Coordinate measuring machines are a key part of coordinating a production line, especially since parts are shipped across the world before being used in the final product. Look no further than the problems facing Bombardier to see why it’s important that your shop has the right tools for the job. An anonymous source at their Thunder Bay plant, where the company is assembling vehicles for several LRT projects in Canada, told reporters that the plant was not receiving standardized parts. Rather, the parts coming from another plant in Mexico had to be reshaped to fit, leading to lengthy delays, missed deadlines, and ultimately lost business when their customer, Metrolinx, placed a large order for more trains with competitor Alstom. Clearly there’s a problem with their quality assurance, one that your business can’t afford to make. Consider some of the following options when you set out to buy coordinate measuring machines for you QA department.

Consider Portable Arms

Portable arms like the Absolute Arm by ROMER are great entry-level coordinate measuring machines as they are affordable, portable, flexible, and easy to operate. The one-handed operation of the ROMER arm prevents operator fatigue and with 35 configurations available, you won’t lack for an arm length that can handle any component. Their flexibility and ability to “leapfrog” makes them suitable for measuring oversized components in automotive or aviation, for example. They can be used for probing as well as high speed laser scanning (which can collect thousands of data points rapidly for 3D measurement). However, as they are operated manually, you will spend a larger number of labor hours on inspection, though the training requirements are lower.

Bridge Coordinate Measuring Machine

The bridge is a classic design for a CMM machine; they balance precision, reliability, and repeatability with an affordable price tag. Since the 1970s, the bridge design has been a mainstay of metrology, and they use either air bearings (for lab-use) or hard bearings (when you need it on the shop floor to reduce inspection times or use in cell manufacturing). Because of their durability, they can easily be purchased used and enjoy many long years of usefulness, just make a dealer your source for used CMM equipment.

Laser Scanners

Laser scanners collect thousands of points of data rapidly and they are widely used for 3D inspection and reverse engineering. They can be operated manually or attached to a portable arm or bridge style coordinate measuring machine.

Gantry

The gantry coordinate measuring machine is the tool of choice of Canadian Measurement-Metrology, CMM, when they perform contract jobs. The gantry is ideal for large and heavy parts that require higher precision than a portable arm can typically achieve. Parts can easily be loaded onto a gantry with a crane or a lift truck, thanks to open access, and they’re tough, requiring very little maintenance in the guideways or drive systems, and not easily damaged by missed loads.

The first rule of buying any coordinate measuring machine, new or used, is to fit the machine to the job. If your equipment can’t measure the components you’re producing, you have no business making them.