Measurement
Case Study

CTM Increases Measurement Accuracy using Fowler and Wins

NASA Mars Lander Projects and More.

August 6, 2013
ctm two men working
CTM technicians found great improvement when the company switched from a manually operated height gauge to the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage, which enabled the company to save 40-60 % on measurement time.
Source: Fred V. Fowler Company

By: Fred V. Fowler Company

CTM (Custom Tool & Model Corp) founded in 1969, is a high precision engineering machine company based in Frankfort, New York.  CTM brings product and part designs to life, determining the best solution for puzzling design-to-cost problems by combining old world training and state of the art design and production technology. Their customers range from aerospace to firearms to medical companies. 

The Challenge

Back in 1999, as CTM was increasingly doing more work for the aerospace industry with projects such as creating a left foot pedal for a next generation moon vehicle, the company realized it needed to improve overall quality. CTM wanted to measure tight tolerances with more accuracy and repeatability, and consistently meet ISO/AS quality standards. 

The Solution

CTM began attending trades shows searching for new technologies that could help with measurement and quality. The company found one highly innovative Fowler product that impressed them: the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage (now Hi-CAL Fowler Sylvac Height Gage) – a lightweight, easy-to-use electronic height gage with a patented motorized measuring system that enables easy measurement and repeatability. With the ability to operate with one hand using a light measuring pressure, the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage measures the heights, lengths, depths, thicknesses, slots, gaps, reverse sections, centerline locations, center distances, and internal and external diameters of a variety of materials - all within an accuracy of 4 microns. Users simply press keys on a mounted keyboard to program the measurements desired, and can also take advantage of computer connections. 

According to John Piseck, CTM’s Sales Engineer, “We looked at other products on the market, but the repeatability we found with the Fowler gage was not available anywhere else. Fowler was - and is - miles ahead in quality. Their competitors don’t even come close.”

“The Fowler Company also took the time to answer all our questions - wanting to help us in any way they could and giving training to as many people as possible,” continued Piseck.  “Our sales rep’s pride in the company was palpable. He really showed us the Z-Cal’s quality, and demonstrated it to the guys on the floor as well, realizing the more people that understood the product the more it could help us.” 

The Results 

With the purchase of the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage, CTM found it a great improvement from what they were used to. The company had been using a Cadillac Height Gauge, which needed to be operated manually, and found using the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage enabled CTM to save 40-60 % on measurement time. 

According to Piseck, “The Z Cal gets rid of human error and variables, we just dial the measurement in and when it touches a surface it provides a response back with a beeping noise. With the old gauge the data we obtained was visual and always subject to human error.  Plus, our old gauge needed to be set up on a block for each measurement. It was a much slower process with no repeatability.” 

Used on a daily basis, the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage allowed CTM to greatly increase its efficiency, deliver projects more quickly, demonstrate its commitment to quality, and gain new business from customers old and new, with one of new being NASA. In 2006, NASA asked CTM to make a scoop that would reside on the arm of the robot on the Phoenix Mars Lander exploration spacecraft – which would take soil and ice samples from Mars’ surface for testing.  The catch was to not only make the scoop, but four of the exact same model. 

“We could not have made those four scoops exactly the same without the accurate measurements and repeatability of the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage,” said Piseck. 

One of the scoops made it to Mars on the Mars Phoenix Lander, one is in the Smithsonian museum, one was demolished during testing and the fourth one went missing. 

“We had to prove that the scoop could handle the heat, weight and pressure on Mars,” Piseck said. “Once it did, people began to recognize our high quality standards which really opened up doors to allow CTM to work with more companies that send their products to space.” 

In fact, it opened up more doors at NASA as well. Since the Mars Phoenix Lander, CTM has done 40 projects for NASA as well as working with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

CTM’s most recent work was for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. CTM has produced 70 parts for the Curiosity rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Project. SAM is a suite of instruments onboard Curiosity that have traveled 422 million miles to Mars gathering and measuring data to investigate the planet’s past and present ability to support life. As recently as March 2013, NASA reported in a press conference that Curiosity uncovered signs that ancient Mars had the essential elements necessary for supporting life. Curiosity uncovered the soil sample that was then analyzed with SAM instruments. 

—Huffington Post, USA Today

While CTM has since added the Fowler Trimos V Plus Series Height Gage to its tool set, it still relies on the Fowler Sylvac Z-Cal Height Gage today. “If that original Fowler gage isn’t charged up and ready to use it’s a bad day. We have to use it every day,” said Piseck.


Fred V. Fowler Company

66 Rowe Street, Newton, MA
(800) 788-2353
sales@fvfowler.com
www.fvfowler.com

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