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3 Surprising Facts about Dimensional Inspection

Posted by Mike Knicker on Nov 30, 2016 2:22:19 PM

 3 Surprising Facts About Dimensional Inspection.jpg

When you think about your daily life the topic of dimensional inspection will likely never come up. In fact, many people could go through their lives not understanding how dimensional inspection works, let alone how it fits into almost every aspect of their daily lives through the products they use. From the coffee cup that you may be holding right now as you read this article to the car you drive (hopefully not while you are reading this article), dimensional inspection was an integral part of the manufacturing process for all of the products you use in your daily life.

What Is Dimensional Inspection?

Simply put, dimensional inspection is the measurement of the distances between different features on a part. If you have a block that is supposed to be one inch long, then dimensional inspection will tell you exactly how long that block actually is. This is a simple case, but think about the intricate measurements required to make sure that each individual part of your car engine will fit together properly in order to move the pistons for you to be able to drive your car.

Even your simple water bottle needs to have very close dimensional measurements in order for the bottle top to screw onto the bottle and provide a tight seal for the water; if the dimensions are not correct then you may have trouble storing the bottle without spilling its contents, or even have an issue trying to fit the lid back onto it once you’ve removed it. This ability of the parts to connect correctly is designed into the dimensions of each part, but dimensional inspection of the individual parts to make sure they meet the design is what ensures the end product will work when it gets to you.

When it is not feasible to measure each dimension on each part, (for instance water bottles would become very expensive), dimensional inspection is used on the tools that make the parts such as injection molding dies that form a water bottle out of molten plastic. If the tool dies are ensured to have the right measurements, then the resulting bottles will be correct; a company can then check a sample product at intervals to make sure that the forming process is working properly as it progresses. So even then dimensional inspection is used on a sample basis.

Dimensional Inspection: 3 Surprising Facts

It should no longer surprise you that dimensional inspection is found throughout the manufacturing processes of almost every product that you use to ensure the safety and integrity of those products, but there are still some facts about dimensional inspection that you might find surprising.

  1. Tight tolerances: Dimensions are never measured to exactly what the design measurement should be (called the nominal dimension) so each design will have a tolerance on the dimension; basically, a stated amount that the dimension can be different from the nominal dimension. So, if you have a measurement that needs to be at one inch, but can be different from this measurement by one-sixteenth of an inch, your tolerance would be +/- (plus or minus) one sixteenth of an inch. In some industries, such as the space industry that builds satellites or parts for the space station these tolerances can be very tight, such as one ten thousandth of an inch (0.0001”) in order for the parts to work reliably in the space environment. This is for the safety of the astronauts or for the reliability of the satellite since you cannot fix a problem once in orbit.

  2. Tighter measurements: A general rule of dimensional inspection is that the dimensional measuring equipment should be ten times better than the tolerance being measured. That means if you are measuring something to the nearest inch your measuring equipment needs to be able to measure to one tenth of an inch. For the above example, if you are measuring to one ten thousandth of an inch (0.0001”) your measuring equipment needs to be accurate to one hundred thousandth of an inch (0.00001”). So, dimensional measurement equipment can be extremely accurate.

  3. Calibration: Equipment for dimensional inspection needs to be checked on a regular basis to make sure that it is still measuring as accurately as it is designed to measure. This verification is done against a very accurate standard part or specimen that has been designed and verified to a certain dimensions and tolerances. By ensuring that the dimensional equipment measures the standard correctly you can be confident that the equipment is functioning properly. Most of these standards are traceable back to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is part of the United States Department of Commerce, but is a non-regulatory agency. NIST is the foremost measurement standards laboratory and is used as the standard for calibrations in most industries.

Dimensional Measurements: In-House or Outsourced

While many companies keep all of the equipment they need to perform all of their dimensional inspections sometimes the equipment is so expensive, and the measurements taken so infrequently, that it makes more sense to have an expert laboratory do the measurements for you. In either case the experts at Q-PLUS are the place to turn for either help on the right equipment to purchase, or the accurate tools to measure your most intricate dimensions and the skilled operators to run that equipment.

Q-PLUS Labs has been a leading dimensional measurement laboratory since 1987; providing one place for precision measurement solutions. As a lab registered to ISO 9001 and accredited to ISO 17025, you can be certain that you will get the right dimensional measurements and calibrations every time.

Nano Measurement Ebook

 

 
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Topics: dimensional measurement, dimensional inspection, dimensional inspection equipment, dimensional measurement services, nano, measurement services,, nanomeasurements

Nano measurements: 3 basic factors for determining the value of your measurement data

Posted by Mike Knicker on Nov 4, 2016 12:29:05 PM

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With the rapid development of technology comes the greater need for the increased accuracy in measurement capabilities that are able to keep up with the pace of products being manufactured at the nano level. For precise accuracy up to the micrometer, such as 3D measurement data of a needle tip or surface roughness measured to extreme accuracy, nano measurement is the logical solution for these intricate measurements. But how do you know if it is worth your time to invest in this specific measurement solution for your application?

Of course, every measurement technique has its challenges, and with the various methods of nano measurement, there are generally three things to consider when choosing the best method for your application; specifically measurement accuracy, speed, and cost. While there are two main methods of acquiring nano measurement data, optical-based and contact-based, you will need to examine these three basic criteria when you are weighing your decision on which type of method to implement.

Accuracy of measurement

What benefit will this measurement data provide your application? To measure in the nano realm, there are two types of methods. One way is via contact-based methods of nano measurement which can give very high resolution measurements with high accuracy. This is due to the fact that they come in contact with the surface of the part being measured, so that certain features the probe comes in contact with can more easily be distinguish, and thereby measured accurately. However, parts that may become compromised if they come into direct contact with the measuring device would not be suited for this particular form of measurement.

This is only a general rule of thumb, however, as white light interferometry, a type of optical-based measurement, is one of the most accurate methods possible even though it does not come in contact with the measured unit.

Speed of measurement

If you are looking for a faster measurement solution, an optical-based method of nano measurement may be the best option, because this method uses light to take the measurement and does not physically come into contact with the surface that it is measuring. This process speeds up the collection of measurement data without the risk of surface damage, unlike what can be experienced with a probe used in the contact-based methods.

One drawback of these faster methods of measurement may be the loss of some resolution on surfaces with high aspect ratios; such as a surface with features such as steps, slopes, holes or sharp edges. These can be much more accurately measured with a contact-based method, but this will be more time consuming in order to protect the surface of the piece being measured.

Cost to measure

Of course different measurement systems will have different financial costs associated with them, and this will have to be weighed when choosing the right system to meet your needs. When making your decision on accuracy, precision, and speed you will need to keep in mind how much the measurement data will cost. Along these lines, the following are some things to consider:

  1. Will it be more cost efficient to purchase the equipment to perform your measurements in-house; or would it be better to outsource this activity to a lab that specializes in these measurements? If you manufacture a part in-house and need to perform repeated measurements, then it might be in your best interest to invest in the equipment and training necessary to do the measurements yourself.

  2. A major benefit of going to a lab for your measurement needs is the specialization that they have in performing these measurements with the appropriate training, experience and equipment to give you the data you need. Labs are fairly flexible and can be great assets for measurements of one-off parts as well as large ongoing jobs.

While you can make some adjustments to reduce the cost per part, such as reducing the sample frequency of measurements, ensuring that you get exactly the type of measurements for the data you are looking for is one of the best ways to reduce your cost overall.

Having difficulty getting started on your measurement project? Since 1987, Q-PLUS Labs has provided a one stop solution for precision measurements to our customers. As a leading dimensional measurement laboratory, we have been able to not only supply measurement services and calibrations as needed but also consult on, specify, integrate, and sell in-house measurement solutions to meet the many and varying needs of the manufacturing industry. As a lab registered to ISO 9001 and accredited to ISO 17025, we've built our reputation on providing objective, unbiased information whether it be from our lab services department or our metrology products division.

Nano Measurement Ebook

 

 
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Topics: dimensional measurement, dimensional inspection, dimensional inspection equipment, dimensional measurement services, nano, measurement services,, nanomeasurements

6 Types of Dimensional Inspection Equipment

Posted by Mike Knicker on Oct 22, 2014 1:00:00 PM

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Dimensional inspection equipment can range from a basic ruler that measures length to an optical sensor that provides measurements at the nano scale. Obviously, these two types of equipment are not likely to be used for the same application. The type of dimensional inspection equipment that should be used for a particular application depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The level of accuracy required
  • Whether the object can be touched during the measurement process
  • The size and shape of the object
  • How you intend to use the results

Whether you are performing first article inspection, reverse engineering, or quality control on a manufacturing line, selecting the right dimensional inspection equipment for the job is critical.

6 Types of Dimensional Inspection Equipment

Some of the most common types of dimensional inspection equipment you are likely to encounter include:

  1. Hand tools - Although they may be the most basic type of measurement equipment, hand tools remain useful for certain applications. When all you need is a simple solution, a fixed caliper or ring gauge can be both the most effective and the most affordable option. Hand tools also are highly portable, especially when compared with the more high-tech equipment types.
     
  2. Coordinate measuring machines - Also known as CMMs, this popular type of measurement equipment takes the physical measurements of an object and converts them to a digital format. Although CMMs produce relatively fast and accurate results, they are not right for every application. Because they use a touch-based sensor, CMMs cannot be used with objects that have an elastic surface or are otherwise too delicate to touch during the measurement process.
     
  3. Optical comparators - This type of equipment projects light onto an object with a screen behind it. The edges of the silhouette are measured to determine the length and width of the object. The method can also be used to compare an object to a desired standard by using a physical overlay.
     
  4. Structured light scanners - These are a good option when three-dimensional measurements are required and the object cannot be touched or has a lot of freeform geometry. Dimensions are obtained by projecting a pattern of light onto the object and measuring the distortions caused by its surface characteristics.
     
  5. Laser scanners - Another type of non-contact measurement method uses lasers. Similar to structured light scanners, the reflection of a laser point or line is used to measure the distance to the surface of an object. The resulting point cloud is used to create a 3D rendering that can be employed for reverse engineering, dimensional inspection, or other applications.
     
  6. Vision systems - This type of measurement instrument employs high-resolution video to gather images that are processed with integrated software. Vision systems are often used in quality control applications that require a high level of accuracy and precision while producing fast and reliable results.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of dimensional inspection equipment. Customized solutions can be created and specialized hardware can be found for virtually every type of measurement scenario. Regardless of what the application is, selecting the right type of equipment to produce the results you need at a price you can afford is critical.

Q-PLUS Labs offers both dimensional inspection equipment and measurement services for all types of applications. If you want to purchase equipment, we offer both new and pre-owned options from a broad range of manufacturers. If you want to outsource dimensional measurement services, our trained staff has decades of experience and dozens of equipment options at their disposal. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

What type of dimensional inspection equipment do you think you need for your application?

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Topics: dimensional inspection equipment

Four Powerful Ways to Use Dimensional Inspection

Posted by Mike Knicker on May 22, 2013 5:00:00 AM

dimensional inspection powerful usesDimensional inspection is used in a broad range of industries for a wide variety of applications. However, there are some common reasons why this type of measurement is used. Whether the objective is to compare a prototype to a drawing or to ensure that a finished product meets certain standards, the fundamentals of dimensional inspection remain the same. Highly accurate measurements are taken to determine how closely an object matches its originally intended dimensions.

In general, if dimensional measurement is required, the results must be both accurate and precise. Although multiple techniques and countless applications exist, there are four main categories of dimensional inspection.

Four Common Dimensional Inspection Applications

  1. First article inspection. Implementing a manufacturing process requires extreme attention to detail, especially if the process is new or if the equipment has been specially designed. First article inspection is required to ensure that the equipment was properly installed and calibrated, and to verify the manufacturing process. Dimensional measurement is used to compare the first objects from the manufacturing line to 3-D CAD models or other specifications.
  2. Quality control. When objects coming off a manufacturing line must meet certain quality standards, measurement equipment is used to confirm that the dimensions fall within the required tolerance levels. In some cases, when the tolerance levels are more rigorous, each object is measured automatically. In other cases, batches might be spot-checked for quality.
  3. Regulatory compliance. In industries for which regulatory compliance is necessary, dimensional measurement ensures that the required specifications are met. Regulatory bodies such as the FDA or FAA often have requirements regarding the dimensions of certain components. 
  4. High-precision engineering. When creating a larger assembly from smaller parts, high precision is often required. If a minor flaw or inconsistency can impact an entire process, ensuring that such imperfections do not exist is critical. 

Employing dimensional measurement in these scenarios offers many benefits, including reduced liability, improved quality, and lower costs.

If you need dimensional inspection services for your business, contact the professionals at Q-PLUS Labs. We provide outsourced measurement services for a range of industries including manufacturing, aerospace, medical, and more. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about how we can help you with your dimensional measurement needs.

How does your company use dimensional inspection?

 

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Topics: dimensional measurement, dimensional inspection, 3D Scanning, inspection, dimensional inspection equipment

11 Dimensional Inspection Equipment Factors to Consider Before Purchasing

Posted by Mike Knicker on May 7, 2013 2:30:00 PM

11 dimensional inspection factorsPurchasing dimensional inspection equipment requires making a big decision, and in most cases a significant financial investment. It is important to be certain that the equipment you buy will serve its intended purpose and provide the results you need.

Because there are so many different types of equipment that can be used for a broad range of purposes, it helps to know what questions to ask before you buy.

11 Dimensional Inspection Equipment Questions You Need to Ask

  1. What sensor type do you need?

    Depending on the surface characteristics of the objects you intend to measure, you may need either a contact sensor or a non-contact sensor. Within each of these two categories are several other options and different sensor types. The more you know about the objects you will be measuring, the better able you will be to select the right types of dimensional inspection equipment.

  2. What tolerance levels are required for your application?

    There is a big difference between replicating an antique to sell in a gift shop and mass producing components that will be used in a medical device. In the former case, a certain amount of inaccuracy is tolerable, while in the latter case the requirements are more stringent. Make sure you know how precise you need to be, especially if you have to maintain regulatory compliance.

  3. Does your equipment need to be portable?

    Do you need a machine that will always sit at the end of a production line, or do you need a more portable unit that can take measurements in the field?

  4. What size(s) are the objects you need to measure?

    Some objects are small enough to be put into a machine, while others are simply too large or heavy. On the other hand, objects that are on the nano scale will require specialized equipment.

  5. What shape(s) are the objects you need to measure?

    Does your object have internal geometry that you need to measure? Bore holes, threads, and other complex geometry cannot always be measured by certain types of dimensional inspection equipment or without certain accessories.

  6. How fast do you need results?

    Measuring the occasional prototype is a different scenario than inspecting every component that comes off a production line. It is important to know how quickly you will need results so you can purchase a machine that is capable of meeting your needs.

  7. Does your equipment need to be automated?

    Some dimensional inspection equipment can be automated, but not all of it can be. If this is an important factor for your application, make sure it is a high priority in your purchasing decision.

  8. Who will be using the equipment?

    Ease of use should be considered if you are weighing multiple options. Will you need to hire new staff or train employees to use this new equipment? Does your budget support that?

  9. What is required to maintain the equipment?

    High-precision measurement equipment needs to be properly set up, regularly maintained, and periodically calibrated. Does your staff have the skills to do this, or can you outsource it?

  10. How durable and reliable is the equipment?

    Dimensional inspection equipment is an investment. It is important to compare multiple manufacturers and work with an expert who has experience will all of them.

  11. What is your budget?

    Perhaps one of the most important factors is your budget, however, be sure to weigh all of the above before you make a decision.

If you would like to learn more about selecting the right dimensional inspection equipment for your application, download our free guide. You can also schedule a consultation with one of our dimensional inspection experts who can walk you through the entire process. Contact us today to schedule an assessment.

What type of dimensional inspection equipment are you looking for?

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Topics: manufacturing, dimensional measurement, dimensional inspection, equipment, budgeting, project planning, measurements, criteria, metrology, dimensional inspection equipment

When to Use Non-Contact Sensors for Dimensional Inspection

Posted by Mike Knicker on Apr 17, 2013 6:00:00 AM

dimensional inspection hand toolsDimensional inspection can be performed with a wide variety of methods and equipment, depending on the object being measured. When selecting equipment, remember the cardinal rule of dimensional inspection: The object being measured cannot be altered during the measurement process. This means that some objects cannot be touched because the resulting measurements will be inaccurate.

When touching an object with a probe will alter its dimensions, non-contact sensors must be used during the measurement process. Cases when this is appropriate include when the object is:
  • Soft
  • Elastic
  • Very small
  • Fragile

Examples include objects such as micro-gears, rubber gaskets, prosthetics made of soft plastic, or a fragile antique with a delicate surface.

Non-Contact Sensors for Dimensional Inspection

Several types of non-contact sensors can be used for dimensional inspection, including:
  • 3D scanners. There are two main types of 3D scanners: those that use structured light and those that use lasers. In both cases, light is projected onto the surface of an object and measurements are made based on the reaction of the light. With structured light, the distances are measured using the distortion of pixels, and with lasers, the reflection is used to triangulate distances. Clearly, the surface characteristics are a significant factor in determining whether 3D scanning should be used.
  • Optical comparators. When light is projected onto an object, its resulting shadow or silhouette can be used to take measurements or compare the shape to the specifications. Fiber optic technology can also be used for edge detection.
  • Vision systems. This type of equipment uses a similar concept to optical comparators in that light is projected onto a screen. However, vision systems also use cameras or zoom optics to relay an image to a display. Other accessories such as edge detection, touch probes, other types of sensors, and automation technology can also often be integrated into these systems.

If you're not sure what type of dimensional inspection equipment makes the most sense for your application, working with an expert is best to ensure accurate results. Q-PLUS Labs provides in-house or on-site dimensional measurement services for virtually any industry or application.

What types of objects do you need to measure? Do you think that using a non-contact sensor is the best approach?

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Topics: dimensional measurement, dimensional inspection, dimensional inspection equipment, non-contact sensors