CNC Manufacturing Company Aims for Precision Automated Inspection
It was time to refine the quality inspection system beyond the mostly manual process.
2A Armament, located in Boise, Idaho, is a CNC manufacturing company that works in the firearms and defense industries as well as medical, prosthetic, motorsports, semiconductor and outdoor recreation markets. In 2009 they entered the firearm component manufacturing business, knowing their machines could manufacture these precision parts. After a couple years of successful automated production, they wanted to refine their quality inspection even more, beyond the mostly manual process. Since some of their parts had up to 120 gage points to measure, they wanted a faster, more automated system of measurement.
2A Armament focuses on the manufacturing side, so their clients can concentrate more on product innovation. With only eight employees, their shop was built around a more automated and lean approach to manufacturing, allowing the machines to do most of the manual and tedious labor. And with it taking operators a day to measure just two to three parts with manual gages such as pins, calipers and height gages, they knew they needed a different solution for quality inspection.
Since 2A Armament was already familiar with the Zeiss brand, especially from sports optics, they decided to look at Carl Zeiss coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). They wanted a system that could inspect an entire firearm if needed, and they also wanted one that had the extras they needed without having to add more at additional cost. After comparing various systems, they purchased a Contura G2 7/10/6 with Calypso metrology software. Another reason for choosing this was because of the Calypso direct interface with their CAD model software, SolidWorks.
“Being able to physically see where the machine should be probing, and then translating that onto a part is great,” says Ryan Jacobson, production supervisor and part owner at 2A Armament. “The Calypso software is refined and intuitive. What was once a programming headache is now made easy in the inspection process.”
2A Armament is using the Contura G2 for first article, in-process and final inspections. Their production process is based off of client specified acceptable quality level (AQL) sampling plans, but they go beyond that in their own internal inspection process during product manufacturing. 2A Armament’s part sizes range from large, square parts up to 15 inches long to small, round parts about 1.5 inches long by 1 inch in diameter. A typical tolerance for them is ±5 thousandths of an inch, and their tightest tolerance is +5 tenths, -zero. A lot of their parts are complex, with about 90 points of inspection each.
“With the Contura we’ve reduced inspection time by at least 80%, and our employees can now focus on program optimization, building work fixtures for the next job or improving other processes,” says Ryan.
Now, 2A Armament is able to inspect 20 to 30 parts per day.
The Zeiss system has also allowed 2A Armament to more accurately monitor their machine tool wear, and check parts for their customers. As they do their sampling plan, they can accurately track tool wear over the length of production.
“An operator can feel that a pin is tight. But, how tight is it? How close is it to being out of spec? Now we know,” says Ryan. Also, by comparing the print, CAD model and product, they can easily find any measurement discrepancies for their customers. “This aspect really helps us improve our customer relationships. Some examples of challenging measurements for customers include large radiuses or small bores.”
2A Armaments has been very happy with the support and service from Carl Zeiss. “Whether it’s learning more about parts for probing, or a simple question on a software application, Carl Zeiss has been a great team to work with,” says Ryan. “Response timeliness is especially critical when you’re working on a first article inspection and don’t have time to wait.”
Going forward, 2A Armament appreciates that they can easily add various probes or accessories to their Contura G2 as needed to have even more capability. An optical comparator head may be an option for the future, so they can measure small radiuses or parts they would otherwise have to cut in half to get measurements.
“Getting a new inspection system felt a bit daunting at first, but once you get into it, it’s simple,” says Ryan. “We have experienced a major productivity increase in all aspects of our operation, simply by automating our inspection with the Contura G2.”
Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology