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Retrofit or replace?

Job shops have options when it comes to tackling parts inspection in today’s volatile environment.

February 1, 2022 - Expanding digital capabilities and more efficient materials are fundamentally changing manufacturing. The changes have shattered past quality standards and ushered in a new generation of coordinate measuring machines (CMM). The Oxford Economic Model anticipates a GDP growth rate of 4.1 percent for manufacturing this year. The juxtaposition of positive economic trends with historic labor and supply chain problems has 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. One OEM says no.

AIMS Metrology Vice-President Mark Gearding explains. “The decision to retrofit, upgrade or buy a new machine is really about striking a balance,” he says. “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. They will do more with less. We try to help customers weigh the needs of the shop against their budget.”

Since its acquisition of CMI Technologies in 2017 and Measurement Specialties Inc. (MSI) in 2021, AIMS has seen an uptick in retrofits and upgrades. “A customer with two CMMs from another OEM recently came to us with a dilemma,” Gearding says. “One of their machines was down leaving them at 50 percent capacity. The OEM told them that service techs wouldn’t be able to visit their plant until May of this year. The equipment’s closed architecture prevented the company from going elsewhere for support. If a CMM still supports a shop’s product needs we can retrofit or upgrade the machine by replacing the software, controller and probe.”

AIMS’ Revolution HB or LM Series provides 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 “We have the tribal knowledge and cross-trained personnel to support our CMMs and other brands like Sheffield,”. says Gearding. “Most of the employees we retained from MSI specialized in Sheffield CMMs.”

Demand for complex parts, 3D shapes and cosmetic surfaces continues to trend making automation and non-contact inspection attractive. “Our CMMs can be automated for lights out operation,” says Gearding. “Our 5-axis mobile HB can be moved anywhere in the manufacturing process to collect information on the fly. Automating CMMs can reduce scrap as well as measure, track and collect data on tool wear.” 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.”

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