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Inspection Gets Smart

This Alabama job shop gets more throughput since it upgraded from manual CMMs to new equipment and software. Here’s how it works

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This Alabama job shop gets more throughput since it upgraded from manual CMMs to new equipment and software.

Avans Machine & Tool (Scottsboro, AL) is a family-owned 35-man precision machine shop that specializes in CNC turning, four-axis
milling and 3D machining of parts and components for the aerospace, defense, automotive,
medical, pharmaceutical and textile industries. We manufacture parts in small or large
quantities with a range of short and long-term delivery schedules.

As a precision machine shop, typical of the thousands of similar job shops that are sprinkled across North America, meeting our customers’ needs are simple…be professional, be fast, be accurate and be competitive. As such, CMMs are a mainstay in most job shop businesses today. It’s the best way to prove out and insure the highest level of quality, and a necessity if ISO certification is to be obtained.

What we were finding, however, is that our manual Brown & Sharpe Reflex and Mistral bridge CMMs had begun to negatively affect our ability to be fast and we knew that would ultimately cost the company existing as well as new business. I generally knew that we needed to replace and upgrade our CMM capabilities.

In a job shop environment, workflow can be enhanced when machine operators can periodically check the parts themselves. For us, it was going to take a couple of DCC CMM machines with varying work envelopes and a common comprehensive software package that both our technicians and machine operators could easily be trained on.

We initially made some inquiries with CMM manufacturers and the first company to respond was Xspect Solutions (Wixom, MI), the North American representatives for Wenzel CMMs. They put us in contact with a number of companies using Wenzel machines located near us here in Alabama. We visited those facilities to evaluate the Wenzel equipment and talk to the users, who really sold us on investing in the equipment and software.

We determined the right size machines we needed and then worked out a cost that fit into our budget requirements. We ultimately settled on one Smart CMM and a larger LH8.10.7 Xtreme Bridge machine. The Smart machine has a measuring range of 500 mm x 450 mm x 400 mm, and the LH 8.10.7 has a measuring range of 800 mm x 100 mm x 700 mm.

Each machine is thermally stable with dynamic performance, tremendous stiffness and natural vibration dampening. Each machine is equipped with Renishaw TP200 probing systems and offers volumetric accuracy of 2.5 microns, with a maximum 3D measuring speed of 700 mm/sec with maximum acceleration of 2,000 mm/sec2.

The OpenDMIS software we purchased is easy to use and has full CAD capabilities that allow each CMM to be an integral part of our manufacturing process, permitting the generation of inspection programs before manufacturing is performed. We manufacture a range of aircraft and aerospace parts where CAD modeling capability is needed so we can just load IGES files and check them to the part. The Xecute Interface enables us to quickly train unskilled operators to run the machine.

Our operators perform complete hands-free inspection from the PC by using the QuickMeasure feature. It utilizes the software’s intellect to determine the feature type under measurement
and allows them to quickly inspect the part without the tedious need to instruct the software
what to inspect next. They simply probe the part and the software does the rest.

The HT400RC wireless teach pendant eliminates the tedious keyboard interaction necessary with conventional CMM teach pendants. With just one joystick, our operators have programmable fast and slow modes, function keys for probe index, go-to and point record, individual axis locks, even an emergency stop switch.

This allows them to walk around the machine and get their face right in there without having to determine the orientation of the pendant control it does that for them. We also purchased a probe change rack that we mounted right on the LH granite table to save set-up time.

We’re confident now that we have CMM capability for our current and future needs and the ability to have timely software upgrades that can be conveniently and cost-effectively downloaded to our CMM software.

Lawrence Ariel is the quality manager at Avans Machine & Tool, 25490 AL Highway
79, Scottsboro, AL 35768, 256-587-6071, Fax: 256-587-6341, lawrence@avansmac.com, www.avansmac.com.

Xspect Solutions, Inc., 46962 Liberty Drive, Wixom, MI 48393, 248-596-1193, Fax: 248-569-1194
kmills@xspectsolutions.com, www.xspectsolutions.com.

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