Quality Magazine

Test & Inspection: Coordinate Measuring Machines: Here To Stay

August 7, 2012
Automation drives demand for the CMM market.

Source: Optiv


The criticality of dimensional metrology in ensuring highest quality and performance of a component across the various stages of product development-from conceptual design to manufacturing-is vital to the continual success and adoption of that technology. Coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), the premier dimensional metrology technique, have been used for decades and have set the standard for accuracy and reliability of inspection. However, the market is currently witnessing an influx of competing dimensional metrology techniques-boasting improved flexibility, simplicity and ease of use. Solutions that are able to cater to the inspection requirements of the entire product life cycle are likely to witness rapid market expansion. Recently, advances in automation have boosted CMM usage, further cementing its position as one of the dominant dimensional metrology techniques.



High Accuracy Requirements Continue to Drive the CMM Market

The aerospace and defense end-user segment is exceedingly competitive with a high degree of mergers and acquisitions. These end-user industries have become increasingly price sensitive, and are demanding high accuracy range CMMs to stay ahead of the competition.

“In North America, the aerospace machining industry is cutting edge and very competitive. As tolerance requirements become tighter, the demand for high-performance machine tools is increasing. There is increasing demand for ultra-high accuracy range coordinate measuring machines in order to be compliant with AS9000 manufacturing requirements,” says Eric Tingle, Sales Engineer, National Strategic Product Support at Mitutoyo America Corp. “Multi-sensors on a CMM assist companies by offering the choice of the probing system based on the customer’s needs for various day-to-day challenges that are not typical in most machining applications.”

The automobile industry has been one of the largest adopters of CMMs, scoring over other metrology solutions in terms of integration as a component of an automated production line. Measurement and inspection applications in automobile manufacturing are predefined requiring little or no reprogramming of robotics, thus leading to the wide adoption of automation in the automotive manufacturing sector. The future looks particularly bright for CMMs in this application segment due to the inspection requirements of millions of same-size parts in automotive manufacturing units across the globe.

“We are seeing a couple of market trends in applications for CMMs,” says Mike Roterdam, technical sales engineer at Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology. “The first is the need for higher accuracy CMMs because manufacturers require much tighter tolerances on parts-whether small or large. The second is the need for sensor technology that can deal with parts as they become smaller and smaller. The trend towards miniaturized parts means that we need to be able to measure the details of those features without distortion, bending, or affecting the part in any other way.”



High Accuracy Requirements Continue to Drive the CMM Market

The aerospace and defense end-user segment is exceedingly competitive with a high degree of mergers and acquisitions. These end-user industries have become increasingly price sensitive, and are demanding high accuracy range CMMs to stay ahead of the competition.

“In North America, the aerospace machining industry is cutting edge and very competitive. As tolerance requirements become tighter, the demand for high-performance machine tools is increasing. There is increasing demand for ultra-high accuracy range coordinate measuring machines in order to be compliant with AS9000 manufacturing requirements,” says Eric Tingle, Sales Engineer, National Strategic Product Support at Mitutoyo America Corp. “Multi-sensors on a CMM assist companies by offering the choice of the probing system based on the customer’s needs for various day-to-day challenges that are not typical in most machining applications.”

The automobile industry has been one of the largest adopters of CMMs, scoring over other metrology solutions in terms of integration as a component of an automated production line. Measurement and inspection applications in automobile manufacturing are predefined requiring little or no reprogramming of robotics, thus leading to the wide adoption of automation in the automotive manufacturing sector. The future looks particularly bright for CMMs in this application segment due to the inspection requirements of millions of same-size parts in automotive manufacturing units across the globe.

“We are seeing a couple of market trends in applications for CMMs,” says Mike Roterdam, technical sales engineer at Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology. “The first is the need for higher accuracy CMMs because manufacturers require much tighter tolerances on parts-whether small or large. The second is the need for sensor technology that can deal with parts as they become smaller and smaller. The trend towards miniaturized parts means that we need to be able to measure the details of those features without distortion, bending, or affecting the part in any other way.”



Industry Challenges

As the shelf life of CMMs continues to increase, the sale of new machines is affected. To overcome this challenge and convert it into a growth opportunity, CMM vendors are relentlessly working on providing top-in-class services as a value addition to efficiently manage end-user equipment.

With the increasing automotive, aerospace and defense manufacturing setups in Asia, globalization is an important driver for the Asian markets, especially the Chinese markets. However, it has adversely affected the American and European markets due to price pressures.

The need for skilled technicians to operate CMMs is on the rise along with the wages associated with the skilled labor. This has forced end users to adopt easy-to-use, intelligent devices with advanced functionalities, thus improving operator productivity by enabling effective visualization of manufacturing measurements and efficient quality control.



Constant Demand Drives CMM Sales

The sales of the CMM market witnessed continuous growth until mid-2008, due to rapid innovation rates and the deployment of CMMs in an ever increasing range of applications. But, economic recessionary trends hurt the manufacturing sector and triggered a sudden decline in the CMM market revenues during the fourth quarter of 2008. Nevertheless, consistent technology innovation of probes and sensors as well as applications development continue to open up new vistas of growth for CMMs. Cutting down CMM integration and development costs, acquiring strong core technology capabilities in CMM integration and diversification of business to new applications and markets are key requirements for sustenance in the CMM market.

The market for CMMs is mature and is experiencing low but steady growth. This has created a highly competitive market landscape, as companies seek ways to maintain their current market shares, while investigating new expansion opportunities. Although there have been steady changes in terms of space saving designs, throughput, and temperature compensation systems, a majority of the changes revolve around application specific equipment, software and the type of materials used in product design.

The global CMM market generated revenues of $945 million in 2011, an overall increase of around 3% from 2010. Additionally, revenues are expected to reach $1,111.6 million in 2016, as pent-up demand and new product introductions are expected to drive the demand in the short- and medium-terms of the forecast period.



Competitive Landscape-Dominance by Top 3 Players

The global CMM market is intensely competitive. It remains fragmented with major participants having significant market share and small and medium-sized participants having region-specific expertise. It is important to mention that although several major participants have a vast line of CMMs in their product portfolio, the majority of companies specialize in a specific type of CMM.

The top three players, Hexagon Metrology, Carl Zeiss IMT and Mitutoyo Corp., held approximately 73% of the total CMM market share (bridge machines, gantry machines and horizontal arm machines market) in 2011.

For further examination of their prominence, here is a list of recent product introductions by these companies:

In April 2012, Hexagon Metrology acquired Finnish distributor Visava Oy, which further strengthened Hexagon’s expansion in Northern Europe. In order to maintain their competitive edge, the company integrated their Infinity product and DEQ Global silver product lines with the latest sensor technology in May 2012.

Carl Zeiss enhanced its CMM product portfolio with the launch of the Micura during the 2011 fourth quarter and the O-INSPECT 322 in May 2012.

Finally, Mitutoyo Corp. introduced the MACH 3A solution, specifically designed for high volume production environments.

Final Word

The CMM market is backed by robust R&D investments and product innovations. The automotive, aerospace and defense sectors have been major drivers of CMM technology, particularly in the development of advanced sensors, scanners, probes and software. The applicability of CMM in a broad spectrum of application sectors, such as industrial automation, metal inspection, reverse engineering and digitizing constitute a large market potential for the technology sector in the future. Q