We’ve all heard it—that persuasive argument that attempts to coax us into replacing our cell phone because the newest model has a better camera, longer battery life, or faster chip. Consumer products typically are phased out on a regular basis to make room for their new and improved counterparts. Job shops and manufacturers also struggle to balance legacy machines with new capital equipment purchases including coordinate measuring machines (CMM).
Expanding digital capabilities, more efficient materials, and stricter quality specifications have pushed CMMs into a role that is larger than ever. Historic labor and supply chain problems have job shops and fabricators looking for ways to automate inspection, collect data and boost throughput. Some companies wonder if the capability to quickly and accurately analyze complex parts during processing cycles means retiring legacy equipment for a new CMM. We don’t think so.
Typically OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers will use a CMM until they can devalue the machine to zero. Then they replace it. Job shops, Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers tend to be more cost-conscious.
Since AIMS Metrology’s acquisition of CMI Technologies in 2017 and Measurement Specialties Inc. (MSI) in 2021, the CMM manufacturer has collected the tribal knowledge and experience of engineers it has cross-trained to support its own line of CMMs and models made by other OEMs such as Sheffield. The majority of employees retained from MSI specialize in Sheffield CMMs. If a CMM still supports a shop’s product needs AIMS can retrofit or upgrade the equipment by replacing the software, controller, and probe. A job shop can save approximately 80 percent by retrofitting legacy equipment versus making a new equipment purchase and still gain the performance advantages it needs.
In addition to an uptick in retrofits and upgrades, AIMS has also seen first-quarter activity for new CMM sales. Its Revolution HB or LM Series provides a 5-axis inspection of in-process and post-process parts. The OEM introduced its 5-axis multisensory Summit 10.10.10 in 2020 for high volume, large parts inspection.
AIMS’ Revolution Series CMMs share technology that is similar to the Sheffield line. For example, the Sheffield Endeavor CMM used linear motor technology like that of AIMS’ lab-grade LM. The Sheffield Apollo has been engineered with a center drive design that gives the CMM durability. The Apollo is one of the longest-lasting machines on the market. With the right support and upgrades, these CMMs can run as well today as they did fresh off the production floor.
Demand for complex parts, 3D shapes, and cosmetic surfaces continues to trend, making automation and non-contact inspection attractive. AIMS’ CMMs can be automated for lights out operation. Its 5-axis mobile HB can also be moved anywhere in the manufacturing process to collect information on the fly. Automating CMMs can also reduce scrap. A CMM like the Summit, can feed data back to a machine tool that is cutting chips for example. As the tool wears, it can cause a part hole or other features to grow in size. By using any of the Revolution series CMMs, they can measure and track the tool and collect data that indicates when the machine tool should be pulled and serviced. Whether a job shop invests in a new machine or opts for a retrofit or upgrade, they have the flexibility to make the right choice without compromising quality.