable with other systems. This is due to the fast measurement speed that is well suited for in-process measurement!

Dr. Alex Kitt, Application Engineer, Buffalo Manufacturing Works

Robot-Based Metrology

The Alicona robot allows fully automated measurements and provides results directly to the production machine. Alicona’s high resolution optical 3D metrology together with a six-axis robot enables users to experience a high level of automation and increased speed for quality assurance (Figure 3).

Alicona robot

Figure 3. Alicona robot

The applied 3D measurement sensor is best suited for production, as it is unaffected by vibrations and insensitive to ambient light, in addition to being fast and effortlessly integrated in existing systems. The robot, within the assembly line, takes over the flexible positioning of the measurement sensor, and proceeds directly for the component that has to be determined.

It is possible to navigate the sensor either manually or in a fully automated manner. The instant measuring result is highlighted with a OK/Not OK signal if all values fall within the tolerance level. The in-process measurement helps to reduce time and combines the quality assurance as a fix part into the manufacturing process. This results in identifying defective parts at an early stage, realizing an efficient resource management and enabling shorter retooling times.

The Alicona Robot in Review:

  • Mean time between failure (MTBF) of 100,000 hours on controllers and robots
  • Can be operated both automatically and manually
  • Substantiation of highly reflective surfaces
  • Focus-Variation for area-based 3D surface measurement
  • Automatic measurement of complicated forms and steep flanks up to 87°
  • High resolution, optical 3D measurement in production
  • Form, roughness, and orientation measurement in a 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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