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Working Principles of the Modern CMM: Moving Beyond Touch Probes

The coordinate system is nothing new. Created in the seventeenth century by mathematician René Descartes, it is now used by professionals in many manufacturing sectors, includingthe aerospace, automotive, and casting industries.

Today’s traditional coordinate measuring machines (CMM) use three axes to probe an object’s geometric surface. The probes gather data points that are used for testingprototypes for errors, designing improved productsand inspecting the measured object.

A 3D scanneralso known as a structured light scanner, works a bit differently. A 3D scanner is a device that gathers data from a dimensional object through projected light and cameras. The projected light roves across the surface of the object, and when the light becomes distorted, the camera captures the measurements.

While both collect data and provide accurate measurements to manufactures and technicians, 3D scanners offer some significant upgrades from a traditional CMM that makes 3D scanners the more advantageous choice for modern design and manufacturing.

How does a CMM machine work?

The CMM uses a probe to measure the physical characteristics of a dimensional surface. The probe moves along three axes to determine an object’s spatial displacement. The sensors on each of the axes monitor the probe’s location to program the points on the surface.

What is a coordinate measuring machine used for?

Acoordinate measuring machine iused during product development, designing, engineering, and other processes within manufacturing.

Both CMMs and 3D scanners are often used during inspection to test the quality of manufactured objects anddetect production errors, but3D scanners are more beneficial for the creation of 3D modelsprototypes, and reverse engineering.

Anothersignificant difference between a traditional CMM and a 3D scanner isthecoordinate measuring machine uses a touch probe. In contrast,scanner measures points and collects data without ever physically touching the object’s surface.

Not every surface is smooth with sharp edges and clean lines. Many parts have curved edges and round or jagged parts that can be very difficult to measure precisely using a touch probe. Coordinate measuring machines also run into problems whenparts like these have areas that fall outside the tolerance zone that a mechanical component can reach.

The blue light technology in 3D scanners is advantageousbecauseit doesn’t rely on a mechanical extension that strictly collects data from a few specified points, but insteadutilizes a projected light capable of collecting millions of data points in a single scan. The 3D scannercompletes each scan when the camera picks up measurements by a triangulated light beam.

Why Should You Modernize Your Equipment?

The features of a coordinate measuring machine are not as advanced as the newerbluelight technology that 3D scanners employUpdating your workplace with modernized tools will help to make your workflow more efficient. Production will increase, answers will be available faster, and you’ll be ahead of the competition.

Optical metrologyoffers a variety of benefits, including minimizing the amount of work that goes into producing a final partWith more precise scans, manufacturers can get to the heart of a production problem much earlier in the process, a significant benefit sincemodifying a digital model is easier and more cost-effective than creating a whole new physical part

Utilizing 3D scanners for reverse engineering alsomakes the process much more streamlined. Rather than starting with a poor-quality image and having to rebuild a product without precisemeasurements, 3D scanners generate high-resolution images that optimize the process and make the outcome easier to attain

A 3D scanner also minimizes thetime spent manually crafting a physical model. Precision points like curves and edges are easy for blue light scanner to capturemaking downstream data processing more efficient. A 3D printed prototype from the digital model is also useful for inspections, analyses, and repeatability studies.

Finally, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulations can use data captured with 3D light scanners.

How CMM machines and structured light scanners impact different industries

For manufacturersespecially, time is money, and using outdated manufacturing methods and slow technology wastes bothStructured light technology is continuously advancing to give users the most precise scans and accurate data possible.

In the aerospace industry, 3D scanners and photogrammetry software measure large objects like engines, blades, and stators. Optical metrology provides the proper form and fitting of parts for commercial and defense aircraft as well as space crafts.

Vehicles are modernizing at an exceptionally high speed, with consumers wanting the latest technology, the sleekest design, and high-quality comfort. The automotive industry uses 3D scanning technology to keep up with these demands while also making engineering more efficient and optimizing the manufacturing process.Measurement data is useful for digitizing raw castings, first article inspections, molded part inspections, and troubleshooting during production. Optical metrology also helpsthe automotive industry with design elements,including clay models, milling, benchmarking, and CFD analysis. 

The production of Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) also benefits from employing 3D measurement technology. Accurate scans remove the need to produce multiple iterations and eliminate variances in final products. The scans from 3Dmeasurement technology are so precise that the goods produced in batch manufacturing have fewer differences overall. Manufacturers also find it’s easier to reach or exceed market goals because 3D scanning accelerates the inspection and quality control processes.

Casting and forging manufacturers also see an improvement in the design, analysis, and production of their materials because of 3D scanning technologyEarly iterations are closer to net shape because of the precision of the collected data. Tolerance requirements are also met more accurately.

Since the working principles of CMM machinesarenow quickly outpaced by new 3D measurement technology, manufacturers must adopt 3D scanning early to maintain a competitive edge. As technologies continue to advance, consumers and enterprises alike will expect innovations to continue to accelerate and develop our future; and manufacturers and engineers will need to have the tools to meet these expectations while still maximizing their bottom line. If you are a manufacturer who needs to sharpen your competitive edge, reach out to Capture 3D today to discover how 3D scanning can help bring your products to market faster while increasing profits and quality

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