Quality Innovations: Data Collection Discovers Power
Imagine this: a data collection technology that integrates all of the capabilities you ever have wanted in single handheld unit. According to Paul Iannello, president of I&R Partners LLC (White House, TN), this is not some futuristic data collection scenario. "When SPC (statistical process control) techniques entered the scene about 30 years ago, manufacturers typically recorded measurements and wrote them down or keyed them into a dedicated SPC data collector for analysis. Today, that approach is all but dead, in large part because the personal computer has become smaller, faster, more powerful and less costly."
Couple this trend with the increasing demand by quality practitioners, engineers and managers for Windows-based portable data collection that is handheld, light, battery-operated and capable of wireless networking, and you arrive at I&R Partners' DC-9005. The new technology also is environmentally sealed in an IP 54-rated enclosure, able to interface with gages, read barcodes and comes with embedded SPC software, Iannello says.
"Until now, manufacturers have had to use multiple specialized units to accomplish the wide variety of data collection requirements found in today's global economy," he says. "The DC-9005 uniquely meets all these needs through the integration of a wide range of standard data collection and computer technology tools."
The handheld PC arrives
Of course, the DC-9005 is borne of the challenge manufacturers have long faced to become more efficient-decrease sort, scrap and rework-so they can boost productivity while lowering costs. The bar on this challenge was further raised as companies rushed to develop and maintain procedural standards set forth by ISO 9000. As they continued to identify methods for measuring each part produced at every stage of the manufacturing process, manufacturers quickly turned to computers to automate the measuring and data collection process.
"Roving and vendor audits, machine capability studies, incoming and final inspection, and measurement on large parts are just a few of the many needs portable data collectors can satisfy today," Iannello says. "In many cases, fragile, environmentally unprotected notebook computers have been used to pacify portable data collection requirements-all too often with catastrophic results. The DC-9005 can withstand multiple 4-foot drops onto concrete.
"Also, in situations where data collection can be performed at a PC desktop workstation, gage multiplexers enable the use of gages, calipers, micrometers and other measuring instruments," he adds. "Unfortunately, this is impractical in portable applications. A handheld PC resolves these problems, although integrating everything into a small handheld unit has been a challenge."
The DC-9005 technology combines data collection, process control, charts and statistics, gage interfacing and data transfer capabilities into one affordable package. The 12.7-ounce unit can be carried on the shop floor to program a column gage or coordinate measuring machine. Because the DC-9005 is a personal computer with a color touchscreen, a qualified inspector can, through the use of an 802.11B wireless network, access the Internet.
From data collection to charts
SPC data collection on parts is necessary to complete inspections and produce comprehensive SPC reports in a timely manner. "The DC-9005 combines both variable and attribute data collection in the same handheld PC," says Bill Caterisano, I&R Partners' chief programmer. "Data can be collected by one feature at a time or by an entire part at a time. In addition, the subgroup sample size is selectable from one to 30."
Most companies want to be confident that they are selecting a personal computer that allows the export of data into a text file that can be readily exported into alternate software programs, Caterisano says. "In other words, they want a program that complements, rather than threatens, their existing programs."
A window of reasonable limits can be set based on a percentage of the total specification width, allowing all data within the window and alarming the operator of all data outside the window. Most math functions are available, including feature-to-feature-average, minimum and maximum-
calculations. Drawings and instructions pertinent to a part can be viewed while collecting data, and specification limits can be set as actual values or calculated using tolerances. Password protection secures critical information from accidental altering.
In the area of process control, "four traceability tags, including operator and lot number, can be used to track and sort data, and process warnings can be turned on or off, depending on the application," Caterisano says. "Assignable causes can be forced on violation of any process warning, and control limits can be fixed from the onset or continuously recalculated." A number of charts and statistics are available and, when viewing them, the number of subgroups used is user-definable. In addition, the unit handles statistics for non-normal distributions such as
Gage interfacing and more
The DC-9005 connects directly to all Mitutoyo gages or gages that provide a standard Mitutoyo output, RS232 and analog gages such as gap and flushness. Manual data entry can be conducted using the unit's keypad. Gage readings are continuously updated to give the operator a live value on the unit's display.
"When using wireless networking, data can be exported in a batch mode or automatically at the completion of each subgroup," Caterisano says. "Part setups can be requested from a host computer or defined directly on the unit." The integrated barcode scanner allows operators to identify parts and enter traceability information or input attribute defects from a list of barcodes. The scanner can be activated using a button on the side of the unit or through a pistol grip.
"The key with the DC-9005 is that all of the data collection components that manufacturers most demand are all combined in one technology," Iannello says. "That's the uniqueness of this product."
The DC-9005 handheld data collector includes:
• 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless networking.
• A built-in barcode scanner.
• Digital/RS232 gage interfacing.
• SPC software factory installation.
• A rugged IP54-rated enclosure.
• A weight of 12.7 ounces.
• A Windows CE.NET operating system.
• An Intel Xscale PXA255 400MHz processor.