How much measurement do you need on the shop floor?
ETMM: And for the rise of machining that exceeds three axes?
McFarland: With ever more machine tools incorporating 4th and 5th axes, the accurate alignment of a machine’s axes is ever more important to ensure the quality of a finished part, both dimensionally and surface finish. A wide range of tools are therefore now available to manufacturers to check the positioning performance of their machines long before they actually cut metal, especially critical where cycle times are long and materials to be used are expensive. Scrap simply isn’t an option! You will therefore see more companies either owning or using the services of calibration companies with an arsenal of tools to help this process, including laser interferometer systems for measuring linear and rotary axis positioning, wireless ballbars for fast machine tool performance checks, and touch probe based systems that can be used to check rotary axis alignment.
ETMM: Can we expect any new introductions or breakthroughs from the industry over the next year?
McFarland: In the near future we are likely to see further advances in software including improved data handling and more user-friendly interfaces, more suited to the production environment, plus the development of more application specific software for a new generation of contact scanning probe system that have recently been introduced for machine tools.
ETMM: What type of quality control and measurement technologies does every die and mould shop need? What type should they have?
McFarland: Really no shop should still be carrying out manual setting tasks on machine tools – either the setting of tool length and diameter, or clocking the position of billets, and yet surprisingly many are! Contact and laser based probe systems have been available for many years to carry out these tasks automatically, eliminating the errors that creep into manual processes, either when establishing offsets or manually keying these into the machine’s controller.
ETMM: What are the advantages for shops by adding metrology equipment?
McFarland: Tools are expensive items to manufacture and being able to eliminate the risk of scrap and better control the machining process is a fundamental requirement for modern manufacturing processes. Introducing probe systems also gives producers the ability to introduce better process control regimes, checking for drift in part dimensions during the machining process and also tool wear and breakage, especially key when machining smaller features.