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Expanding CMM Skills: How to Obtain and Analyze Data Faster


Former General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan once said, "There has to be this pioneer, the individual who has the courage, the ambition to overcome the obstacles that always develop when one tries to do something worthwhile, especially when it is new and different."

For every company that grows, there is a driver of change that identifies how to strengthen, develop, and correct weaknesses created by inefficiencies. Consider the high-stakes world of manufacturing; taking the time to evaluate processes to understand where there are flaws and correct them provides benefits such as improved efficiencies and cost savings. However, to collect on those gains, there must be someone with the willingness to take corrective action, even if it means making significant changes.

 In the world of metrology, CMM operators are relied upon for a lot— from dimensional analysis to quality control inspections, to problem-solving, and even sometimes detective work and beyond. Their ability to wear so many important hats makes their role an indispensable part of any manufacturing organization. But that enormous responsibility can come with an enormous workload that results in backlogs and bottlenecks.

To maintain timeliness and continue to execute a myriad of responsibilities at a professional level of quality, many CMM operators are expanding their skills. They've found that the secret to obtaining and analyzing measurement data faster is to complement CMM use with accurate structured light non-contact 3D scanning. The addition of optical non-contact structured light technology to a CMM operator's toolbox provides the ability to continue to grow and evolve with the changing needs of their organization and the demands it imposes. With more skills in their toolbox, CMM programmers will continue to meet, expand, and exceed their job function demands and expectations. Below, we've outlined some of the benefits of expanding Coordinate Measuring Machine skills to reach beyond its traditional functions and satisfy modern manufacturers' needs.


How to Overcome CMM Backlogs

When a manufacturing company relies on its Coordinate Measuring Machine for every inspection process, from first article inspection (FAI) to quality control inspections, a backlog of work is inevitable. As part complexity increases, with parts regularly becoming more intricate and designed in freeform shapes, programming and analysis time also increases, further contributing to the backlog. The backlog quickly turns into a bottleneck that disrupts the production process and slows the manufacture and delivery of parts to customers. The delays caused by backlogs of work at the CMM add stress to the CMM operator pressured to catch up and be costly for the organization as a whole.

With the transformation of metrology technology, problems like these don't have to be typical. New measurement tools, such as high-resolution blue light 3D scanners, produce highly accurate results that complement Coordinate Measuring Machines. These modern metrology tools provide more data and details faster, so transiting from the inspection of one part to the next is rapid and smooth. With their ability to obtain and analyze data faster, accurate blue light 3D scanners help overcome and prevent CMM backlogs.


Complementing Contact with Non-contact Technologies

From their inception, Coordinate Measuring Machines were the standard for accuracy and resolution required by the manufacturing industry. By building off this standard requirement for accuracy, optical non-contact 3D scanners are now comparable to probing methods, and they also provide more information. Since 3D scanners don't physically touch the part, probe size does not inhibit data collection on small parts, and parts with complex shapes and geometries are captured in full because they aren't limited to where the probe can touch. This ability to collect more information works in conjunction with Coordinate Measuring Machines to help quality inspectors gather information before beginning CMM inspection, if necessary. This partnership between metrology tools creates the ability to inspect more parts, expanding CMM operators' capabilities so they can get more work done. As the role accurate 3D scanning plays in quality departments continues to grow, it's advantageous for CMM operators to be competent in both technologies.


How to Resolve Quality Issues Faster

While CMM data is highly accurate, the time it takes to interpret the data creates a delay in resolving issues discovered during any stage of manufacturing. Oftentimes, after quality control professionals incorporate accurate blue light 3D scanning into their inspection process, they realize the limitations of their CMM: the points were accurate, but the data was finite and the information poor. Accurate 3D scanners collect data that integrates into intuitive software. Then, the software converts the data into information that reveals actionable insights. The software creates a digital twin visual color map with the scan data, providing a straightforward alternative to CMM reporting. CMM operators can discover the best resolution to problems within just a few quick clicks.

3D metrology technology unlocks new types of reporting to help resolve quality issues faster and perform additional analysis, such as GD&T or trend/SPC analysis. Utilizing both technologies in the metrology lab offloads the amount of CMM analysis needed while also elevating inspection and analysis capabilities.

Even though a 3D scanner collects more data than a CMM, it doesn't need more time to analyze it. Accurate 3D scanners collect and analyze data faster, alleviating backlogs at the CMM, preventing bottlenecks in production processes, and helping manufacturing companies resolve problems more quickly.


How to Expand Your CMM Skills

There's a longstanding stigma that when parts enter the CMM room, there's bound to be a bottleneck. If you're a CMM operator ready to stop that stigma, adding an accurate 3D scanner to your metrology toolbox will help. No longer will you be faced with tough choices that compromise quality, such as reducing inspection points or the number of parts inspected; instead, you'll have more information available to your organization— and they'll thank you for that.

Breaking free from the norm and trying something new and different will help you develop more as a metrology professional, bringing invaluable skills and insights to your organization. Get beyond the perpetually increasing pile of parts waiting to be inspected and seize the opportunity to become a reliable resource that solves problems and answers questions whenever a problem arises, whether during FAI or on the shop floor.

If you're ready to expand your CMM skills so you can obtain and analyze data faster, contact a Capture 3D team member and schedule a demo today. We work with many CMM programmers that embrace blue light 3D scanning technology and utilize it as an asset that provides solutions faster for their team, managers, departments, and suppliers. Throughout their organization, the reliance on their role has increased, with more departments depending on their engineering skills, problem-solving abilities, experience, and knowledge—and with more tools available, they're able to rise to the challenge.

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