Where we’ve come from and where we’re headed: A metrology industry insight
During an engineering career spanning three decades, Graham Shaw has faced his fair share of challenges.
None were perhaps bigger than in the early days of OGP UK, when quality control processes in manufacturing largely involved traditional – and often unreliable – manual measurement methods.
Slowly but surely, the company’s Sales Manager and his team began to change the industry mindset. They made a commitment to educate the market about OGP’s multi-sensor metrology systems, whose world-leading technology could guarantee automated, fast, accurate and repeatable data about production line performance.
Using a combination of high-class video optics, lasers and probes, one fully capable multi-sensor system has the ability to measure complex dimensional forms and surface relationships that are often impossible to capture via conventional single-sensor systems.
The result is that any issues associated with non-tolerance can be identified and addressed immediately, leading to less scrap, minimal rework and dramatically increased product throughput – crucial in today’s highly regulated world where parts are becoming smaller and customers want right-first-time assurances.
Here, Mr Shaw reflects on how manufacturing has evolved over the years and provides a unique metrology industry insight into what’s to come in the future.
One step ahead
“Our success in the early days was in medical mouldings and mobile phones, with people like Nokia and Ericsson and the traditional names in that arena,” said Mr Shaw. “Printed circuit boards for telecommunications firms were also big.
“We were supplying measurement equipment to them all and became the go-to company.
“The technical advances in those industries changed things. We developed our own optics and sensors and, by acquisition, getting involved in other companies helped us to push on in a new direction.
“We were always going to naturally develop and that’s one thing OGP is very good at, ensuring it stays at the forefront of technology and ahead of the game.
“Years ago there wasn’t much competition around with optical and multi-sensor – maybe only three or four companies when I started. Bit by bit people tried to latch onto this trend for fast measurement, going for true optical and multi-sensor machines.
“It was mainly down to the demand for higher throughput. People in production wanted to turn out more components and these needed to be inspected to meet quality standards. Optics give you that ability as the method is quicker and more reliable, while the new hardware and software provides full 3D measurement capability.
“Even now there are more and more products that will be coming into the marketplace over the next 12 to 24 months and we’ll be seeing them in the UK shortly. These include a large field-of-view machine with very good measuring capability, as well as further software developments.
“We’ve gone into the 3D realm with 3D CAD programming on the machine or offline, which gives quicker programme generation and higher productivity.”
A multi-industry solution
“Those who can provide faster inspection capabilities are changing the marketplace. Customers want speed, accuracy and automation, but with the right quality.
“More and more companies are doing gage R&R and making sure machines can do what they need them to before they buy. They want proof that the machine is capable for their manufacturing process, regardless of the operator and the methods being used. It’s about proving you’re going to get consistent results time and time again.
“OGP’s current sweet spot involves anyone that’s moulding, either for medical, consumer goods or aerospace, which is where we’ve always been successful, and I can only see that continuing moving forward.
“Defence is another area we’re proud to be in and have always supplied into. We have a very good spread and are dealing with almost every industry out there, but if anything we’re looking to get into more automotive companies and tier one suppliers.
“The mouldings in automotive on bumper assemblies and so on tend to be too big as our measurement strength is in the ½m cubed area. However, we can do smaller drive chain parts, valves, pistons and braking systems, for example.
“At the moment automotive manufacturers tend do it a different way, but we think we could do it better and quicker. It’s just a case of getting in front of the right people and proving it.
“We have every chance of doing that as we’re part of the Carfulan Group, which has four companies dedicated to supplying complementary manufacturing technologies like 3D printing and offline tool-presetting systems. We have shared data and are talking to the same customers, so more and more opportunities are coming through.”
“The technology we have sells itself on capability, not price.
“We have the Rolls-Royce of the metrology machine world and therefore don’t need to compete with the lower end of the marketplace.
“There are, however, products due to be released that will change the industry and make people think. For example, do they want to buy a co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) with a probe or invest in a true multi-sensor gauge system that will give more capability, reliability and accuracy?
“I see OGP as the only company capable of satisfying that need for quality. The products are being consistently developed and people who deal with us can look forward to some incredible new technology.
“But I should also say that the older machines are extremely reliable. We have ones in the marketplace still in regular use that are around 20 years old.”
The dawn of a new era
OGP has recently acquired an exciting new technology in the form of Shapegrabber, an automated, highly accurate metrology-grade laser scanner designed to fully measure complex part geometries quickly and easily.
Calling on OGP’s 70-plus years of precision measurement expertise, its blue light laser projector and high-speed camera can capture more than 1.5 million points per second, bringing speed, accuracy, ease of use and complete coverage to industrial 3D inspection.
Mr Shaw believes it will hail the dawn of an exciting new age in reverse manufacturing.
He said: “In the years ahead we’ll be pushing through new technology which will get products through production faster and we’ve been looking at the 3D reverse engineering model.
“With Shapegrabber we’ll have the ability to be quicker in scanning a product and creating it, for example, using 3D printing. That will involve talking to more design and inspection engineers.
“The technology will be invaluable when someone needs know how good a product is and wants to get information back more quickly into design, before moving on to manufacture.
“It’s closing the loop quicker on the design to manufacture of a part.”
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You can find Graham Shaw on LinkedIn here
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