Equipment and ToolingQuality and Metrology

Look where you’re going: Automated vision machines measure parts quickly and accurately

If you have a handful of parts to check, you’ll probably pick up a micrometer. If you’re going to measure a truckload of them, however, only an automated solution will do. But measurement systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and offer more options than a new car. Deciding which one is best for your shop can be a real challenge.

Coordinate measuring machines, the workhorses of the metrology world, have been around longer than paper tape. The clunky machines our grandfathers once used have evolved into sleek, feature rich systems found in even the smallest machine shop. But for all their versatility, CMM’s are like a blind man—they can’t measure what they can’t touch.

Marty Morgan, business manager for Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology, LCC, Maple Grove, Minn., says that vision systems are ideal for these hands-off situations. “If you’re measuring features too small for a stylus, or for very delicate workpieces, vision is the only way to go.” Some examples of this include pliable plastic or rubber components, miniature machined parts, and electronics.

These optical wonders are good for more than o-rings and circuit boards, though. Vision machines measure parts to accuracies every bit as tight as comparable contact methods, and just like their mechanical cousins, are becoming increasingly automated. As a result, many shops are augmenting or even replacing their CMMs with vision measuring systems.

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