Imagine a factory where quality assurance actually increased the speed of production. Advanced metrology equipment is well on the way to making this a reality by introducing new levels of connectivity with other pieces of equipment and software throughout the factory.
Communication between different elements of the product lifecycle enables lightning-fast feedback loops, allowing you to spot problems and intervene before a component falls out of tolerance.
In such a factory, the integration of metrology equipment with other systems would revolutionise the production process. Every decision, every action from design to delivery, would be informed by the real-time data provided by these interconnected systems. An autonomous exchange of information enables the factory to optimise productivity, quality, and efficiency on a whole new level.
That would be a very smart factory indeed. If this sounds like a distant vision, think again. Come with us as we discuss why metrology is shedding its reputation as a bottleneck. We will discuss PRESTO and the power of robotic metrology cells, one of the most compelling examples of this technology in action and explore how this can help us to reimagine quality for smart manufacturing.
High quality at speed
People often think of quality assurance as a cause of bottlenecks and delay. In this world of increased delivery pressure, true smart factories will harness Quality Assurance to and minimise losses due to defective parts. For manufacturing companies to remain competitive, we need to reimagine the Quality Assurance function for the factories of the future.
Quality is often seen as a final hurdle at the end of the production line where slow inspection speeds are a constraint rather than an enabler. This doesn’t have to be the case. Quality should be seen as empowering rather than impeding. For that to happen we need to accelerate the quality assurance process and introduce more control points across the production line, reduce feedback times and create autonomous processes wherever we can.
Quality assurance often takes place in a separate area away from the production line, an inspection room or metrology lab. That’s because metrology equipment is extremely sensitive to environmental conditions. Coordinate Measuring Machines operate on the micron scale and the tiniest vibrations or temperature fluctuations can cause errors. The problem with this set up is the time it takes to communicate from one part of the factory to another. In smart manufacturing that becomes a thing of the past.
Advanced metrology equipment can operate near to, or even within, the production line itself. This means we can massively reduce feedback times, in some cases making it instantaneous. When that is achieved, quality is no longer a bottle neck or an island on its own but an integrated part of the whole and a source of increased productivity.
Robotic metrology cells that speed up the process
Automated robotic metrology is one of the most exciting developments in this field. It’s real sci-fi stuff that provides the toolset to efficiently plan, programme and control all kinds of manufacturing processes. The latest robotic metrology equipment can integrate with the wider manufacturing software ecosystem, simplifying data collection for smarter, autonomous manufacturing. It makes automated measurement and feedback accessible on a much wider basis.
PRESTO, for example, has been created specifically to manage and integrate all the hardware within an inspection cell though an integrated, connected suite of software. It simplifies what was until recently a very complex and time-consuming process. That means we can speed up design and manufacturing with shared data and super-fast feedback loops. With tools like this, disruptions in the value chain can be more easily mitigated.
PRESTO focuses on simplicity and user experience, intuitive workflows, and automated measurement routines that enable operators to safely and efficiently programme inspection applications. We’ve been using robotic metrology cells for years, but this new solution has significantly sped up the processes involved.
We’re not predicting the end of traditional metrology but in an autonomous factory, quality assurance is not a hurdle but a launch pad. It’s an essential catalyst, generating the data that informs autonomous processes. In a world where lack of resources will become a standard, we need new ways to make sustainable systems for manufacturing and challenge existing practice. We should be thinking of identifying and fixing problems before parts fall out of tolerance. Waste is not acceptable.
Quality Assurance is a vital part of the quest for sustainability, reducing rework and improving efficiency across the board. This is an area with great potential so watch this space for more developments in the future.
Elsewhere on the Manufacturing Intelligence blog, check out our 5 steps to improve your automation preparedness for a handy guide to manufacturing automation.