The use of an OGP SmartScope CNC 500 co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) that integrates both touch trigger and optical inspection routines is enabling R A Labone to satisfy the stringent quality control requirements of a series of plastics injection moulded components for a new drug delivery device.
Indeed, according to Labone’s Quality Technician, Bryan Brownlow, without the capacity of the new machine and its user-friendliness in terms of its programming, as well as its inspection routines and the fast presentation and interpretation of the results through the QC Calc statistical software: 'There’s no doubt that we would have had to outsource the first article inspection of these parts and suffer the resulting consequences of additional costs and paperwork plus the potential lead time delays.
'Instead,' he continues, 'because the easy-to-use CMM utilises both touch probe and optical measuring, the SmartScope is the best and most user-friendly measuring machine we have. It comfortably meets our demands by inspecting to tolerances of two microns, and its use will also provide significant programming and cycle time savings in our batch inspection routines.'
The new drug delivery device contract involves the production of eight separate mouldings (on multi-cavity tools), including a cap and a sleeve, at the Derbyshire-based specialist manufacturer of precision plastic injection mouldings, metal pressings and assemblies.
Measuring from 20 mm diameter and up to 59 mm long, key dimensions on every part were initially inspected (during product/process development). Depending on the part, this involved between two to six measurement routines. Today, however, the controlling features of each first-off batch are 100 per cent inspected, followed by random inspection across each production run.
Added Mr Brownlow: 'We wanted to measure these components in batches of 10 at a time and it was clear that our existing CMMs (dedicated optical and touch probe units) did not have the capacity. With a worktable of 500 mm by 450 mm (X and Y axes), the SmartScope easily accommodates this demand.'
He maintains: 'The SmartScope integrates both touch probe and optical measuring routines. We immediately found that the machine’s software routines and general mode of operation were so user-friendly that it set a new standard against our existing machines.'
He qualified this with: 'Writing and editing programs is a piece of cake. For example, when we load up and want to inspect, say, 10 components, we simply program the inspection of one part then tell the machine there are 10 parts. The machine does the rest. Also, the split screen facility is very good and the graphic display is especially helpful as a guide when loading.'
Supplied by OGP UK of Foston, Derbyshire, the SmartScope CNC 500 is a single, multi-feature measuring centre having the capability to move a part through three axes of orientation by combining 3D co-ordinate measurement using touch probe with non-contact video measurement.
The machine has a programmable eight-sector SmartRing lighting source that is fully integrated and works seamlessly in all planes. These features enable most components to be measured using three axes, capturing when appropriate multi-face geometric dimensions and tolerances plus determining surface texture features, if required.
All this is achieved courtesy of the machine’s powerful Measure-X MultiSensor metrology software that has the benefit of a full set of image processing, autofocus tools and geometric functions. This provides a single reference calibration, levelling, rotation and origin definition while having the ability to quickly switch between the different sensor types at any point in the measuring routine.
By using QC-Calc fully automatic statistical process control any decisions or actions required on interpreting process results can be made quickly as it collects, analyses and reports on captured inspection data from Measure-X software without any input from the user. The system creates ‘real-time’ plotting of results with statistical chart presentation and customised reporting strategies based on colour coded chart displays that show individual data and full trend analysis.
Despite such powerful functionality, R A Labone also uses the SmartScope for ‘straightforward’ gauging and sampling routines – further evidence of the quality control department’s ever-growing preference to use this CMM for its measuring routines rather than any other.
Upon machine installation, OGP UK provided training in fixture programming and the interpretation of the resulting measurement statistics which meant R A Labone’s engineers were immediately up and running. Mr Brownlow adds: 'In addition, OGP’s service and calibration guys, and their level of technical support, are fantastic.'
R A Labone, a privately-owned company, made a natural expansion into the medical device market from its established roots in 1963, servicing the telecoms, automotive and electrical equipment sectors, producing a wide range of components and assemblies including over-moulded plastics and metal assemblies as well as over 3.5 million copper-foil based flexible connectors for heated windscreens on cars each year.
With the head office and main, 95-employee manufacturing plant based in Ilkeston, Derbyshire – which is accredited to ISO 9001, ISO/TS 16949, ISO 13485 and ISO 14001 – the company also has access to additional manufacturing facilities in UK, Germany, the Czech Republic and Ukraine and works with a wide range of blue chip manufacturers worldwide. Two-thirds of output is exported.
Managing Director Chris Young points out: 'We are always looking to diversify and invest in additional processes where appropriate, as well as to continually secure further efficiencies with existing processes –hence the investment in the SmartScope.
The machine has not only provided a major solution for an important new contract, but will also generate savings in both programming and inspection cycles – just what is needed to help us retain a competitive edge.'