Measure, Work, Inspect: Closed-Loop Manufacturing Using Inline Robotic 3D Scanning
Closed-loop manufacturing, sometimes called intelligent manufacturing, is a revolutionary approach that leverages real-time data to instantaneously and automatically enhance production processes. The adoption of closed-loop manufacturing can lead to dramatic cost reductions by minimizing labor, enabling uninterrupted production cycles, also known as lights-out manufacturing, and reducing scrap.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how inline robotic 3D scanning is instrumental in enabling this transformative manufacturing approach.
THE ROLE OF METROLOGY IN CLOSED-LOOP MANUFACTURING
Metrology, or the science of measurement, has traditionally been a key player in quality control within the manufacturing sector. However, the advent of closed-loop manufacturing has extended the role of metrology beyond mere quality control.
Measurement data, when collected in real-time, can be immediately used to refine the work being performed on parts. This is a significant departure from conventional practices where measurement data is collected and acted upon separately and after a delay. By integrating metrology into the production process, closed-loop manufacturing allows instantaneous adjustments based on real-time data, leading to significant improvements in speed and part quality.
Consider, for instance, the process of hot forging. Traditionally, a forged part would need to cool down before it could be measured, leading to a lag in the feedback loop. However, with real-time metrology, measurements can be taken immediately as the part comes out of the forge. This means the forging process can be adjusted much faster, avoiding the production of hundreds of potentially substandard parts during the cooling period.
Another example lies in the production of aerospace composite turbine blades. Each of these blades has inherent part-to-part variations, making them a challenging item to manufacture consistently using a fixed robot program. However, with automated metrology systems, each turbine blade can be scanned, and the robot’s tool path can be automatically adjusted to match the specific geometry of each blade.
INLINE ROBOTIC 3D SCANNING IN INTELLIGENT MANUFACTURING
Robotic 3D scanning is one of the most beneficial automated metrology solutions on the market because it allows manufacturers to access real-time data then make immediate feedback and adjustments, a crucial requirement for intelligent manufacturing.
Robotic 3D scanning involves capturing high-resolution, three-dimensional data of the parts being manufactured. This data provides intricate details about the part’s size, shape, and potential defects. When incorporated into the manufacturing line, 3D scanning becomes ‘inline,’ offering real-time insights into every production stage.
One of the key advantages of inline robotic 3D scanning is its ability to deliver comprehensive and accurate data at incredible speeds. This enables immediate detection and correction of defects, leading to a significant reduction in waste and rework. By catching and addressing issues early, manufacturers can ensure their production processes are as efficient and effective as possible.
Moreover, inline robotic 3D scanning allows for a high degree of adaptability. Given the precision and detail that 3D scanning offers, robots can be programmed to adapt their operations based on the specific characteristics of each part, using the Scan-to-Path™ package from MAS. This is particularly beneficial in situations where parts exhibit inherent variation, as with the example of aerospace composite turbine blades discussed earlier.
Ultimately, integrating inline robotic 3D scanning into closed-loop manufacturing systems is about more than just enhancing quality control. It’s about harnessing real-time, detailed data to drive immediate improvements in the manufacturing process.
ADAPTIVE PATHING & SCAN-TO-PATH™
Adaptive pathing, or it, Scan-to-Path,™ is a transformative technology that leverages inline robotic 3D scanning to refine and optimize manufacturing processes. It begins with a 3D scan of the part, followed by an in-depth analysis. The data obtained from this analysis is used to adjust a robot’s path according to the specific geometry of the just-scanned part. This ability to adapt in real-time to the nuances of each individual part sets adaptive pathing apart in the field of intelligent manufacturing.
To understand the practical implications of adaptive pathing, consider a typical CNC machining scenario. In this context, parts are usually handled by a robot and inserted into a CNC machine. After a few parts are produced, the mill’s tool begins to wear, necessitating an adjustment in the tool cutter offset—a task traditionally performed manually by an operator. However, with adaptive pathing, the part is automatically 3D scanned after milling. The tool cutter offset is automatically measured based on this scan, and the adjustment is applied to the CNC mill before the next part is made. This significantly reduces the need for manual intervention and ensures a more consistent, accurate production process.
There are many advantages of adaptive pathing and Scan-to-Path,™ starting with the philosophy of “measure twice, cut once”—by capturing and utilizing detailed measurement data before making adjustments, manufacturers can significantly reduce waste and improve precision. Furthermore, this technology facilitates lights-out manufacturing, allowing production to continue without human intervention. It also automatically and immediately compensates for part-to-part and process variation, enhancing consistency and product quality across the board.
Adaptive pathing and Scan-to-Path™ represent the next step in the evolution of intelligent manufacturing, enabling higher levels of automation, precision, and adaptability in production processes.
IMPLEMENTING INTELLIGENT MANUFACTURING WITH MAS’ SOLUTIONS
MAS offers customizable linear, robotic, and handheld 3D scanning systems. Our scanning systems come with our proprietary QC Plus™ software with optional Scan-to-Path™ software to help you solve your measurement, inspection, and even manufacturing problems.
Our solutions are also easy to use, with no need for time-consuming programming or installation processes, and are configured to meet customers’ unique requirements.
If you’re new to inline automated metrology, our team at MAS can help you select and design the best solution for your processes and even connect you to reliable integrators. Whatever your needs are, we’re here to help.
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