Equator Gaging System

March 01, 2011

Renishaw says Equator is a radical new alternative to traditional dedicated gaging, filling a gap in the market never before addressed. It marks the launch of Renishaw's first gaging product line.

The patented low-cost design, unique in construction and method of operation, is capable of high-speed comparative gaging for inspection of high-volume manufactured parts. It has been developed and proven on the shop-floor in collaboration with industry-leading companies in the automotive, aerospace and medical sectors. The result is a lightweight, fast and highly repeatable gage that operators can use with simplicity. Equator can switch between parts in seconds, perfect for flexible manufacturing processes or accepting parts from multiple machines.

Based on an easily scaleable and adaptable "parallel kinematic" structure, Equator's unique patented principle allows high speed scanning and rapid moves between features, while retaining stiffness that delivers impressive point to point repeatability, critical for accurate gaging.

Installation of an Equator is possible in minutes, and an operator can switch between gaging of different parts in seconds. Re-configuration of the gaging system to accommodate part design changes, or to measure new parts, is possible in a fraction of the time needed for conventional custom gaging, using industry standard DMIS programming.

Equator systems are available with two levels of software, a programmable version for production engineers to create DMIS programs and, at a lower price, a shop floor system which allows those programs to be executed but prevents operators from making modifications. Both software levels include easy-to-use MODUS Organizer operator front-end software. In the programmable version, MODUS Equator programming software allows engineers to rapidly create gaging routines for any part, simple or complex, prismatic or free-form. MODUS Equator features the ability to easily program scanning measurements and touch points, using the industry-standard Renishaw SP25 compact scanning probe. Scanning allows thousands of data points to be taken to define a feature for true form analysis.

By taking the dongle provided with the programmable system and plugging it into a shop floor system, full programming functionality is activated on that shop floor system, ideal for engineers to adjust programs but also retain control.

Equator's innovative and highly repeatable gaging technology is based on the traditional comparison of production parts to a reference master part. Re-mastering is as swift as measuring a production part and immediately compensates for any change in thermal conditions on the shop floor. Equator can be used in factories with wide temperature variation – simply re-master and the system is "re-zeroed," ready for repeatable comparison to the master.

Master parts do not need to be expensive custom parts like a traditional gage; a production part measured on a co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) can establish feature variation from CAD or drawing nominals. The results from any CMM, using any CMM programming software, can be configured to be used directly with the Equator software.

Effectively, the calibrated absolute accuracy of the CMM (often located in a temperature controlled room to ensure accuracy) can be "extended" onto the shop floor to provide calibrated traceability to Equator measurements. With the calibration file loaded into the Equator software, measurements made in the Equator system can be referred back to the CAD or drawing nominals. This allows true process control with SPC packages.

The Equator controller, included with every Equator system, is a powerful dedicated control system that provides a secure and robust environment for running the Equator gaging system software. It is similar to machine tool control systems, with the added ability to run Equator-specific Windows applications. Designed for Equator, it incorporates all the necessary electronic boards and software in one package. The user can create and execute DMIS measurement programs, change measurement settings and transfer data or programs.

An additional PC is not required when operating the Equator, reducing cost to the customer and eliminating the chance of incompatibility or un-predictable performance arising from the wide variation of PC architectures.

Compared to dedicated gaging, Equator cuts fixture costs considerably. By using fixturing that positions parts to within 1mm of where the master was measured, which has no significant effect on system repeatability, and by establishing the part orientation and datums on the part itself, the need for expensive precision fixtures is removed.

Further versatility is offered by the Equator-specific stylus changing rack (included in the purchase price of an Equator system) allowing automated in-cycle changing of SM25 stylus modules. The SM25 modules couple to the industry-standard SP25 CMM probe, allowing Equator users to swap stylus configurations without re-qualifying each time. Up to six stylus combinations can be loaded into the rack at any time. These can be used on a single complex part or with multiple parts of varying geometries.

Equator can be integrated into automated cells, using the optional I/O interface to connect it to a robot, or by outputting the gage results to an SPC package. Some SPC packages also offer the ability to connect to certain modern machine tool controls to update offset values, for true automated process control.

Related Glossary Terms

  • calibration

    calibration

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

  • computer-aided design ( CAD)

    computer-aided design ( CAD)

    Product-design functions performed with the help of computers and special software.

  • fixture

    fixture

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

  • parallel

    parallel

    Strip or block of precision-ground stock used to elevate a workpiece, while keeping it parallel to the worktable, to prevent cutter/table contact.

  • part orientation

    part orientation

    Designing the assembly machine, feeding mechanism and the part itself so the parts to be assembled are properly aligned prior to and during the assembly operation.

  • process control

    process control

    Method of monitoring a process. Relates to electronic hardware and instrumentation used in automated process control. See in-process gaging, inspection; SPC, statistical process control.

  • statistical process control ( SPC)

    statistical process control ( SPC)

    Statistical techniques to measure and analyze the extent to which a process deviates from a set standard.

  • stiffness

    stiffness

    1. Ability of a material or part to resist elastic deflection. 2. The rate of stress with respect to strain; the greater the stress required to produce a given strain, the stiffer the material is said to be. See dynamic stiffness; static stiffness.

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