GAITHERSBURG, MD—The Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST,www.nist.gov) has established a testbed to help manufacturers improve the interoperability of their dimensional measurement systems. The testbed uses NIST-developed test methods and tools to verify that specific equipment and software conform to new industry standards designed to allow subsystems to "talk" to one another even if they come from different manufacturers.

Continuous inspection of product dimensions is critical in modern manufacturing. A finished product, and all its parts, must fit dimensional specifications. To meet this demand for precision, manufacturers and suppliers regularly use coordinate measuring machines along with inspection planning, execution and analysis programs. Too often, however, these quality control components do not communicate well, particularly when components are mixed and matched from different vendors. The result can be substantial costs to manufacturers who must translate data from one system to another, retrain workers or even buy new machines for their production lines.

Successful implementation of such standards throughout manufacturing should save users time and money, avoid code rewriting and measurement errors, and encourage a more competitive business environment with lower costs.