Cole Manufacturing (West Bend, WI) has stayed at the forefront of changes in the tool and die industry, specializing in metal stampings, fabrications, weldments and assemblies. The company’s main priority is meeting the tooling needs of its customers while maximizing efficient material use. This mentality is evident during part-design phase, continues through prototyping and on to actual production.
On a daily basis, Cole’s quality assurance team, led by Quality Assurance Manager John Berst, measures or inspects various parts ranging from fabricated weldments, stampings and stamping-die components to tooling fixtures and computer numerical control (CNC) stamped tubes. The quality assurance team was measuring these parts with an assortment of hand gages, height gages, large verniers and even tape measures.
This hand-inspection method presented several problems. Traditional tools could not cover the entire measurement range Cole needed, and were simply not accurate enough. These tools also did not have the capability to interface with computer-aided design (CAD), which limited Cole’s reverse-engineering options.
Eliminating Hand ToolsAt a previous job, Berst had experienced using portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) technology, specifically the FaroArm from Faro Technologies Inc. (Lake Mary, FL). Thus, Cole began using a Platinum FaroArm to complete fixture verifications with accuracy comparable to a stationary CMM. However, unlike a fixed CMM, the arm occupies minimal floor space and eliminates the need for dedicated CMM rooms-leaving more room for production. The arm reduced measurement and inspection times, simplified design routines and ultimately improved Cole’s products and processes.
The arm also eliminated the old days of moving or taking parts to fixed CMMs and hand writing manual measurements taken from calipers or micrometers. Cole employees can take the device directly to their parts and collect measurement points with the click of a button.
The quality control personnel simply guide the arm’s touch-probe along the surface of the object to be measured. The points are directly recorded via CAD software programs, including the Faro CAM2 Measure X used by Cole. A laptop computer simultaneously illustrates the 3-D measurements onscreen and automatically records all data. It creates a 3-D model of a part or machine component, making it an all-in-one portable tool for performing inspections, tool certification, CAD-to-part analysis and reverse engineering.
Cole knew the arm would provide the simplicity and accuracy the company needed. It also is adaptable to a wide variation of inspections, and the lightweight durability makes it an invaluable part of everyday operations, both within the facility and offsite as needed.
CAD-to-Part InspectionCAD software helps Cole compare complex geometry, surface tolerances and positions to the nominal data. These measurements are shown in real time as a 3-D computer model, and any deviations can be immediately corrected. Reports are easily created that detail the CAD-to-part inspection results, certifying the in-process or finished product.
Prototype parts are typically produced in small quantities, often in a trial and error process. The arm easily measures these parts and compares them to the original files in order to ensure they are produced correctly. The timesavings made by avoiding the lengthy programming procedure with a traditional inspection tool and by working and re-working a part multiple times is a huge advantage for Cole.
Quickly accepted by Cole’s engineers and operators, the arm was clearly a more efficient way to perform needed tasks. Additional benefits were its ability to create one-off inspections for setup and the output of inspection documentation. The arm provides Cole with faster inspections and the capability to measure more complex geometry; it also aids in comparing customer CAD data to finish prototype parts.
Return on InvestmentFor Cole, the return value of the arm was more than simple time and money savings, or even reduced scrap. The greatest value for their fast-paced job shop came in the flexibility and adaptability of the device.
“After Faro’s great support group helped us with initial setup, we had a seamless integration,” says Quality Assurance Manager John Berst. “Tube inspection jobs that used to take four hours can now be completed in 45 minutes or less. In the two and half months since acquiring our FaroArm, we’ve saved 100 hours of work time.”
Faro Technologies Inc.