Metrology News' recently spoke with Dr. Heike Wenzel, CEO of the WENZEL Group, about the future role of three-dimensional coordinate metrology in the new era of smart factories and seamlessly integrated manufacturing processes.
Q: The age of smart manufacturing has dawned. How do you think the role of the CMM will change as manufacturing adapts to Quality4.0?
A: In our view, intelligent manufacturing is characterized above all by the flexible use of all available resources and the expanded use of all available data for internal and external communication. As one of the quality leaders in the manufacture of flexible and highly accurate coordinate measuring machines, WENZEL feels very much at home in the area of Quality 4.0 and sees its increasing importance. Our systems help our customers with incoming inspection, directly on the shop floor or in measuring rooms. We provide process stability and enable every level of quality assurance from simple good/bad inspection to deeper analysis of form and position tolerances. WENZEL CMMs support first article inspection, SPC inspection, fast measurement cycles, full part analysis by scanning the entire workpiece, and provide comparative data to CAD models. We see many opportunities from the rise of smart manufacturing, which requires greater flexibility of all processes, machines and people involved -our CMM solutions as universal measurement systems support these flexibility requirements.
Q: Measurement sensor technology has evolved from tactile to optical over the past decade. Do you see this trend accelerating in the future and how is Wenzel adapting its products to the optical shift?
A: Optical measurement sensor technology has become established in recent years for coordinate measuring technology applications and is becoming increasingly important. Not to be underestimated is the share that tactile metrology still has today and, in our view, will have in the future. We at WENZEL are broadly positioned to offer our customers multisensor measuring machines that meet their specific requirements. We offer100% optical solutions such as our MSCAN handheld scanner or our CORE, which is equipped with a proprietary white light sensor for non-contact and very fast measurement. The life cycle of a WENZEL CMM can easily span 20-30 years, so we focus on offering a wide range of optical sensors for our machines . This allows our customers to switch to optical solutions when they deem it necessary. In addition to our own sensors, we work with specialists such as NIKON and KREON to offer our customers a wide choice here. However, we also see that many customers want to measure very quickly or need a high data density - optical systems are predestined for this - but also cannot do without accuracy. With Renishaw's REVO 5-axis measuring system, WENZEL offers an excellent productivity tool that can measure extremely quickly, with high data density and accuracy in one solution.
Q: What are the technological limitations of current CMMs that need to be addressed in order for the CMM to fulfil its role in the data-driven factories of the future?
A: I don't see any technological limits at the moment, but rather too many isolated solutions in terms of data exchange and M2M communication.We need open standards, we need standards that are implemented by all partners in the manufacturing data chain in order to exchange data quickly and securely, but above all we need a comparable interpretation of the available data. WENZEL is working with many other partners with the VDMA on an industry standard based on OPC UA, which is certainly a first step. These efforts will only really bear fruit and excel when the industry no longer allows manufacturer standards to be enforced instead of open standards.
Q: Computed tomography is becoming increasingly important for non-destructive testing and dimensional inspection of parts and assemblies. Do you see CT scanners starting to undermine the role of traditional CMMs? Is CT technology more suited to certain industries? Do you see inline CT inspection becoming more prevalent?
A: Computed tomography has arrived in metrology! This is a good thing, and it has been a long road. First and foremost, WENZEL is pleased to see the acceptance of industrial 3D CT applications in the manufacturing world, as we have been working in this field since 2008 and have come a long way. Our experience has taught us that CTs will not replace classic CMMs for the most part, but will specifically complement them; the focus of measurement is on internal structures, where a classic CMM cannot be used at all. In some areas - especially inlinemetrology - CT technology competes with optical measuring cells; the next few years will show in which applications it will become established. CTs are increasingly being used in all industries, but at present the focus is certainly on the inspection of plastics, multi-material composites, mission-critical components in aerospace, medical technology and parts manufactured using additive manufacturing processes.
Q: Horizontal arm CMM were once the "workhorse" of sheet metal inspection in the automotive industry. Portable arms were the first to challenge the horizontal CMM and in recent years the 6-axis robot with optical scanning has made a further impact. What role do you think horizontal armCMM will play in the next ten years?
A: There have been many changes in the field of sheet metal inspection in the automotive industry in recent years. And yes, many different technologies have evolved and challenged the classic horizontal measuring arms. We are currently seeing a significant increase in demand in the area of horizontal arm CMMs. This current demand is coming from both our traditional customers in this field, but especially from the electric car development and production environment, which shows us that our modern horizontal CMMs will continue to have a place in the future. WENZEL Horizontal arms here often have combinations of tactile and optical sensors and offer significant accuracy and long-term stability advantages over robot-based solutions. We don't really see the portable arms as competition here; for fast and flexible use, a portable arm is very well suited, but for repeatable verification in a series production, there are too many sources of error to rely solely on the data from the portable measuring arm.
Q: Wenzel has recently returned to the gear metrology market and launched a new range of products and software solutions. What was the driving force behind this business initiative?
A: Giving up the gear business was a concession made when the company was divided up among the family members. WENZEL , however, remained active in the market as a system supplier of Liebherr gear technology. Strategically, we never wanted to withdraw from this market, and I am pleased that we are back. WENZEL now has a completely renewed hardware and software solution. We are convinced that with our fully integrated and coordinated hardware and software solution, we have an excellent solution for today's gearbox market. Another motivation was the fact that we can measure and evaluate gears with our entire product portfolio. WENZEL is the only manufacturer that can analyze gears not only on a special gear tester, but also on "normal" CMMs with or without a rotary table and using a computer tomograph.
I am proud to say that with our new GT series we are not only using the WM | Gear and WM | Gear Analyzer gear cutting software, but also our universal measuring software WM | Quartis for measuring other components. A great advantage for our customers!
So technically speaking, you could say that the WENZEL GT series gear measuring equipment is the first fully certified 3D measuring system for rotationally symmetrical parts. This is another example of how we try to create added value for our customers, either through horizontal integration - e.g. gear analysis on all machine types - or through vertical integration - combining gear and true CMM capability on one gear inspection device. And the same software platform is used for all solutions.
Q: In addition to its portfolio of standard catalog products, Wenzel is able to provide customized measurement solutions. Do you see the trend towards customized measurement solutions increasing as measurement systems are increasingly integrated into manufacturing?
A: Yes. We feel this every day, and we also implement many very exciting individual projects here. Particularly in production, the measuring solutions must be synchronized with the processing machines in such a way that the size of the measuring volume fits the components, the measuring time fits the cycle time of the production and we integrate our machines seamlessly into the customer's automation concept if required. With our very individual possibilities with the "classic" CMMs, but also with our special machines for the bearing area ("SF series"), WENZEL always finds a suitable answer to the customers' requirements.
Overall, our high vertical range of manufacture is proving to be a great advantage. We can implement flexible solutions better than most of our competitors and are also not affected by delivery bottlenecks, as we produce many parts ourselves, which currently has a very positive effect on delivery times.
Q: We are all working hard to reduce our environmental footprint. Wenzel is one of the few CMM manufacturers to continue the tradition of making granite CMMs. How do you assess the carbon footprint of a granite CMM compared to its aluminum-structured counterpart?
A: To be honest, we made the decision to build with granite long before the debate about the carbon footprint. We are convinced - and our developers keep checking this at regular intervals with elaborate analyses - that granite currently still offers the best starting point for a flexible, high-precision CMM . The elaborate machining process and the process of manual lapping at WENZEL ensure a very high and, above all, durable basic accuracy of our machines. But now to the CO2 footprint: of course, the mining and transport of granite also causes CO2 emissions, which is one of the reasons why we use local granite from there in our production in China, which is geared towards the Asian market. But I think it's undeniable that CMMs with aluminum structures leave a much bigger carbon footprint than our CMMs. The overall design of our machines and the accuracy of our lapped guides allow our machines to operate with significantly reduced air gaps and therefore have lower air consumption -certainly a consideration for customers looking for economical systems that also help them save energy. Overall, this will certainly be an exciting discussion in the marketplace in the coming years as metrology customers need to consider the impact of the materials used, the energy and resource consumption, and the machines in their overall balance sheet. In this respect, we feel we are very well positioned.
Q: Wenzel seems unique in that it is one of the few global CMM companies that has remained a privately held family business. What are the main market challenges you face as CEO when the pandemic era in manufacturing is over?
A: I took over WENZEL from my father Werner Wenzel . My father was a passionate entrepreneur who always wanted one thing: to build the best quality measuring equipment in the world and thus create a long-term partnership with customers. These values - lasting quality and partnership - ensure that we cannot always offer the cheapest machines, but if you look at the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)you can see that it is also worth it for the customers of Wenzel .
We at Wenzel remain true to this passion and especially as a family business with a very long tenure in management and highly qualified employees, we are very successful in communicating these values to all of our 600 employees worldwide, building on this DNA and realizing quality together. The challenge after Corona will be to continue on our successful path and ensure that we reach out to all existing and new potential customers in a way that allows us to demonstrate the special value of the CMMs built by WENZEL and all other product lines.
Of course, markets are changing, they are changing faster and faster and becoming more digital. Here, as a medium-sized company, we are faster and more flexible than large competitors. We are looking forward to the next few years and hope that one day we can get in touch with you, the reader of this interview, to demonstrate our system in practice.
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