Quality Innovations: Improve Inline Inspection
October 2, 2008
In a sense, the XYZ inline inspection systems from SMAC Inc. (Carlsbad, CA) work as a mini-coordinate measuring machine (CMM) for inline inspection, says Steve Curtiss, applications manager at SMAC Inc. These high-speed inspection systems allow 100% inline inspection for high throughput, says Curtiss, and they can handle shop floor environments with coolant mist in the air, whereas vision systems or lasers might have problems in those environments.
“All in a shop floor environment vs. putting it into a CMM gage room,” Curtiss says. The product was released this year. With CMMs, operators may spot-check the parts, but random spot checks leave manufacturers open to sending bad parts out the door. This can lead to containment and cause issues all the way back through the process. This system, however, allows operators to do 100% inline inspection.
Zero defects can thus be achieved through a combination of containment through 100% inspection and correction through immediate feedback and adjustment. Manufacturers of critical parts and assemblies such as airbags, wheel bearings and pistons can achieve zero defects by adding the SMAC XYZ measurement systems to their inline manufacturing process.
The systems are compact, with positioning resolution to 100 nanometers. The linear motor-based systems incorporate a patented “softland” capability that removes the need for expensive probes, and volumes up to 100 cubic millimeters can be covered by a single system. Bore diameter and depth, finish surface, run-out, undercut, tri-lobbing, taper and concentricity all are measurable in time spans matching the production cycle, thereby maintaining production efficiency. The presence of chips caught in grooves also can be checked during the gaging process.
Robust guiding and the direct drive linear motor reduce the need for periodic offsets that are a major problem of standard commercial CMMs, Curtiss says. The ability to integrate multi-axis systems and controllers means different faces of the parts can be simultaneously measured, thus matching the production timing.
Reaction to the product has been good, with a lot of customers and applications, Curtiss says, including one customer who started with one inline inspection application and then expanded to more than 100 applications.
One reason may be the price. The product is low-cost compared to a CMM, Curtiss says, and can run anywhere from around $1,000 to $15,000, depending on the number of axes and the resolution involved.
“The product stands out with its speed and accuracy, as it allows the customer to do 100% inspection inline in a fairly harsh environment vs. traditional methods of pulling parts off the line and pulling them into a clean room,” says Curtiss.
“Everything is contained in one unit,” he says. “Other methods would combine multiple items to get the same result, which becomes bulky and cumbersome.” Trying to perform the same task with a load cell would slow operators down, and it does not allow the same accuracy, he says.
As with any product, it does have its limits. It would not function with direct coolant spray on it, and operators would not want to put it directly into a mill or turning center, Curtiss says. However, SMAC is starting to expand into that area.
The inspection system has been used for air bag inspection, Curtiss says, along with mission critical parts, such as anti-lock brake components and fuel injection systems. It can be used in the aerospace industry for turbine blade deburring, glass deburring and polishing. It also can be used for medical component inspection, electronics and assembly inspection, along with medical and biomedical application, where accuracy down to 5 nanometers is essential.
The system is a cost-effective solution to 100% verification of parts and assemblies.
Technology ContactFor more information on the XYZ inline inspection system, contact:
- SMAC Inc.
5807 Van Allen Way, Carlsbad, CA 92008