Gauging system improves inspection of NIMS parts

September 28, 2023 - 09:00am
Equator from Renishaw

Many trade and technical schools in the United States include certification from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills in their training programs to uphold students to current manufacturing industry standards.

To help support the initiative, Renishaw developed a gauging system package to improve the inspection of NIMS parts.

NIMS is a non-profit organization that has worked to develop and maintain a globally competitive American workforce since 1995. Its mission is to help organizations improve overall performance by empowering educational institutions to validate training with practical experiences that reflect what individuals will face once they enter the industry.

To gain each NIMS credential, students at participating schools must manufacture thirteen parts. Once a student’s manufacturing project is complete, they must load the parts onto fixture plates for quality checks by the industry — who will tell the students if the parts passed or failed inspection. Equator

“A NIMS credential demonstrates that the candidate met the industry benchmark for competency,” said Joanna Eyer, Operations Manager at NIMS. “The certification gives the individual a competitive edge in the job market, as it demonstrates skills that could lead to raises and promotions in the future.”

To validate the student’s parts, manufacturers will measure all the features of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), as well as plus or minus tolerances. If each measurement meets specification, the part passes inspection and once all 13 parts pass, the student receives their certification.

However, industry inspection typically creates a bottleneck in the certification process, with manufacturers taking up to two weeks to return the parts. This can cause stress for the students, who have to wait for long periods to see if their hard work pays off. 

“On the courses I’ve run at NIMS schools we’ve had 30 students, who during their ten-month course, can gain six or seven credentials — that’s a lot of parts to measure,” explained Clint Smith at Mastercam, former NIMS teacher. “When it was time to measure the parts, we sent them to a local metrologist or machine shop that could use its CMM to measure and report on quality. This often took a couple of weeks because, understandably, the business prioritized client work. The wait can be frustrating for students.”

To remove this bottleneck, NIMS partnered with Renishaw to develop the NIMS educational package, which features the Renishaw Equator™ gauging system, fixtures, style, and prewritten programs. The Equator™ is a flexible gauging system, designed to provide speed, repeatability, and ease of use for manual or automated measurement in machine shop environments. Its integral re-mastering process also means that the Equator does not require annual machine calibration.

The prewritten programs include proven gauging programs for each part required for NIMS certification. The package also includes the metrology fixturing and probe styli that ensure students are ready to inspect their parts. The system features a user-friendly operator interface, allowing easy program selection and execution, as well as a clear display of results. 

Renishaw has now provided two systems to high schools and four to technical colleges that offer NIMS certification.

Measurement results are almost immediate when using the Equator, giving students rapid feedback about their parts and an opportunity to witness the measurement process at the same time. By introducing this system, students will gain a clearer understanding of quality assurance and GD&T requirements in the current manufacturing environment, better preparing them for the workforce. 

“Creating the NIMS package and introducing teacher training has enabled colleges to improve their programs,” explained Scotty Nicholson, Technical Training Manager at Renishaw Inc. “By adding metrology into the machine tool certification, students can better validate the parts to an industry standard, as well as benefit from immediate feedback. Over time, this means we’ll have highly engaged students who are more employable in the future. Introducing the package also brings recognition to the program as we can evidence that the training reflects current manufacturing practices.”

“The NIMS certification is integral for students that want to get into the manufacturing industry — it’s the only machining certification I know of,” explained Spencer Black, Instructor at the Enoree Career Center. “It’s important but can also be stressful because if a student misses one small detail, the part is scrapped. For example, previously if a student brought me a part to check it might take me 20 minutes to inspect in-house, if there are no interruptions. Now, by using the Equator I can check a part in three minutes. 

“Before, students were deflated when they had to start over on something they had worked on for weeks. Now that inspection time is down, we can improve their part quickly while also helping them understand the measurement process — which in my experience is a side of machining that people don’t often think about,” added Black.

As part of the package, Renishaw also provides technical support to NIMS schools. In addition to training the staff on how to set up and use the Equator system, the Renishaw team can help troubleshoot and maintain the system.

“Renishaw has offered outstanding support. We once had a problem with the system that I couldn’t resolve, so I phoned the Renishaw team for help. The engineers made sure we were back up and running as quickly as possible,” explained Black.

“At Renishaw, we understand the importance of providing students with the right training for their future careers. The introduction of this new metrology package means that when a student is NIMS qualified, they have followed best working practices and are capable of machining features on a part that they can show is in-tolerance. This is great news for the industry as it brings students to industry standard and reflects the realities of machining beyond school and university,” concluded Nicholson.

Related Glossary Terms

  • calibration


    Checking measuring instruments and devices against a master set to ensure that, over time, they have remained dimensionally stable and nominally accurate.

  • fixture


    Device, often made in-house, that holds a specific workpiece. See jig; modular fixturing.

  • metalworking


    Any manufacturing process in which metal is processed or machined such that the workpiece is given a new shape. Broadly defined, the term includes processes such as design and layout, heat-treating, material handling and inspection.

  • metrology


    Science of measurement; the principles on which precision machining, quality control and inspection are based. See precision machining, measurement.

  • quality assurance ( quality control)

    quality assurance ( quality control)

    Terms denoting a formal program for monitoring product quality. The denotations are the same, but QC typically connotes a more traditional postmachining inspection system, while QA implies a more comprehensive approach, with emphasis on “total quality,” broad quality principles, statistical process control and other statistical methods.


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