Any shop considering buying a new or used coordinate measuring machine has to balance a lean investment strategy (i.e. cutting down on idle hours) with planning for adaptation. Most manufacturers are not in a position to outlay large investments on speculative changes to their production lines, and instead aim to tailor new equipment purchases to their immediately foreseeable needs. However, coordinate measuring machines are durable tools that can last a long time, in fact, longer after they may have fallen behind the demands of your production line.
Whether you have to contend with tighter tolerance standards for your components, an evolving production line, or lengthy bottlenecks in your metrology department, you have to decide whether it’s smarter to purchase a new coordinate measuring machine or retrofit the old one. There are three main factors to consider when you’re running a cost benefit analysis: efficiency, accuracy, and growth.
Reducing inspection times can solve bottlenecks and increase the overall capacity of your shop to take on more work. Often, inefficiencies in the metrology department are caused either by logistics issues or duplicating parts programs and set ups. For example, a large component on a smaller coordinate measuring machine may need to be manually adjusted, while a physically larger model would be able to measure a component without having to manually adjust it. Find out more about the types and sizes of fixed coordinate measuring machines like gantry, vertical, and horizontal machines at http://www.cmmxyz.com. In this case, buying a newer piece of equipment may be the best way to achieve higher efficiency, while you may also be able to access newer technological developments like temperature compensation, which can reduce the delay between production and inspection.
Better parts programming can also increase the efficiency of your inspection process, while user-friendly software like PC-DMIS can also reduce the potential for mistakes. PC-DMIS is one of the most widely used software programs available and it’s easy to use for novice operators; however, if you haven’t used it before, you can train operators in its use with courses or e-learning programs from metrology vendors like CMM (Canadian Measurement Metrology Inc.). The PC-DMIS interface uses a cursor for editing routines rather than relying on manual recall, which not only reduces errors but also the time spent programming routines. New software can be applied to an older machine as part of a retrofit with a CMM vendor, and in fact, software typically needs to be updated several times throughout a machine’s lifespan. In addition to software, upgrading your probe styli can also improve accuracy, especially if you are inspecting materials like cast iron that can damage typical ruby ball styli.
Whether you decide to undertake a retrofit or purchase a new piece of equipment (either to replace the old one or to add to your inspection capacity), always keep future growth in mind. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to predict new orders, so creating extra capacity for new work may be a gamble, but the ability to deliver larger orders on time and with minimal errors is always a powerful selling point for new business. Consider developing trends in your industry and whether or not you’re likely to see your production line move in that direction or diversify. If you rely on contract metrology services for demanding components or short production runs, now is also the time to consider bringing those inspections in house. Efficiency, accuracy, and growth should be the fundamentals of your cost benefit analysis; speak to your metrology dealer to find out which options are best for you.