Alicona Demonstrates Automation, 3D Metrology, and Machine Tooling at IMTS 2016


Alicona, a supplier of automated measurement systems for the tooling industry, is expanding its range of production-integrated measurement solutions. At IMTS 2016, Booth #E-5833, the leader in high-resolution optical 3D metrology will demonstrate how new automation possibilities add to the concept of “smart manufacturing.”

Full measurement and integration — these are the requirements of modern production concepts that have made measurement systems an integral part of their processes.

"In my view, there are two main trends in the development and implementation of modern production strategies," said Stefan Scherer, CEO of Alicona. "First of all, measurement systems must become an integral part of production processes. This requires full automation and operation without metrology know-how. Second, the industry demands measurement systems that are highly customized to individual applications."

Alicona, supplier of high-resolution optical 3D measurement systems for quality assurance in laboratory and production environments, knows how to meet these requirements. Its automated tool measurement systems of the globally used EdgeMaster systems are tailored exactly to the needs of production managers in the tooling industry. Now, Alicona expands its range of automated solutions. A new automation interface allows users to employ further optical 3D form and roughness measurement systems, enabling fully automated measurements as part of the production process. One example is the use of “InfiniteFocus,” exhibited at IMTS 2016, to measure micro-structured components.

Automated Dimensional Measurements During Production

InfiniteFocus is a high-resolution optical 3D surface measurement system for quality assurance of microstructure surfaces. The system offers various functions for dimensional inspection and surface finish measurement. The range of measurable components is almost unlimited, which is due to the system's combination of coaxial illumination and a ring light. Until now, the system has mainly been utilized in laboratory settings. With the new automation interface Automation Manager, measurements can now be carried out automatically, enabling the use of InfiniteFocus in production.

The focus of these measurements is GD&T measurements. Parameters and positions to be measured are individually defined by an administrator beforehand and include, among others, angle, distances, roundness, or flatness. In production, workers then choose the component that needs to be measured from a drop-down menu or by using a bar-code scanner and initiate the measurement by simply pressing a button. Everything else is carried out automatically. The system then provides a report including OK or Not OK status.

"The entire measurement process is automated,” said Scherer. “Users can't influence the results in any way. This type of automation makes it possible to control the entire production process without interruption. Components can be measured during any stage of manufacturing. This ensures consistent product quality and an economically efficient production process.”

The automated measurement routines are suitable for all industries the measurement system InfiniteFocus is commonly used in. This includes, among others, the tooling, molding, automotive, electronics, and aerospace industries, as well as micro and precision manufacturing and medical engineering.

CAD/CAM Integration

"To us, automation means to establish metrology in the entire production process and, consequently, making production more efficient,” Scherer said. “It goes beyond data exchange at a single isolated point.”

An additional CAD/CAM interface works in combination with the software automation manager. This enables quality assurance to start in the design phase, as InfiniteFocus can already be implemented at this point by using it virtually. This allows the designer to define the correct and necessary measurement positions in a component's CAD file. The virtual operation of the system includes all handling, from probe positioning to defining measurement ranges in 3D.

Production Integrated Metrology

Alicona is well-experienced on implementing its core technology Focus-Variation into new production concepts with a high level of automation. With the technical principle of Focus-Variation and its smart sensors, Alicona provides the “eye” to the manufacturing process. The integration of automation, 3D metrology, and machine tooling enables smart manufacturing. Users receive real-time data about both the surface quality of their manufactured component and process quality. Deficient workpieces are recognized early and machining parameters are optimized instantly.

Other production integrated measurement solutions include robot based metrology, or closed-loop manufacturing. In closed-loop manufacturing, the measurement sensor is directly integrated into the “machine tool.” This allows production to optimize itself and users profit from up to four times improved machining accuracy. In process measurements can also be realized with robotic integrations. Quality assurance can be applied to a larger range of samples using the near limitless positioning flexibility of a robot.