The PRISMO with VAST Navigator scans a side cover of a steering system for an over-the-road truck in one continuous motion.

Source: Carl Zeiss IMT Corp.

The CMM is used to inspect a complex swivel housing for a skid-steer loader attachment. Source: Carl Zeiss IMT Corp.

Selecting the right vehicle for navigating through a forest on unfamiliar and difficult terrain can be a challenge. For this task, the best bet is an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) with all the right equipment. It gives the features needed: flexibility, control and a smooth ride. Selecting the right technology for complex parts measurement is a different kind of challenge. The features needed to get the job done, however, can be quite similar.

Team Industries Inc. (Cambridge, MN) faced such a challenge. They needed to find a solution to relieve a bottleneck caused by new projects and work-intensive customer requirements. In addition, they needed to optimize the inspection flow and process for an upcoming Kaizen event, or improvement initiative.

With a workforce of 1,300 people, Team provides drive-train and custom manufacturing solutions for a variety of markets including automotive, snowmobile and ATV industries. At their custom machine shop in Cambridge, MN, one of seven facilities in Minnesota and North Carolina, Team primarily produces frame-and-drive train components for companies such as Honda, Polaris Industries, John Deere and Eaton Corp. The plant runs two 10-hour shifts and a weekend crew.

Before deciding on the new PRISMO coordinate measuring machine (CMM) from Carl Zeiss (Minneapolis, MN), Team was using two PRISMOs for daily production checks and first-article approval. "The PRISMO ST, was no longer satisfactory for the bulk of the inspection work, so most of the work was conducted on the PRISMO VAST active scanning CMM. The CMM would end up with a large backlog of work," Brent Harcey, quality manager at TEAM, says.

In addition to the existing workload, most of the company's customers require a 30-piece minimum capability study for each new product start-up-meaning that one machine needed to be dedicated to that task. With several new projects coming up, Harcey decided to purchase a new CMM.

Team installed a PRISMO with VAST Navigator technology that uses dynamic scanning and offers two major benefits: time savings and faster scanning speeds. Without the technology, the probe enters the measuring zone, touches the part, adjusts and then performs the scan. But with the new CMM's measurement technology, this is done in a single move, referred to as helical scanning. "It's such a smooth process; the landing, scanning and take off...all in one continuous motion," Harcey says.

Before implementing the Navigator technology, Team had set a default scanning speed that used only about 40% to 50% of the CMM's capability. Now, Team is able to take full advantage of the CMM's capability.

Team performs a Gage Repeatability and Reproducibility (GR&R) study on every program they create. They do face instances where certain features don't meet the company's criteria for GR&R. With CALYPSO Planner computer-aided design (CAD)-based software, they are able to adjust those features individually without having to slow down the entire program. "For years I've wanted to write a program, test it, and find and eliminate its weaknesses. The program editing capability allows us to do this," says Harcey. "You can go in, change the probing speed, location and point density. It's easy. We now are able to acquire programs that are more robust."

One other key issue for Harcey was the need to increase capacity. "Anyone who's worked in an inspection lab knows that if you're utilizing the machine 80% of the time, that doesn't mean that the remaining 20% comes in as one solid block and can be used for programming. Open CMM time comes in fragments too small to call up a new project and start a program," Harcey says.

With the CAD-based software his team is able to program offline. The flexibility of programming either online or offline opens up capacity and allows Team to have the program ready when the product comes in the door.

In October 2004, Team initiated a lean manufacturing program. With set-up reduction being a component of Kaizen, Harcey reviewed and improved the set-up approval process. Productivity improvements have changed first-article inspection requirements from four to 16 parts. With their newly implemented measuring technology, Harcey met the new standard set by the Kaizen event.

In addition, the CMMs have become an integral part of the inspection process. They measure a series of parts ranging from drive and axle shafts to housings. They also can handle heavier and longer probes of up to 800 millimeters, which allowed Team to take on additional projects. They now are able to check tractor, clutch and transmission components as well as large automotive carriers.

sidebar: Benefits

• Scanning technology performs helical scanning, which translates to time savings.

• CAD-based software allows manufacturers to program offline or online.

• With the new CMM, the company met the new first-article inspection standard, set by the Kaizen event, from four parts to 16 parts.

• The CMM can handle heavy or long probes of up to 800 millimeters.