Siemens Dematic (Grand Rapids, MI) manufactures Automated Flat Sorting Machines (AFSMs) that are used by the U.S. Postal Service for sorting letters in mail distribution centers.

When Siemens Dematic recently set out to perform sample inspections on incoming AFSM base plates, it was faced with a problem. Siemens Dematic's in-house coordinate measuring machine (CMM) did not have a measuring volume large enough to inspect the base plates, which are about 1.5 feet long by about 3 feet wide, says Michael Boss, quality supervisor.

"We get the base plates delivered to us in weekly lots of 10 to 20 and we look at one per lot, or sometimes two," Boss says. "We sent one plate to an inspection house, but the cost was quite prohibitive." In addition to paying $1,800 to get the plate inspected, Boss adds that Siemens Dematic had to wait a week to get the part back from the inspection service.

Inspect in-house
So Siemens Dematic set out to acquire equipment that would enable the company to handle the base plate measuring task. The company first considered buying another traditional CMM with a large enough measuring envelope. But the cost was beyond the company's budget, while the footprint for such a machine would have been too large for Siemens Dematic's already crowded laboratory, says Boss.

Siemens Dematic found what it was looking for in a portable CMM called the Arm 100, supplied by Axila Inc. (Farming-ton Hills, MI). The arm is easy to use, he notes, and its 8.3-foot spherical diameter measuring volume is large enough to measure the base plate. The 10-pound arm fits into a compact suitcase that can be carried between Siemens Dematic's two plants. The company also takes the unit onto the shop floor for inspection tasks, Boss adds.

One feature of the Arm 100 that Boss found useful is the G-Pad software that allows an operator to enter measurements and perform other functions without ever touching the portable laptop computer that comes with the machine.

"Once you have logged on and you're into the software, the arm acts as a mouse, so you can control the on-screen actions of the software by how you move the arm," Boss explains. "This is a nice feature, because if you happen to be 3 feet away from the computer and you're inspecting, you don't have to continually reach back to the keyboard to hit enter."

Repetitive parts
The software also allows the creation of macro programs that can save time during measurement of repetitive parts, such as the AFSM base plates. "We've created a macro for the squaring of the base plate on our surface plate when we start the measuring process," says Boss.

The software's time-saving features and user-friendly interface help an operator using the portable arm to complete a base plate inspection in about five hours, says Boss. By eliminating the need to send the base plates to an outside inspection service, he adds, Siemens Dematic expects to see a return on its investment within 15 to 20 weeks.

Axila Inc.
(248) 426-0919 Reply 11


  • The portable CMM has a larger measuring envelope than Siemens Dematic's traditional CMM, eliminating the cost of an outside inspection service.
  • After the user logs on to the system, the portable arm acts as a mouse, allowing the operator to enter measurements and perform other functions without touching the computer keyboard.
  • Siemens Dematic expects the portable CMM to pay for itself within 15 to 20 weeks.