Create Inspection Utopia
Inspection Arsenal® CAD Models Integrated with CMM Manager Programming Software
Consider the divergent and complex inspection equipment, accessories, fixturing, programming and design software needed to effectively run your quality department. With newly available tools, inspection could shift from a cost center to a profit center.
In stark contrast to the challenges in the metrology lab, the shop floor has long implemented redundancy of equipment and controls, CAM software, and tooling including fixturing. Imagine how inefficient the shop floor would be with ten different brands of CNC mills, each with unique controls run by multiple CAM software programs… and no fixturing.
Inspectors are not super-human, so it is unfair to expect them to keep pace with the shop floor production without equally effective tools to level the production playing field. Not yet widely known to the inspection and engineering segment of the industry are contemporary, open-source and universal programming software, fixturing and even cross-department design software that can greatly improve inspection time. Implementing these tools will help manufacturers verify parts with less time and effort… and at a much lower overall cost. Inspectors are tasked with the heavy responsibility of mitigating the risk of running and delivering bad parts. Not only is it stressful and cumbersome to keep up with the ever-changing technology, their time and talent could be redirected towards more predictive and rewarding work. Hours could be spent on higher level participation in production process improvements, delving into underutilized features of equipment and even designing fixtures that help mark more parts per shift. The resulting benefits are significant.
Relieve Talented Quality Staff
Quality inspectors are the ultimate goal keepers in the manufacturing game. Not only are they the team members who take the heat when bad parts slip by, they are constantly playing beat the clock to keep spindles running good parts.
Commonly, the ratio of personnel in quality is disproportionate to that of the shop floor. Additionally, typical quality departments include multiple models of equipment that have been acquired either for performance or price. Each machine variant requires learning the mechanics in addition to the unique and complex proprietary software. The cost to purchase, train and maintain multiple licenses of proprietary software can be very expensive. The proportion of diverse, ever-changing technology and regulations in quality offers no relief for the limited talent in the industry. Lack of fixturing, time to learn proper fixturing and using outdated one-piece grid plates only further handicaps inspectors. It is not unusual to see a mounted vise, hot glue guns, putty, or double-sided tape. Breaking down and setting up using these tools leaves much room for error and is extremely time consuming. When inspectors cannot keep up, companies may be operating at risk as spindles continue to run unverified parts and may miss opportunities in process improvements that could benefit operations back to the spindle
Plug-n-Play Software for Any CMM!
Piecing the standardization puzzle together for inspection is now much easier. In late 2020, a universal programming software became an independently owned resource. With its independence came the ability to offer non-proprietary, standard software across most quality department equipment.
A product known as CMM-Manager, at inception was a spin-off of Ohio State University students and professors and is now owned by QxSoft (Quick Soft). Some may remember this as a Nikon product.
Imagine the ability to operate all inspection equipment with a single unified, independent operating system. Since QxSoft does not manufacture or sell competing CMM frames – truly universal and independent – many OEMs now also offer CMM Manager as an option. OEMs with their own proprietary software are typically interested in the CMM frame sale and the programming software many time’s will be included at cost. Some OEMs stuck with older text base software which is powerful, but overly complex. In addition to the challenge and cost associated with mastering these programs, annual maintenance fees add expense. Alternatively, CMM-Manager is a highly intuitive, plug-n-play, 3D metrology retrofit CMM software package for use on all common inspection equipment. Metrology departments are now able to install one user-friendly programming software on vision systems, manual and motorized CMMs, portable gage arms and even zCAT portable CMMs.
Nathan Frost, Vice President, Sales & Marketing (formerly of Nikon) explains “Ease of use shouldn’t fool you – customers can create wildly complex CMM programs.
CMM Manager is known for unparalleled probe path predictability which helps avoid expensive probe crashes and there is no need to learn complex coding and programming language. The company already supports industrial automation integration
The company already supports industrial automation integration – empowering setup of unattended inspection and plans to add compatibility with high-level probing systems, laser scanning.
Companies of all sizes with manual or motorized CMMs will benefit from universal equipment. Large aircraft and medical manufacturers, as well as companies like NASCAR, Rousch & Yates Engineering and Penske Racing have collections of CMMs and gage arms. Penske Racing, for example is very large, but operates like a job shop with a higher than typical ratio of quality personnel due to their R&D environment. With proportionately more R&D and those prototypes being checked all day, walk-up measurements now only take about half the time than before with user-friendly and universal CMM Manager software.
CMM-Manager integrates the CAD files of popular fixture plates and components which are useful for path planning, especially in the case of finger clamps secured on top of the work piece. Normally, this would be an obstacle that requires manual program editing. However, with CAD data and CMM-Manager’s path planning you don’t even think about it.
Quality personnel who once considered mastering complex CMM programming software a grand achievement may now consider themselves experts in inspection and production process improvements and fixture design
Integrate Universal Fixturing
Additional process improvements are made by integrating standard, quick swap fixturing that is designed to help inspectors create simple setups to include in a job box or complex palletized fixtures both of which can be re-established by any level operator and even develop a lights-out inspection approach.
By integrating standard, off-the-shelf modular fixturing, inspectors can quickly build fixtures to set up jobs fast, keep assembled fixtures dedicated to a part that can easily be loaded and unloaded without disassembly. A single fixture can be used across unlimited machines (regardless of brand) and unlimited fixtures can be used on a single machine. Eliminating downtime and breaking the inspection bottlenecks that plague the production process. The Loc-N-Load™ design is also perfect for robotic applications for unattended inspection.
Singular Cross-Department Design Program
Now that you’ve freed up immeasurable hours for inspectors, consider adding an open source and secure cloud-based CAD program that can not only be used in product development, production fixture design, but also inspection fixture design. Implementing just one multi-purpose, multi-department design software creates an extraordinary opportunity to streamline the entire manufacturing pipeline.
“As manufacturers ourselves, not only do we use Onshape to design our own products, we design custom inspection fixtures for our customers and our CNC programmer/machinists use it to design production fixtures for the shop floor. I regularly host remote meetings to review complex designs with our customers.” Victor Rinaldi, Product Design Engineer, Phillips Precision, Inc.
Parametric CAD Systems are expensive with a high entry cost and require expensive engineering workstations and are not as likely to be purchased for use in a quality department. Popular PC based software programs have been around since the mid 1990’s, however the architecture of those platforms did not allow for cloud-based use.
Onshape is the only platform that can be instantly implemented on any computer or mobile device (e.g., phones and Chromebooks), allowing teams to work together globally in real time. Teams can experiment on design options together or individually without affecting each other’s work. Real time design reviews, commenting and simultaneous editing allow multiple designs to be completed at the same time, and when approved, the best elements can be merged into the final design. Product specifications and drawings can be instantly shared with your team or suppliers to get the best possible product to market in the shortest amount of time.
The intense computer processing and rendering are performed on secure Internet-based servers. Onshape allows your teams to collaborate on a single shared design, just like multiple writers can work together editing a shared document in the cloud. Unlike restrictive PC based programs, Onshape upgrades are released directly to the web interface, and the software does not require maintenance work from the user.
Integrate Universal Fixturing
“With its zero IT footprint, even if engineers and other personnel only saved 15 minutes per week managing upgrades, files, and learning each upgrade – that benefit alone adds up.” Cody Armstrong, Technical Services Manager, PTC Onshape
With PC based programs, companies need to plan for upgrades that can be disruptive to productivity and even met with resistance. Typical version upgrades may include a completely new user interface and include an overwhelming number of changes to master before ramping back up.
On the contrary, with cloud-based programs, incremental upgrades mean improvements are learned by staff without costly on or offsite training and downtime. Annual maintenance fees are also a fraction of the cost of other design programs.
Marrying the CAD models of modular fixturing components and part files earlier in the process allows inspection setups to be designed and built while the part is still in production. CMM Manager improves the process further by supplying more data to accurately predict probe paths. By controlling and improving the inspection step, quality staff can have a greater impact on the entire production process.
Anyone reasonably good at computers can learn Onshape. For talented quality inspectors, Onshape can open a world of possibilities for designing simple to more complex inspection fixtures to make greater contributions to the company and more quickly recover the investment in equipment. For shop floor programmers designing production fixtures, Onshape is far superior to common CAM systems for design and assembly requirements.
All these tools are designed to streamline the manufacturing process from design, to cutting chips through part verification. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution barreling towards us and stiff foreign competition, manufacturers need to adopt the most contemporary approach to production in addition to building the right partnerships for the best total solutions.
Nathan Frost, Vice President Sales and Marketing, QxSoft, www.qxcmm.com
Cody Armstrong, Technical Services Manager, PTC Onshape, https://www.onshape.com/en/
Catherine Phillips, Co-Owner, Phillips Precision, Inc., www.inspectionarsenal.com
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