In manufacturing, metrology establishes a common set of measurements that can ensure quality control, proper maintenance and tool calibration, as well as overall plant safety. WAMIC photo

In manufacturing, metrology establishes a common set of measurements that can ensure quality control, proper maintenance and tool calibration, as well as overall plant safety. WAMIC photo

At the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), the team specializes in metrology; defined as the scientific study of measurement and its application to establish a common understanding of units.

“Accurate dimensional measurement is a critical factor when it comes to manufacturing,” said Neil Wilkinson, research program manager at WAMIC. “Ensuring measurements or figuring out the shape and size of objects throughout all processes makes it possible to create products that match the design to a T and guarantee product quality. This is something we can support industry in doing, as we specialize in metrology at the WAMIC lab.”

In manufacturing, metrology establishes a common set of measurements that can ensure quality control, proper maintenance and tool calibration, as well as overall plant safety. Metrology is a critical component of a manufacturer’s Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) processes, both incoming and outgoing. When controls are in place like this, it can help accelerate manufacturing times because operators have solid information to make business-critical decisions for process optimization.

It also helps engineers reverse engineer worn and broken parts for which there are no existing CAD models. Modern laser-based, non-contact scanners can quickly and efficiently scan complex geometries, saving hours of hand measuring time and reduce downtime because replacement parts can be sent to manufacturing more expediently.

Additionally, dimensional metrology provides the right measurement data for CAD and CAM designers, who use this information for tolerance in machinery. Metrology, and 3D metrology, allows designers to have data on product creation, the machines suited for manufacturing the product, and the effectiveness of these machines. This data is incredibly useful across the manufacturing process.

Metrology can also be used in other industries, like architecture, engineering, construction, and public safety applications. Technologies, like Faro’s Focus laser scanner, create accurate, photorealistic 3D representations of any environment or object in just a few minutes–even in the most extreme outdoors conditions.

Metrology expertise on the WAMIC team

Given his background in the science of measurement, and with an established reputation in Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T), Al Spence, PhD, is proud that the WAMIC lab has the highly sophisticated Coordinate Measure Machine (CMM) available at the teams’ fingertips. This piece of equipment adds to the lab’s other leading-edge dimensional metrology equipment but makes this the most precise measuring technology on the spectrum, Spence says.

In terms of accuracy, the new CMM can measure a tenth of the thickness of a human strand of hair. It is the gold standard, to which other instruments can be calibrated against. However, with such precise machinery, specialized knowledge in operation is key. They are tricky to program and take great know-how to analyze the data. Spence holds these expert skills and has been crucial in teaching students and other WAMIC staff members how to use such equipment.

WAMIC has other state-of-the-art equipment available to them. On hand, they have laser-based, non-contact equipment that is portable/handheld, so they can bring it to your shop if that suits your needs best. It generates highly accurate and repeatable results for scanning large flat surfaces. Technology like these 3D scanners provide the most effective and reliable way to get accurate 3D measurements of physical objects anywhere.

Successful metrology project examples

The WAMIC team has already completed several metrology projects to help manufacturers be as accurate as possible in measurements, leading to improved yield.

A prime example was with a project for the company BVGlazing Systems Ltd. BVGlazing fabricates glass structures for the high-rise residential and commercial construction industry. When the company had two corner crimping machines in their Concord plant in need of repair, they sought the assistance of the WAMIC team. The company did not have any drawings or 3D models of the part, and therefore did not have a starting point. The research team scanned the cracked part and provided BVGlazing the 3D model; they are now using the 3D file in conjunction with their CAM software to CNC machine a new part.

Another example of metrology in action is a recent project WAMIC completed for Airbus Helicopters Canada, a part of the Airbus Group, a global leader in aeronautics, space, and related services. Airbus Helicopters manufactures composite components for various platforms within the group. Some legacy programs designed prior to the advent of 3D design system rely on a master tooling reference. This meant that Catia data for use in their CAD system was not available.

To bridge the gap, Airbus turned to a WAMIC team of two Research Leads and two student Research Assistants, who got to work using their 3D laser scanning software to scan the master tooling, providing fully parametric 3D models for direct import into Airbus Catia CAD software.

To do this, the WAMIC team used equipment including the Faro Scan arm HD with Blue LLP, the Faro Laser Tracker, and the Trackarm Kit – equipment and products that Airbus Helicopters would not have had access to otherwise.

Niagara College was key in assisting Airbus with technology adoption via the acquisition of fully parametric 3D CAD data of their legacy master tooling. Now that the tooling exists in a digital environment, slight modifications can be made to the geometry to create new tooling reflecting as-built or as-required conditions. This proof of concept can now be applied to future applications through technology adoption. Niagara College provided the necessary testing and technology de-risking which allowed Airbus to upgrade their own 3D laser scanner for future development.

Metrology Demo Day event recap

On Oct. 24, WAMIC hosted a successful dimensional metrology demo day event at the Welland campus of Niagara College. The event featured technology demos from industry partners Faro, Mitutoyo Canada and CAD Micro Solutions, as well as a Q&A with technical leads at each organization.

Faculty, industry, and students got the chance to ask questions about where the industry is headed, what skills students will need to be successful in the workforce, and how industry can use metrology to their benefit.

WAMIC service capabilities

While the demo day is over, WAMIC’s team is available anytime to show off this and other technologies available for growing your business; discuss the expertise available, from day-to-day support in your quality department to long-range new product plans. WAMIC is your competitive advantage.

For research and development partnership opportunities, contact David DiPietro, manager, business development, at ddipietro@niagaracollege.ca.