Get in Line: Machine all the parts you want, you still have to inspect them

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Much of today’s manufacturing environment calls for low volume orders of complex parts.

Linear pallet systems and robotic part handling allow shops to set up dozens of jobs and run them after everyone’s gone home for the day. Unless your inspector likes to work nights, you’re sure to have a big pile of parts waiting to be checked in the morning. It gets worse. If you’re not machining generously toleranced aluminum parts, you’ll need to make some tool offsets. Maybe you can find some night owl machine operators to carpool with the inspector.

The next renaissance
It might be better to forget that old school way of thinking and get yourself some automated inspection equipment. Industrial metrology supplier Carl Zeiss LLC has a number of in-line gauging solutions that are excellent alternatives to unruly night shifts and sleep-deprived employees. “Our classes of in-line gauging machine are typically based on volumetric part size,” says Jose Torres, software engineer at Zeiss’ Michigan office. “If you can hold the part in your hand, we have a machine for that. As parts get heavier and require more automation to manipulate, we have other solutions. All of them are candidates for machine integration.”

There’s more to this than checking a few parts, explains Torres. Today’s “production” runs often require 100 per cent inspection. That’s because you’re no longer supplying 10,000 parts with a delivery three months from now, but releases of 200 pieces every week for the next year. All that changeover warrants a high degree of inspection: customers want it, and manufacturers need it in order to assure no rework or scrap. That means they’ll measure everything. “We have a customer who does that in the Toronto area. They enter the order, make the fixtures, program the machines and go home. Everything is queued up to run during the night, including the inspection.”

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