Case Study: Comparator Increases Confidence
August 30, 2010
Seabrook International is a leading contract manufacturer of highly-engineered precision instruments, implants and other devices primarily for the orthopedic implant industry. Headquartered in Seabrook, NH, and founded in 1973, Seabrook International has more than 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space operating seven days per week.
As part of Seabrook International’s continuous improvement program, the quality department is always on the lookout for new metrology hardware and software that promotes ease of use, repeatability and powerful features. The department uses automated and traditional coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), optical comparators, height gages and hand gages to inspect its parts. The company’s search for alternative methods of inspection led to the discovery of Certified Comparator Products (Beavercreek, OH), whose unique take on optical comparators provides the simplicity and ease of use of a standard optical comparator with the capability of an automated CMM and full-blown metrology software.
Christopher Whalley, senior quality engineer, received a personal demonstration of the CC-14 benchtop optical comparator from Certified Comparator Products. After getting a good idea of the machine’s capabilities, Whalley purchased the CC-14 through L.F. O’Leary Co. Inc., Certified Comparator Products’ dealer in New Hampshire.
The TruLight all-LED technology and eCAD electronic overlay charts provided the right combination of ease of use and advanced features that Seabrook International was looking for, as well as a level of flexibility that was not previously available.
The comparator’s TruLight technology is bright enough to create a photorealistic view of part surfaces, where features such as engraving and laser marking show up with unprecedented clarity. The LED ringlight with variable intensities and directions is useful for quickly changing lighting scenarios and highlighting specific areas of features such as holes and edges.
With eCAD’s electronic virtual overlay charts, Whalley’s team potentially now has an unlimited amount of digital overlay charts. And eCAD allows the team to perform more complex inspections more quickly, even for someone who has never used the system before. Additionally, the computer numerical control (CNC) capability of the machine and the embedded edge detection allow the user to perform inspections as if using a standard optical comparator, gain the abilities of a CMM and then play back the exact sequence of measurements, effectively “programming” the machine. “It’s a simple and efficient way to perform the kind of inspection that would otherwise be considered time-intensive and relatively difficult via standard techniques,” Whalley says.
Whalley’s eight-person team has backgrounds in quality control and inspection and performs the inspections on the medical devices. “Despite the high level of technology, the machine is highly accessible in terms of usability,” Whalley says. “The more user-friendly a machine is, the more likely the QC team is going to use it, and really use it to its full potential.” Whalley envisions everyone in the quality control department being able to write programs for automated inspection.
“We’re incrementally building a program base, and each program results in a permanent reduction of cumulative inspection time. It really depends on the part though. Because we have to accommodate such a wide array of designs, inspection methods can vary significantly. There have been time reductions as great as 75% in a few individual cases, although that’s not the general rule.” The addition of the CC-14 optical comparator to Seabrook’s range of inspection equipment gives the company increased confidence in the quality of its parts and inspections.
Certified Comparator Products