What Is Metrology In Manufacturing and How Is It Used?

Automation and digitalization of manufacturing processes have made it easier for manufacturers to produce thousands, even millions, of pieces of products per production cycle. While technology like CNC machining or injection molding allows us to replicate production and mass-produce parts, the components that carry out these processes are still prone to wear and tear. The manufactured parts can end up being just slightly off the correct measurements.

Inconsistencies in parts manufacturing are unacceptable because they become unusable if the dimensions exceed acceptable tolerances. Inaccuracies can lead to non-compliance, which can have devastating consequences related to product quality and safety.  

Metrology is essential in manufacturing because of this. Manufacturers can maintain quality standards through metrology and reduce the risks of inconsistent production output.

What Is Metrology in Manufacturing?

We’ll revisit its definition to answer the question, “What is metrology in manufacturing?”. 

“Metrology” has Greek origins and means the study of measurements. The field emerged when there was an increasing need to manufacture interchangeable parts for machinery and other mechanical components. It became essential to manufacture parts that fell within a specific range – a tolerance range – beyond which a part would be considered defective because then it won’t fit with the other components. 

What is metrology in manufacturing today? It ensures that production stays consistent by regularly calibrating machines and conducting product quality checks. Production machines are constantly tested, and the parts produced are measured to ensure the production process and equipment are accurate and precise. 

Thanks to metrology, manufacturers can reduce, if not eliminate, uncertainty and error in the manufacturing process.

The Relationship Between Metrology and Manufacturing

Metrology is now integral to modern manufacturing. It plays a vital role at the beginning and end of a production cycle:

Pre-Production: Calibration

Manufacturers use metrological instruments to calibrate tools and machinery before production starts. The goal is to ensure their accuracy and precision so that the parts produced will fall within acceptable tolerances and that variations, if any, won’t cause an issue with fit, functionality, and overall quality assurance scores. 

Post-Production: Quality Control

After each production cycle, manufacturers use metrology methods to check if the output meets the correct specifications. Quality control is crucial because it ensures the company doesn’t release low-quality products that won’t meet customers’ expectations. Moreover, if quality control finds that the parts produced are near or past acceptable tolerances, manufacturers will know they must check and realign their manufacturing equipment. 

Metrology is not just the measurement of parts and machinery but also the study of measurement techniques and the development of new technologies to refine existing measurement techniques. 

Metrology Techniques Used in Manufacturing

Different metrology instruments and techniques are used for calibrating machinery and quality control. Here are some examples:

  1. Dimensional Metrology – This measures sizes and distances over an object’s surface. It is used to quantify an object’s physical form, size, volume, and relational distances between distinct features. Dimensional metrology is vital in developing standardized measurement units like the metric system.
  2. Surface Metrology – This branch of metrology focuses on surface topography. It measures the tiny features on surfaces and analyzes an object’s texture and roughness. Surface metrology is so precise that it measures thickness, flatness, and warpage in products like metal sheets, glass, and other transparent materials.
  3. Optical Metrology – This is the science of using light to observe and gather data about an object’s physical properties. Simply put, optical metrology is making measurements using the fundamental properties of light as a standard. It can determine measurements based on how light interacts across surfaces – specifically its speed, frequency, polarization, wavelength, direction, etc.
  4. Coordinate Metrology – This branch of metrology takes precise measurements of objects with complex shapes and surfaces. It uses the idea of coordinate mapping to determine if a part meets physical specifications. For example, a coordinate metrology machine can map coordinates on a workpiece so that a technician – or in some cases, a secondary device like a CNC scanner – can compare the parts passing through the production line more accurately, finding out if any of them is way past tolerances compared to the rest.

Quality Control and Metrology

Manufacturing continuously evolves and develops with technological advancements. Moreover, customers needing parts for their respective manufacturing needs increasingly demand precision. Keeping up with such requirements is important. Otherwise, customers will look for manufacturers that can meet their needs and take their business there.

Metrology has become more vital to manufacturing now that there is an increasing need for precision in surface finish details, texture, and other physical attributes that cannot be measured manually. Especially in industries where precision and accuracy are paramount (i.e., automotive, aviation, medical device, and aerospace), manufacturers depend on metrology tools and experts to reduce variances by a millionth of an inch, if not zero. 

Metrology and Manufacturing: Trends for the Future 

What does the future hold for metrology and manufacturing? Here are some expectations for the industry in the next couple of years:

  • New, more sophisticated metrology tools will be developed that can take 3D measurements right on the production floor.
  • Improvements in 3D scanning and measuring techniques will enable quality assurance managers to solve problems and make sound production process decisions quickly.
  • Metrology will be more automated and integrated in several stages of the production cycle instead of just at the beginning and end.
  • AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning will be integrated into metrological procedures. This development should reduce specialists’ workload and the need to supervise or manually control manufacturing equipment constantly.
  • Metrologists will be challenged with refining algorithms and ensuring they perform as intended, like taking measurements and correcting procedures in real-time.

Improve Your Processes With Metrology

Now that we’ve covered the answer to “What is metrology in manufacturing?”, you might consider integrating it into your production if you haven’t already. 

Unlock opportunities to improve efficiencies and product quality through metrology. ATT Metrology Solutions, one of the few Boeing-certified metrology companies in the world, offers metrology solutions essential to manufacturers worldwide. We design and build integrated measuring systems, offer equipment rentals, provide skilled labor services, and offer consultation services. No matter your industry, your company can benefit from our specialist knowledge in tooling calibration, measurement, quality assurance needs, and more.

Contact ATT Metrology Solutions for your next project to ensure its success.