Smart Manufacturing – Integrating Optical Measurement into Production Lines

Present-day production managers need better flexibility for small batch size production and tight tolerances. Alicona has solutions for Smart Manufacturing and demonstrates how metrology can contribute towards profit.

On a number of production lines, the use of measurement technology for quality assurance is still realized off-line. Inspection equipment is frequently located at the end of a production chain and the quality of a component is only determined when it has already been produced. In the worst scenario, the component fails to match the specified tolerances, making it necessary to perform all phases of the production cycle again.

Therefore, measurement technology is usually believed to be an expensive, time-consuming exercise with no extra value. Smart Manufacturing moves quality assurance out from this negative shadow behind the scenes into a new role, center stage. As an essential part of the production sequence, it actively participates in manufacturing operations and amends production steps when a single component does not meet the correct tolerances. Consequently, faulty components are no longer manufactured; first set of parts are good parts.

Concept: 3D Measurement Technology as a Smart Eye

The use of measurement technology as an essential part of manufacturing is based on optimized communication and networking of all interfaces. Production systems, measurement technology and machines form a closed loop in constant communication, which enables the first part to be produced as a good part.

The integrated measurement technology is able to verify tolerances, dimensions and surface quality even at a very early stage of production. If the measuring sensor detects that a component is defective, this data is supplied into the production circuit, which adjusts accordingly. Measurement technology serves as the smart eye of production.

Hence, to implement Smart Manufacturing as an advanced production strategy, companies require fully automated measuring systems that can be operated by any operator, without previous knowledge of measurement technology. Also, complex components with tight tolerances need optical, high-resolution measurement sensors that are compatible with production and offer traceable and repeatable measurements.

Alicona’s Focus-Variation provides the perfect platform for using optical 3D measurement technology in production, as it is combined with areal-based high-resolution 3D measurement sensors that can be flexibly combined. All involved systems are digitized and connected using intelligent interface technology and the provided measurement solutions can be individually customized. This offers manufacturers real-time data on production processes, enabling them to intervene at an initial stage. Therefore, smaller batch quantities with closer tolerances can be created to a higher level of precision and quality.

Alicona’s Focus-Variation provides the perfect platform for using optical 3D measurement technology in production.

Implementation: Measuring, Networking and Individualization

For Smart Manufacturing to work efficiently, measurement sensors have to be integrated into the production line. The metrology equipment has to be both capable of networking with current production systems and being expanded by the manufacturer, if needed.

Integrating Optical Measurement Sensors into Production

Based on the application, Alicona sensors can be incorporated into production in various ways. These are the most common ways of implementing “Smart Manufacturing”:

  • The use of a regular measuring system integrated with the “Automation Manager” interface. Measurement series are configured by an administrator in advance, and then begun by the operator in production by pressing a button.
  • Using collaborative systems, “Cobots”. The measuring sensor is mounted onto a mobile robot platform and can be positioned as needed, even for the measurement of components in the machine. The Cobot’s safety concept is designed around the physical interaction between robots and humans, and makes conventional enclosures for robots outdated. Collaborative systems react to human movements by means of suitable sensor technology and turn off automatically if there is a risk of injury.
  • Integration of the measuring sensor into a machine tool for autonomously controlled production. The sensor communicates deviations in workpieces directly to the machine and the machine parameters are modified automatically. Since 2014, Alicona has been providing this type of production as “Closed Loop Manufacturing”, in partnership with US partner EDM Department Inc., a specialist in micro and precision production. Integration of a high-resolution optical 3D sensor in a sinker EDM enables the machine accuracy to be raised by a factor of four via autonomous control and optimization.

Digitization and Networking Between Production Systems, Machines and Measurement Technology

The main step in applying Smart Manufacturing is incorporating high-resolution optical measurement sensors. It is then essential to ensure communication and networking between all the systems and data within the production chain.

Consequently, the measuring technology moves from a decoupled measuring room into the center of production, where complex measurements are executed easily and quickly. Measurement processes, which so far have mainly been applied in a measuring room, are combined into current production planning and control systems (Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM)), including ERP systems. Integration into the corresponding production programs is guaranteed through interfaces such as Labview Interface, .net Remotin and a CAD CAM connection.

All the systems involved interact in a closed loop, making it possible to intervene in production at any time. With the production measurement data, manufacturers can plan and manage production on a flexible basis, thus contributing to efficient company management.

Alicona offers a variety of products that cover the whole spectrum: As a provider of high-resolution optical 3D measurement technology, the company integrates measurement sensors into the production line and provides corresponding interfaces, including a CAD CAM interface, for connecting to current production programs.

Alicona collaborates with EDM Department Inc., making use of their expertise in micro and precision manufacturing and the acquired measurement data to also provide extended implementation of an integrated Smart Manufacturing production strategy. This enables production managers to attain autonomous optimization of production and more efficient management of the company.

Measuring Systems Matched to User Requirements

Alicona’s high-resolution optical 3D measuring systems can be extended by the user to meet specific needs, allowing the manufacturer to adjust the measuring device to the individual production process and extend current functionality.

Customer plug-ins allow easy extended programming (“scripting”) or the implementation of specific, proprietary software programs and libraries. This enables manufacturers to integrate individual parameters and evaluation algorithms into Alicona standard products. That way, manufacturers can continue to develop Alicona systems to permanently extend and enhance quality assurance and expertise specific to their company.

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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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