Why Now Might Be the Time to Switch to an Absolute Arm

A History of Hand Tools
Hand measurement tools like calipers have been in use for a long, long time. We’re talking Greeks and Romans in the 6th Century BC type of long time. That was followed by a ‘slot and pin’ design used during the Chinese Xin dynasty, way back in 9 AD. The modern-day Vernier caliper was invented in 1851; it could measure down to thousands of an inch and was priced within reach of your everyday machinist. Fast forward to today, digital calipers are the most popular, but still require a skilled technician to use. However, the modern workshop has many other options for manual measurements, including the increasingly popular portable measuring arm solutions which can complete many similar tasks to hand tools. So, how do you know when it’s the right time to switch from hand tools to a portable measuring arm?

Hand tools have their place in a modern machine shop, especially for a quick ad hoc measurement right on the machine floor. But if your measurement task is complex and requires switching between multiple hand tools to complete, then the time-saving is probably negated over the course of the job. And what if you need more accuracy in your measurements? One of the biggest complaints we hear from quality managers is that measurements done with hand tools aren’t repeatable as the measurement can vary based on the operator. So if a higher level of accuracy and repeatability is needed, or you need a single tool to complete many measurement tasks, then a portable measuring arm like the Absolute Arm may be the right choice for you. You’ll also benefit from instant digital reporting; although some hand tools are able to connect to software and create digital records, you get this as standard with an arm. And of course, your hand tools will always remain as a complement to any other measurement systems you choose to use.

If It’s Time to Upgrade
Upgrading from a hand tool to an Absolute Arm can seem daunting at first. There is a lot to keep in mind, including the cost and the learning curve. First, have you thought about leasing new equipment? Debra Demotto, Account Executive at National Machine Tool Financial (Elk Grove Village, Illinois), one of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence North America’s capital leasing providers, says that capital leasing is an increasingly popular option for companies to acquire equipment. “Unlike an automobile lease, an equipment lease is structured based on 100% of the equipment value over a 60-month term at a low fixed interest rate, with a $1.00 buyout at the end, after which you own the equipment outright. It’s a great way to acquire the latest technology with little or no initial cash outlay.”

If you’re also looking for a metrology software to run on your arm, did you know that every purchase of PC-DMIS here in North America comes with training credits for two students at one of our solution centers? We offer beginner PC-DMIS classes that help cover the basics and have Solution Centers throughout the country. If you can’t make it to a Solution Center, we offer online classes as well. The knowledge gained from the additional training opens the door for more advanced measurement technologies that work with the Absolute Arm, like laser scanning with the RS5 Laser Scanner or tube inspection software.

Downtime after an upgrade is a thing of the past thanks to our plug and play ‘Quick Measure’ software included at no charge. This is an easy-to-use measurement software that can be learned in seconds and includes 12 basic measurements like diameters, plane-to-plane distance, point-to-point distance and more.

Why You Can Trust the Measurements of an Absolute Arm
Repeatability. No matter who is using the arm or what level of expertise they have, the results with an Absolute Arm are repeatable. Upgrading to an Absolute Arm will increase your confidence level that your measurements are accurate, no matter who is doing the work. Have your programmer create an easy-to-follow measurement routine allowing the operators in your shop the ability to get accurate measurements. This workflow allows for anyone to get an accurate measurement, regardless of skill level or previous metrology experience. You can’t do that with a pair of calipers. Also, every measurement is digital. A searchable record will be created for every part, ensuring that everything leaving your facility is accounted for.

Still have concerns about trusting the data when using an Absolute Arm? Just ask the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team what they thought. Here’s what their quality manager had to say:
The new Absolute Arm looks great in many ways, from the portability – which is essential for us as we’re taking measurements within a hectic manufacturing environment – to the technology improvements Hexagon has built in that make this new arm faster, more accurate and easier to use than other arms we’ve tried. 

The Absolute Arm is available in three models, three accuracy levels and seven sizes, offering up to 36 different configurations. Find out which Absolute Arm is right for you.


  • Andrew Scarella

    Andrew Scarella is the Digital Marketing Manager for Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence North America. He contributes to this blog as well as updates the North American website and provides content for the company social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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