In this application case study, we look at how a manufacturer of precision optical manufacturing and metrology equipment uses collaborative robots and a new robotic gripper/caliper to provide a solution that helps its customers optimize quality control measurements in the quality assurance area of their factory.

OptiPro is a manufacturer of world-class optical manufacturing systems located in Rochester, NY. OptiPro wanted to create a solution that would free its customers’ operators from manually measuring optical lenses and feeding them into a Zeiss O-INSPECT Multisensor CMM, a coordinate measuring machine for final inspection and sorting. Such a solution would provide better utilization of skilled quality personnel for higher-order factory tasks while maintaining only the highest quality standards.

For this application, the end user had multiple product lines of small optical lenses that look very similar, but need different recipes at the CMM. This meant that the CMM operator had to measure a part manually, select the appropriate programs on the CMM, load the parts into the CMM, and enter data into a Q.A. software program.

To automate this application, companies traditionally would use an industrial robot with custom-designed end of arm tooling, guarding, and custom software. Instead, OptiPro was able to create a solution using collaborative robots with plug-and-play smart grippers.

Automation integrator Axis New York recommended the UR3e collaborative robot from Universal Robots with a new Q-Span smart gripper/caliper from New Scale Robotics. The parallel electric gripper features high-precision embedded position sensors and electronics, allowing it to work as both gripper and caliper. This data can be used in the UR robot program to make in-process decisions, be sent to the CMM system, and be recorded to a PC for later analysis.

The small cobot and the small, light, and precise gripper/caliper combine to support handling of delicate optical parts in tight spaces.

 “Part handling can be an issue for a lot of different brittle material, ceramics and optics applications,” said Dave Mohring, metrology coordinator at OptiPro Systems. “Here we’re implementing a robot that can automatically load and unload a part.”

The Q-Span gripper/caliper measures the part and sends the information to the CMM system, which can then load a specific program for that part based on the measured dimension.

Then the cobot gripper picks up the part and places it into the CMM. After measurement of the part, the CMM tells the robot where to place the part, based on whether it’s good or bad.


The Process: Pick, measure, communicate and place

  • The cobot and gripper picks a component from a tray, measures width, and communicates the data to the Zeiss CMM
  • Universal Robots UR3e robot
  • New Scale Robotics Q-Span smart
  • gripper/caliper
  • Zeiss CMM loads the appropriate metrology program based on part width
  • The cobot and gripper places the lens on a universal vacuum fixture
  • High accuracy measurement
  • Zeiss Vast XXT scanning probe
  • High-definition, high-contrast images
  •  Zeiss Discovery V12 telecentric zoom lens with illumination system
  • Analyzes and visualizes measurement results
  • Zeiss Calypso measuring software
  • Robot places part into “good” or “bad” tray based on measurement results 

Rob Bechtold, chief technology officer at OptiPro, explained that the ability to do dimensional measurements and use that as a feedback mechanism made the cobot system easy to select for machine tending with the Zeiss CMM.

“The Universal Robot has an extremely friendly graphical user interface. And with New Scale’s integrated piece…marrying those two things [is] seamless. We had a technician in here who set this up within a day,” Bechtold said.

“This frees up a skilled operator to continue to do manufacturing on other pieces of equipment, and then get that data out so they then can make corrections to parts, adjust what they need to and continue to be productive,” Bechtold continued. “So they are getting as many parts out as possible.” 

engineer programming robot

A Collaborative Robot Based Solution

Collaborative robots are a fairly new phenomenon for industrial automation. They have seen rapid adoption for materials handling and assembly in manufacturing. Now, with the introduction of smart grippers that can double as robotic calipers, they are moving into the quality assurance area as well.

The key characteristic of this type of robot is that they are inherently safe for working alongside humans. A cobot will slow or stop as a person approaches, or touches the robot or tooling. Collaborative robots are slower, have less power, and do not require elaborative guarding around the automation. They are much less expensive than an industrial style robot, making them well suited for automating high-mix, small-batch operations.

When a collaborative robot is paired with a collaborative end of arm tool, the safety increases. Note that each collaborative robot installation requires a process review for safety, and all automation requires a risk assessment. Q

Products highlighted in this solution; Zeiss O-Inspect 543 Multisensor CMM, Universal Robotics UR3e Collaborative Robot, New Scale Robotics Q-Span Smart Gripper/Caliper.

OptiPro Systems has more than 30 years experience developing and manufacturing precision optical fabrication machines and metrology systems. They are a global leader in designing and building computer-controlled grinding, polishing, and measuring equipment for the precision optics industry.

New Scale Robotics makes smart automation tools for small part measurement in high-mix, small-batch manufacturing and quality control. Q-Span Systems, which plug-and-play with collaborative robots, feature precision smart gripper/calipers, multi-tool mount systems, and software.

Zeiss Metrology business group is a manufacturer of multidimensional metrology solutions including coordinate measuring machines, optical and multisensor systems and metrology software.

Axis New York is an industrial equipment supplier and distributor of automation devices such as the Universal Robots’ UR collaborative robotic arm.