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Chuck Pfeffer


Look Ma, No Hands!

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 09:38

Remember when you got your first bicycle? You probably started riding it with training wheels. Soon enough the training wheels came off, and then you eventually went looking for hills and jumps. At some point, as you became better, you took your hands off the handle bars. There was a liberating feeling of freedom, riding with your hands in the air, feeling the warm breeze as you blazed along on a hot summer afternoon.

Taking your hands off feels like freedom.

During the past few decades, we have seen metrology equipment move from manual gauges and optical scopes, to fully computer-controlled systems, but most of them were still making contact with a probe or tool to make a measurement. The training wheels were off, and we were speeding down a hill, but we still had our hands on the handlebars. Noncontact measurement has been available for a long time, but it is only during the last five years that it has really taken off.

If you have been to a recent quality trade show, you certainly noticed that the halls are now filled with noncontact solutions. Traditional technologies are all touting noncontact offerings. CMMs with scanning heads, articulated arms with pistol-grip scanners, laser trackers and optical trackers with scanner accessories, and robots with laser line and 3-D imager end effectors.

Higher accuracies, faster imaging, higher resolutions, user-friendly software solutions, and more powerful computers have enabled us to take our hands off the handlebars. Whether the job requires manual manipulation of a scanner over a complex custom part, or automated movement of an imager over a larger part for automated inspection, the noncontact tools available today can deliver high accuracy for quality control and reverse engineering.

Companies are not adopting these new technologies just because they are available; they are using them because they deliver the most efficient solutions. Noncontact systems are capable of collecting millions of 3-D coordinate points in just seconds, making comprehensive data available for real-time analysis. Software can take the raw data and compare it to a CAD model or create a model as a virtual representation of the part. Noncontact data give you the freedom to collect more data in less time.

Every year, new noncontact technology is introduced and it can be hard to keep up with it. If you are ready to take your hands off the handlebars and experience the freedom of noncontact measurements, you should consider joining the Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS) at our meeting in New Orleans on July 16, 2012. The Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference (CMSC) showcases the most advanced 3-D metrology equipment and features 24 technical presentations on the use of the technology. There is no better place to see and discuss the most cutting edge systems in the world of 3-D metrology. So if you want to increase the efficiency of your production, assembly, or quality processes, I’m sure you will find what you are looking for at CMSC.


About The Author

Chuck Pfeffer’s picture

Chuck Pfeffer

Chuck Pfeffer, director of product management, 3-D imaging at FARO Technologies Inc., is the chair for the 2012 Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference (CMSC) and has served on the CMSC Executive Committee for the past five years. He coordinated the conference workshops and participated on the Metrology Certification Sub-Committee. Pfeffer also is an active member of the Society for Manufacturing Engineers (SME) 3D Imaging Tech Group.