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Multisensor technology cuts measurement costs

As companies look to improve productivity and become more competitive, every aspect of the manufacturing process is scrutinized. One critical aspect is quality. If you can’t ensure the quality of your part, no matter what high end technologies you employ in your machine shop, you will not succeed. And, as many know, this is especially important if you service the high precision, tight tolerance-oriented aerospace, energy and automotive markets.

Yet, as companies try to better position themselves competitively, they want to do it cost effectively. When it comes to quality though, it can be a challenge because a single sensor can’t measure every part feature and provide every measurement function you may need. Hence the need for multiple sensors that can measure different part aspects. 

One way that manufacturers are trying to cut costs without compromising on quality measurement is by investing in multisensor devices. The concept is relatively new and only a few suppliers, such as Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology, Optical Gaging Products and Starrett offer the technology.

Shop Metalworking Technology discusses the merits of multisensor technology with John Pearson, technical sales engineer with Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology, Brighton, MI.

Shop MT:What is the definition of a multisensor device used for quality control?

John Pearson: A multisensor device in quality control may be defined as a measurement system with two or more sensor options for data acquisition. For example, you may have a device that includes a tactile probe with laser scanning capability.

Shop MT:What is the benefit of it versus other stand-alone measuring devices? 

John Pearson: A multisensor device allows for the integrated measurement of many complex workpieces on a single gauge in a single setup with a single software. The benefits derive from sensor integration into the CMM hardware and software platform; the ability to seamlessly switch from one sensor to another within a measurement plan; and the ability to evaluate data from multiple sources within a measurement plan. 

Our metrology software, Calypso, treats all data the same regardless of sensor type. Another benefit is that all of the data acquired through the various sensors is in the same coordinate system, meaning that accurate evaluations can be made regardless of the source sensor.

Shop MT:What is the cost of a multisensor device and how does it compare to having multiple stand-alone devices?

John Pearson: Many of our CMMs, including MASS (Multi-Application Sensor System) CMMs, as well as others in our product line, are pre-wired and ready to accept various sensors. These systems all start with a tactile scanning sensor as standard. 

The cost varies between the available sensor options which include active and passive tactile scanning and single-point sensors, as well as optical sensors, such as visible light cameras, laser probes, and white light sensors. 

Overall cost is of course always a factor, but the key metric here is the attractive cost to benefit ratio. Our systems offer an economical solution for the customer who needs, for example, both optical and tactile measurement capability but doesn’t want the expense of purchasing two systems. 

Additional benefits accrue as the customer realizes that he will have only one software to learn and maintain, and that he will be able to produce a single report. For many workpieces, a single setup will be required, further reducing the time needed to evaluate components. 

Shop MT:Multisensor technology for quality control is relatively new. What have been the key technology improvements that make these devices more accessible to small and medium sized manufacturers?

John Pearson: Integration is the key development. Our sensors have remained relatively stable. 

What does change and where improvements are being made continually is with the software and in the functions available for users. 

We upgrade and enhance software twice a year. We try to include as many of the enhancement requests from our customers
as possible. 

An example is sheet metal measurement for car bodies. Specs for this area have tightened and customers, over the years,
have requested that we enhance this functionality, so we have. In the aerospace industry, there’s been a big push for surface profiles, so we long ago added this functionality to our software. 

Two areas of development in the multisensor technology are in non-contact measurement and in reverse engineering. I think we’ll see significant developments and improvements in multisensory technologies for these two areas in the future. SMT


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