Accuracy, precision, and consistency are crucial for ensuring product quality and reliability in the aerospace, engineering, automotive, and electronics manufacturing industries. These are industries wherein a fraction of a millimeter can affect performance and safety. The need for razor-sharp precision in these industries gave rise to metrology, or the study of measurements and their applications in various industries.
Metrology companies can only be as good as their equipment. Without the proper tools, verifying the accuracy of a component and consistency of a manufacturing machine in cutting, molding, and other operations will be extremely difficult.
This blog delves into answering the question “What is a metrology instrument?” and its uses in various industries.
What Is a Metrology Instrument?
Metrology instruments are measuring devices for measuring physical quantities. Every piece of equipment is designed to meet specific measurement needs.
What is metrology inspection equipment used for? Metrology tools are primarily used in these areas:
- Manufacturing or Production
- Product Quality Control
- Machine Calibration and Maintenance
The data collected using metrology instruments inform manufacturers if their products meet the required specifications and, if there are deviations in their measurements, whether they are still acceptable. When the tolerances are exceeded, a decision would have to be made on whether they will be repurposed or destroyed because they can’t be sold to customers.
When used in conjunction, metrology instruments enable manufacturers to uphold uncompromising standards of product quality, safety, and performance.
Types of Metrology Inspection Equipment
With technology becoming more advanced, more metrology machines that can take extremely precise measurements are created. Here are examples of the different types of metrology equipment used across industries today:
- Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs)
CMMs are sophisticated measuring machines commonly used in engineering and manufacturing, specifically for checking various dimensions of manufactured parts in a streamlined and automated process. They are helpful for quality control because they can take different measurements faster and more accurately than manual measuring using micrometers and height gauges.
CMMs are suitable for measuring distances between two defined points on a 3D object. A coordinate measuring machine uses probes to detect points A and B and is powered by specialized software. They come with controllers and digital scanners metrologists use to map the coordinates and features on the surface of the part being measured.
Here are examples of the most commonly used CMMs:
- Bridge CMM – The most popular CMM, this equipment is used to measure small and medium-sized items that can be put on a table. It gives highly accurate dimensional measurements with its three-axis probe.
- Gantry CMM – This machine is more common in factories that manufacture large objects such as cars, construction equipment, giant gears, and large molds and dies. Shaped like a gantry crane, this type of CMM is mounted on two points, and the crane bearing the measuring probe hovers over the object on the floor.
- Cantilever CMM – Unlike gantry CMMs, cantilever CMMs are supported on only one point (the X-axis beam is inflexible), allowing access to three sides of the measured part. These machines are best for measuring small objects.
- Horizontal Arm CMM – These are similar to gantry CMMs in that they measure large objects like appliances, cars, and aerospace parts. Horizontal CMMs are best for measuring elongated parts that are difficult to mount and measure using other CMM machines.
- Handheld CMM – These portable CMMs are popular in machine shops and quality control in manufacturing. Small, compact, and easily transportable, metrologists can take these portable CMMs anywhere in a facility or on the field.
- Optical Inspection Systems
In metrology, optical inspection systems use magnifying materials, such as magnifying lenses and complex optical comparators, to give specialists a better view of the parts they’re measuring. Optical inspection systems are often used to measure metal products, parts with tiny features, and objects or parts that are difficult to reach and measure line up next to a measuring tool.
Optical inspection systems are non-contact measurement tools and can be automated (automated optical inspection or AOI systems).
- Image-Based Measurement Systems
These machines take optical inspection to the next level. Image-based measurement systems also use probes or optical inspection and measurement components to detect and map surface coordinates. However, the measurement doesn’t happen during the probing or imaging. Instead, these machines produce digital images of the part and obtain measurements from the imaging data.
- Precision Measuring Tools
Manual precision measuring tools like calipers, micrometers, universal bevel protractors, gauges, dial indicators, and thermometers are some of the most basic answers to the question, “What is metrology equipment?”. Even with advanced measuring tools being available now, metrologists still use these tools designed for measuring specific features like thickness, gaps, curvatures, etc. Though less high-tech than the equipment above, they are still useful for quick quality control checks and machine calibrations.
This is just an overview of the answer to “What is a metrology instrument?”, the different types of measuring instruments, and their uses. There are more high-precision measuring tools and machines available with applications in various industries.
Acquire Affordable Metrology Equipment From ATT Metrology Solutions
Knowing what metrology inspection equipment is can be useful, and making the most of these tools for quality control and assurance can have lasting positive effects on your business. Your products will be consistently high-quality, making your customers happy and loyal to your brand.
ATT Metrology Solutions can help you obtain high-precision metrology equipment and integrate them into your production or quality control procedures. We are one of the few companies worldwide certified by Boeing and Airbus to perform metrology inspections and other services. You can trust our expertise and industry knowledge about metrology equipment no matter your industry.
If you have more questions on what metrology equipment is and how your business can benefit from it, call us, and we’ll be happy to provide information and answers to your questions.