Precise and accurate measurements during manufacturing and quality control are critical in ensuring product quality and safety. Just imagine medicines with an incorrect dosage of the active ingredients, or a power tool with one gear that is one millimeter smaller than the recommended gauge. Incorrect measurements render many of these products ineffective, and often, even dangerous.
With the invention of automated measurement systems and machines, however, accurate measurements can be taken every time, whether it’s during or after the entire manufacturing process. In fact, automated measurements can improve overall quality and safety of any product that requires very specific dimensions.
More Efficient Measurements
Measuring large components—say the parts of a vehicle or heavy machinery—can be time-consuming. Not only that, there might be smaller sections of these large components that may prove to be difficult to measure due to their complex shapes or uneven depths. Some parts might even be difficult to move due to their size and weight, and because of these factors, they might likewise take up a lot of space, making it impractical to keep them within an inspection facility for longer than they should.
Using automated measurement machines—a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) equipped with an XY stage for motion control, for example—you can be sure that each dimension is measured accurately down to the last micrometer, especially since these machines can be pre-programmed to repeatedly measure identical parts. Irregularly shaped components can also be measured easily, since the probes can move in highly precise distances and angles. There are even portable CMMs for measuring parts that cannot be readily moved. This helps optimize the available floor area of an inspection facility, especially since you are already working with space-demanding items.
More importantly, automated measurement machines have different kinds of probes or sensors that further enhance their accuracy and precision. Among these are optical sensors, which take high-resolution images of whatever the machine is measuring and determine the dimensions from the said images. Some machines also have laser sensors, which determine measurements by calculating the distance between the beam and the target part of the specimen.
More Consistent, Safer Measurements
When people manually perform repetitive actions such as measurements, they become prone to errors. Automated measurement systems help minimize or eliminate these risks. Measuring very large or very small units are also highly susceptible to human error, which automation likewise helps address. Nevertheless, human labor can still be incorporated into automated systems. For example, a pre-programmed machine can still be controlled by a technician, while a programmer can change the specifications in the computer should the need arise.
Automation also ensures consistent output and minimizes waste of raw materials by preventing defects from occurring. It even acts as a built-in quality control structure, ensuring that the products produced are within the specifications as programmed into the system. In fact, if used in an assembly line, automated measurement systems can quickly and easily separate those items that don’t meet requirements from the “good” ones.
Safety is also a result of consistency, especially in processes that involve materials of volatile nature like chemical substances or objects that undergo high temperatures. Automation ensures that the input remains the same every time a process occurs, and even slight deviations can be identified as errors. These can then be recorded and reported accordingly, ensuring that appropriate calibrations and other maintenance works are performed on time.
Automation can sometimes be seen as a negative aspect in several industries, especially with the looming threat of machines taking over human jobs. However, technology is moving toward a point where automation is all but inevitable. In the end, it’s just a matter of finding the right applications where these equipment and systems can complement human activities to ensure efficiency, safety, and quality.