Metrology News recently spoke with Dr. Heiko Wenzel-Schinzer, CDO (Chief Data Officer) of WENZEL-Group, about his views on the future role of dimensional measurement in the new era of smart manufacturing and how process-integrated metrology and its challenges are viewed from both supplier and user perspectives.
Q: What trends do you currently see in quality assurance?
A: I see a clear change in many industries resulting from the major technology trends Industry 4.0, Internet of Things and the shift to e-mobility, but also from the now very rapidly growing problems with the shortage of skilled workers in many companies. The technical innovations lead to a significant change in the parts to be measured, the measurement tasks, but also the location of the measurement. The lack of human resources places further demands on the usability of the measurement solutions.
Q: Quality assurance is increasingly becoming a direct production function. How does this affect traditional dimensional inspection equipment?
A: In production, we have to deal with different environmental conditions in terms of temperature, air purity, vibrations, and so on. The metrology must adapt here; it must be more robust to external influences and analyze and compensate for them better. Of course, it is possible to work traditionally in production by using special enclosures and measuring rooms here, but space in production is even more precious than elsewhere in the company, so this is not an option in the long run. But the expectations for speed and quality of measurement results are getting higher and higher, so this is a really exciting challenge for all of us.
Q: How does the location of metrology change an equipment supplier's focus?
A: From the customer's point of view, the requirements for the measurement technology supplier are quite simple: exact as in the measuring room, small in space, robust in application and fast in measurement and evaluation. For us, this means: innovative mechanical engineering with resilient materials, equipping our machines with sensors and cyber-physical systems for direct feedback of the measurement to the current environment, fast measurement times through scanning, 5-axis measuring heads and optical sensors, and an extreme focus on simple usability of hardware and software.
Q: What are the most important changes you are bringing as a supplier?
A: I see the following five main changes:
- The location of the measurement changes the focus
When we use the metrology in the measuring room, it is primarily a question of checking the deviation of the actual values from the target values. Ultimately, this is a question of absolute accuracy: Are we within tolerance or not? But if the metrology is installed directly in production, then we primarily want to ensure the process reliability of our production. So ultimately it's about the repeatability of our production, or do we have to readjust something on the processing machines because our results change undesirably over time.
- The duration of the measurement is shorter
If we move the location of the measurement to production, then we have to adapt to the cycle in production and therefore have less time for the individual measurement, especially as larger random samples or even a 100% inspection are often to be carried out. Measure faster - for this we need faster measuring systems such as optical sensors or the fast, tactile 5-axis measuring head such as the Renishaw Revo.
- Amount of measured data increases significantly
Traditionally, even before starting a measurement, we looked very closely at which features and elements really needed to be measured to ensure production quality. We tackled and evaluated these points; the result was a manageable set of measurement points and a clearly focused evaluation with a measurement report.
High-speed scanning and optical measurements allow us to capture large amounts of data very quickly. This helps us keep up with the cycle time of production, but we also need to match this data with what is needed to control the process. Otherwise, the data is wasted. This is where working with the customer can lead to very innovative solutions for data processing.
- The data quality increases enormously
The amount of data just described naturally opens up new possibilities for evaluation. First of all, the way we capture data has advantages for the quality of the data. We don't just approach individual points, but also capture surfaces, recognize features and edges, and thus have a much broader view of the measured object than before. In the case of anomalies, we can go into the neighborhood of the actually relevant measurement points and check other things; this is where the point cloud offers enormous added value.
- Significant growth in data analysis techniques
One of the technical innovations that also significantly influences metrology is data mining, machine learning, numerous methods of so-called artificial intelligence. Whereas it used to be up to the user to identify relevant correlations and patterns, these methods can make us aware of new facts, visualize them and thus make them the subject of our analyses. I believe that these techniques can support us very strongly: no more, but also no less.
Q: Device manufacturers have understandably focused more on functionality and less on usability in the past. How do you think this will change in the future?
A: The new requirement for software usability is to make extensive and complex functions easy to use. At the beginning, we already talked about the shortage of skilled workers. When the metrology shifts to production, we find users there whose job is actually something other than measuring. These people now get the additional task: "Put the part on the measuring machine and see what comes out." And that's exactly what the software has to support. The quick operation for non-measurement experts who "only" want to see an Ok / not Ok result at the end. But the "experts" also expect more and are used to easy-to-use apps on their smartphones from the private sector.
Q: How do you see automation in equipment programming simplifying equipment integration and its ongoing adaptation to changes in production parts?
A: I see the trend and also understand why it makes sense. In many industries, we work with fewer employees on rapidly changing parts. The days when we could produce the same part for many years are over in many industries. That's where automated manufacturing cells need to adapt quickly, without a lot of reprogramming and setup time. But for me, this is a logical consequence of our Industry 4.0 transformation. More individuality and rapid change, and that too with fewer staff because they simply don't exist. This is a challenge for all of us, but successful implementation will secure our industrial future and thus our companies.
Q: How will the data generated be used in the factories of the future, and by whom?
A: I believe that we will see a new job description with the Metrology Data Scientist.
Q: In your opinion, what is the future roadmap for metrology?
A: Accuracy and speed are currently the main requirements of many customers for the metrology. Reusability of the old programs is also a very often requested secondary condition. From my point of view, speed today starts with the design, using PMI to quickly generate a test plan from the design model and then a suitable measurement program; state of the art with all available sensors and together with the expertise of trained users at a few central points. These programs are then transferred to measuring machines which can be operated by "non-metrology experts" with very simple applications or even integrated fully automatically, the data is then managed by the Metrology Data Scientist to ensure efficient process control.
The company-wide centralization of metrological know-how ensures better comparability of results, regardless of the machine or sensor technology used, thus creating more independence from a specific supplier and room for innovative solutions.
"Even in metrology , it's not the big that eats the small, but the innovative that eats the slow."
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