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The Rise of the Scanners

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The Rise of the Scanners

Across all fields of metrology, there has been a marked increase in the use of non-contact measuring systems. While contact probing systems are often regarded as the gold standard in terms of accuracy, non-contact systems offer many advantages. Simple and rapid collection of vast datasets are obviously well suited to measuring complex freeform surfaces but can also be helpful with unknown or variable items, or when geometric tolerances need to be evaluated.

Non-contact technologies such as laser line scanners and structured light systems are mainly associated with portable measuring systems including portable arms and handheld scanners. They are also used as a non-contact head on some static CMMs – in the right application these can offer the flexibility of non-contact measurement with the accuracy of a traditional CMM.

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The Data “Arms Race”

Since rapid, detailed datasets are an advantage of non-contact scanning, it is not surprising that there is an apparent “arms race” among vendors to offer ever greater data capture rates. Room scanners capture millions of data-points per second, and established systems also tend to upgrade regularly on the resolution and speed of capture. This can be useful – gathering points faster can speed up inspection and increasing resolution can improve performance when measuring small features – but progress comes at a cost. Computer processing speeds do not keep pace with dataset sizes, and there are often limits to data transfer rates that can slow down scanning or cause crashes and data loss. 

INSPHERE delivers regular portable metrology good practice training and these days we find we spend a lot of time discussing appropriate methods for filtering datasets for practicality. Users generally demand less data rather than more!

Automating the Process

Using a traditional, programmable CMM, it takes time to establish good robust measurement routines, but they can then operate with very little human intervention. Scanners offer increased flexibility and ease of use but can become laborious in production settings if many parts must be measured by an operator performing a repetitive manual task.  There is a growing trend towards automation in scanning and a variety of “scan box” configurations are available to allow a repeat job to be programmed and then performed automatically. These inspection cells may use structured light or laser line scanning technologies, the benefits of which depend on the intended application of the system.

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INSPHERE is seeing a lot of current interest in its HYPERSCAN cell which uses a robot-mounted Leica T-Scan in combination with other metrology to deliver a complete, automated inspection, well-suited to challenging surfaces and tight tolerances.

Robust Data?

With all non-contact systems there are challenges in interpreting specifications, determining system accuracy, performing calibrations, and assessing capability for any particular task.

At the heart of the problem is perhaps the fact that systems use fundamentally different technologies and they perform differently on different parts – a metrology system that measures matt metallic surfaces with great accuracy and precision may perform spectacularly badly on a shiny carbon-fibre surface.

Vendors naturally publish specification data in formats that flatter their equipment. This can make initial down-selection of equipment difficult, and it is hard to maintain a good awareness of all the available technologies as they are proliferating so rapidly. 

Calibration is governed by standards, but it is hard for standards agreed by international committees to keep pace with technology developments. The ISO10360 standards covering acceptance and re-verification tests for coordinate measuring systems has grown and grown. It now has 12 published parts and part 13 (Optical 3D CMS) is under development. 

Scanners and other non-contact systems can be particularly susceptible to bias and errors due to the influences of operator skill, environmental conditions and their use in relatively uncontrolled measurement settings, and this emphasizes the need for applied capability assessment. Appropriate forms of Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA), including Gauge Repeatability and Reproducibility (GR&R) and Evaluating the Measurement Process (EMP) studies are invaluable in building confidence that new measurement systems are fit for their intended purpose.

Advances in Scanning Technology

At CONTROL in Stuttgart at the start of May, the mind-boggling variety of available systems are testament to the rise of the scanners. It also serves as a good reminder that metrologists are now faced with an ever-increasing array of tools with which to solve measurement challenges. This is positive news – it shows the optimism in the industry – but it also makes clear that capturing data is the easy part, valid interpretation of that data is the great challenge we still face.

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Industry 4.0 continues to promise a better future of SMART factories with more controlled processes and step changes in productivity. Metrology systems will undoubtedly be pivotal in driving advanced manufacturing forwards, and metrology skills will remain in high demand to make sense of the vast complexity offered by new datasets.  

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INSPHERE from the Beginning

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INSPHERE from the Beginning

In 2013, INSPHERE co-founders Ben Adeline (CEO) and Ollie Martin (CTO) identified an opportunity to provide a unique blend of metrology and manufacturing expertise to advanced manufacturing companies. INSPHERE was created to deliver value-added metrology solutions to the wider, high value manufacturing community. A few years on, the company has grown dramatically and has a proven track record for integrating metrology into manufacturing processes. Rather than focus on part verification, INSPHERE focuses on using measurement data to improve processes, supporting right-first-time manufacturing.

“We saw a gap in the market to provide the manufacturing industry with metrology expertise and measurement solutions that weren't being provided by traditional equipment vendors” - Ben Adeline, CEO, INSPHERE Ltd.

INSPHERE has been delivering solutions in line with an Industry 4.0 philosophy long before the current buzz of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Metrology is increasingly acknowledged as an important part of advanced engineering and manufacturing; it is now widely recognised as a key enabler for Industry 4.0 and the smart factories of the future.

Despite being an SME, INSPHERE works with the leading organisations across a range of industries including energy, automotive and aerospace. They have achieved great success delivering step changes in profitability and productivity for their clients with a team of ambitious, highly motivated individuals that deliver INSPHERE's best-practice philosophies. The company is now going through a rapid expansion and is recruiting to support its growing portfolio of diverse metrology-related projects and measurement solutions.

Working at INSPHERE

Two years ago, Metrology Engineer Jon Sneller left an aerospace giant to join the company. He describes his role at INSPHERE as demanding but an exciting interface to industry. Jon enjoys the working culture for the team who are given autonomy to develop innovations that will disrupt the current state-of-the-art. 

"Working for INSPHERE has exposed me to a more diverse range of work which has allowed me to broaden my skillset rapidly. It's great to be working with a team that delivers agile, whole product solutions and applying my depth of technical knowledge to solve real-world engineering problems, achieving immediate results for our customers" - Jon Sneller, Metrology Engineer, INSPHERE.

Metrology Engineer, Jon Sneller delivering a live demonstration of the BASELINE system created by INSPHERE at the Nuclear AMRC in March.

Metrology Engineer, Jon Sneller delivering a live demonstration of the BASELINE system created by INSPHERE at the Nuclear AMRC in March.

Although the team are Bristol-based, they work nationally at world-class facilities such as Nuclear AMRC in Sheffield to deliver cutting-edge measurement solutions; this includes a new rapid machine tool verification system, BASELINE which was launched at the centre in March. 

Delivering a New Product Portfolio to Industry

BASELINE is a system that empowers manufacturers to adopt rapid, routine maintenance cycles for large machine tools that are costly to take out of production. The system delivers the possibility of predictive maintenance. Creating the system was a response to a known industry need that only INSPHERE had the unique blend of expertise required to deliver an effective solution.

As demonstrated by BASELINE, INSPHERE is able to apply their extensive experience of metrology technologies to allow measurement data to be generated from manufacturing processes and solve real business needs. Over the next few years, the company are planning to bring a range of products to market that will further drive, control and improve processes and put value-added metrology at the forefront of the industry. It is an exciting time for INSPHERE.

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The First Industrial Revolution: Part Two of 4IR in Context

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The First Industrial Revolution: Part Two of 4IR in Context

In a series of articles, we are taking a look back at the industrial revolutions of the past to glean lessons from history as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace. Part one released in December introduced the series and in this article, we now look towards the first revolution.

Handmade to Machine-based Manufacturing

The First Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the late 1700s. It was a period of disruptive economic, technological, social and cultural change, and spread quickly to Europe, the USA and beyond during the first half of the next century. 

To say that the world was transformed would be an understatement. The changes in manufacturing, shifting from hand-crafting goods to the use of machines was accompanied by many fundamental new manufacturing techniques and a flourishing of infrastructure and trade. Read more.

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Developing BASELINE, Rapid Machine Tool Verification at the Nuclear AMRC

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Developing BASELINE, Rapid Machine Tool Verification at the Nuclear AMRC

Over the past 12 months, INSPHERE have been working with the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at their world-class facilities in Rotherham to develop BASELINE, a new system that can verify large machine tools in less than one hour.

Industry and Innovation at the Nuclear AMRC

The Nuclear AMRC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an alliance of seven leading manufacturing research centres backed by Innovate UK. It is a centre that successfully combines academic innovation with industry expertise to help manufacturers improve capabilities and performance along the supply chain. 

The centre’s Soraluce FX12000 horizontal machining platform, which is capable of working on components up to 12 metres, is the largest of its kind within the UK available for collaborative R&D. INSPHERE have put the Soraluce machine through its paces and conducted a series of large-scale trials to test the BASELINE system and also benchmark its technology against current market offerings.

BASELINE Launch Event at the Nuclear AMRC

On March 21st, INSPHERE will be returning to the Nuclear AMRC to launch the BASELINE system. The event will include technical presentations from INSPHERE, Nuclear AMRC, and equipment provider Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. There will also be shop floor demonstrations of the BASELINE technology. The event is free to attend but spaces are limited.

Register at inspherebaselinelaunch.eventbrite.co.uk

About BASELINE

BASELINE is a system that reduces machine downtime and material scrap rates. The technology provides full verification of a large machine tool in less than one hour. It facilitates regular checks and provides confidence in performance prior to cutting. The product system supports a move towards adopting Industry 4.0 philosophies on the manufacturing shop floor.

For more information, visit www.insphereltd.com/baseline or contact us to discuss your business requirements for machine tool verification.

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Training - The Root of a Thriving Manufacturing Industry

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Training - The Root of a Thriving Manufacturing Industry

In the UK, manufacturing is a thriving industry that directly employs 2.6 million people and sectors such as the aerospace industry generate annual revenue in excess of £30 billion, providing excellent careers for well over 100,000 people. Our position as a major world player is founded on a highly-skilled workforce, institutional knowledge and a history of technological advances. Retaining this strong global reputation is essential to economic wellbeing but also continued growth.

However, the world is changing fast. New advances in automation are transforming traditional processes, with industrial robots replacing people in more and more industries. We need to question whether a skilled workforce will be needed in the future. If robots will be making autonomous decisions driven by “big-data”, we can imagine a future with no requirement for human intervention in the manufacturing process, and therefore no need to maintain a strong skills base.

This logic is flawed, of course. It is only through a deep human understanding of manufacturing processes that a shift towards automation is possible at all. The companies and industries that invest in skills and training will be the ones that make the fastest advances in automation. Read more.

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Putting the Fourth Industrial Revolution into Context

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Putting the Fourth Industrial Revolution into Context

Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has been discussed a great deal in 2018. At INSPHERE we feel that Industry 4.0 will indeed live up to the current hype, and that metrology data will be the key enabler that delivers truly smart manufacturing and drives productivity to a higher level. 

Can revolutions can be mapped out in advance? Do they truly drive changes or are they just the result of incremental development? These questions are still relevant today – they may help us to take an objective look at whether i4.0 is just marketing jargon or a genuinely transformative event. To help answer these questions in the context of the present day, INSPHERE will be releasing a series of articles over the coming months, looking both backwards through history and forwards into the short and medium-term future. Read more.

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5 Steps to Better Portable Arm Measurement

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5 Steps to Better Portable Arm Measurement

A popular board game in the 1980s famously took, "a minute to learn... a lifetime to master". Portable arms are a deceptively simple metrology system for which the same catchphrase applies. Arms are designed to be highly flexible and easy to use for a wide variety of measurement tasks. However, understanding measurement datasets and how to use them for verification, reverse engineering or any other application can be far more involved than it first appears. 

Here are five steps to help provide a sound basis for adopting more robust and effective methods when using portable arms. Read more…

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