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Mike Richman


Happy Birthday, CMSC!

They’re 35 years old, to be precise

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 20:06

A 35-year commitment is an impressive achievement, whether it be to a job, a marriage, or even a sports franchise. (New York Mets, why do you so consistently forsake my love?) When it comes to an all-volunteer organization working within an extremely complex and fast-changing technical field, that kind of staying power is all the more amazing.

In 1984, a group of engineers, technicians, and quality professionals joined together to present a brand-new event. Occurring in San Antonio, TX, the gathering offered the opportunity for discussion and knowledge exchange about state-of-the-art 3D test and measurement technologies, which at that time centered around photogrammetry systems and theodolites. That was the very first meeting of what would become the Coordinate Metrology Society Conference (CMSC)—and of course, from those initial visionaries grew the organization that’s now known as the Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS).

In that span of time, from 1984 until today, much has changed with the hardware, software, and peripherals of portable coordinate metrology. The CMS has remained at the forefront of these shifts primarily due to the presence of its members, who are thought leaders everywhere you look. These individuals power the vendors who provide metrology solutions; work as users employing these tools and equipment within sectors such as aerospace, automotive, construction, and more; and train the next generation of metrologists within academia. Quite clearly, it’s the extraordinary people, far more than the tools, that make the CMS the special and unique organization it is today.

In recent years, those individuals have turned their attention to succession planning, by which I mean developing the metrology workforce of the future. This goal is embodied in the work of three key initiatives that have completely changed the game for the CMS and the users it serves.

The first of these undertakings is represented by the Certification Committee, formed in 2009 to standardize the industry’s body of knowledge and validate operators’ skills with a wide variety of equipment. CMS Certification involves a Level-One written examination covering foundational theory and practice common to most metrology devices. The Level-Two assessment tests operators’ abilities with specific equipment. To date, the CMS Certification program tests users on portable coordinate measuring machines (PCMMs, commonly referred to as articulated arms), laser trackers, laser scanners, and, most recently, fixed (i.e., traditional) CMMs. This program has been a tremendous boon to industry by certifying hundreds of operators in these various technologies.

The second major landmark occurred in 2015 with the inaugural meeting of the PrecisionPath Consortium at that year’s CMSC in Hollywood, FL. This project, which is a collaboration between the CMS and the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, was funded by an Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The consortium was formed to identify and prioritize the technology needs of aerospace, defense, energy, and other industries that manufacture large-scale, high accuracy parts and products—a task which is has ably taken on. The PrecisionPath Consortium Roadmap, a comprehensive 70-page report detailing all aspects of the metrology industry as it relates to the challenges of large-scale manufacturing today, is available for free download to anyone who wants to reap the insights of this consortium’s work.

The third effort was one in which I was a proud and active participant: the launch of an online library of selected technical papers which have been presented at the CMSC going back to 2005. These papers, which have appeared for more than a decade in issues of The Journal of the CMSC (edited by yours truly), represent the projects that have moved the CMS—and industry itself—forward. This unique resource, which is free to all CMS members in good standing, is required reading for anyone entering the field who wishes to understand where metrology is headed by understanding where it has come from.

The common theme between these three undertakings, and something that really undergirds every single thing that the CMS does, is the future role of metrology and metrologists. Those who have devoted their working lives to this industry might have cause to celebrate the achievements of the past, stretching back 35 years and even earlier in some cases. But it’s a mark of the nature of the CMS, and fitting indeed, that the group seeks to look forward at a tomorrow that it hopes will be brighter even than its many glittering yesterdays.

Without question, 35 years is a long time in the life of active, energetic organization like the Coordinate Metrology Society. But when you think about all the ground that’s been covered, the technologies that have been developed, the young professionals who have been mentored, and the plans that have been laid, one conclusion is inescapable: We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

So here’s to the next 35 years. Happy birthday, CMSC!


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Mike Richman