How much measurement do you need on the shop floor?
ETMM: What type of devices should shops have?
McFarland: As mentioned earlier, the same measurement probe systems can also be used to validate part dimensions on the machine without the need for removal to a CMM, which may be impractical due to size. Such validation is credible with the right controls on the machine tool including the use of reference artefacts and ensuring that the machine tool has been checked with suitable calibration tools to ensure a sound geometric framework. Such modern measurement probe options have in most cases removed the need for manual gauges in more complex machining facilities.
ETMM: Has your company worked with a toolmaker to help with its problems?
McFarland: We have worked with the toolmaking community for many years, supplying measurement probes to control machining processes and also tools such as reverse engineering systems to aid in tool design.
ETMM: Were there any specific solutions to the problems the shops faced?
McFarland: Surface finish of the tool is critical for many and this has led to a number of developments and challenges to be met. For example we have introduced a surface finish probe for our Revo head used for five-axis measurement on CMMs. Furthermore, as many will know, we are also a supplier of additive manufacturing (AM) systems and last year acquired the assets of the highly respected German company LBC which works very closely with the mould and die community, and is seen as an expert in the optimisation of mould tool design. They have perfected the use of AM technology to create conformal cooling channels that follow the surface of complex tools, meeting the requirement for faster cooling and the elimination of part distortion caused by uneven cooling.
ETMM: What areas is your company currently working on? When can we expect results?
McFarland: We are currently investigating powerful optical based systems that will aid in the rapid measurement of parts produced on 5-axis machines and will also eliminate the issues of inspecting finished tools with contact systems that may in some cases cause surface blemishes. The latter issue has led some toolmakers to look at laser tracking and other non-contact systems, but we believe that our new system will be a better integrated solution to this challenge.
ETMM: Were there any other recent developments for the die and mould industry?
McFarland: At EMO 2013 we also introduced our new Sprint contact scanning probe system (see Oct. 2013, p 57.) for complex machine tools which records a constant stream of highly accurate 3D points across a part surface and then enables the analysis of this data in real-time on the machine’s controller. This allows a step-change in automated in-process control on machine tools, including the rapid measurement of prismatic parts and also the ability to verify the capability of a complex multi-axis machine in less than a minute with checks for linear and rotary axis errors.