Software: Its Function and Capabilities Explored
Training and Requirements for the Programmer and Operator
Probably the key to measurement on a coordinate measuring machine is software. Software unlocks the door to a myriad of measurement tasks without the requirement of mathematical knowledge or specialised metrology skills. Software is the communicator that allows everyone involved in the manufacturing process to see and interpret how that process is performing.
Often the question is asked: What is the best CMM Machine software? There is, in fact, no one correct answer. It all depends on what you are trying to do. For instance, on basic 3-D components, where a simple touch probe is used, simpler graphic software products are ideal. On extremely complex products with iterative alignments and scanning requirements, more comprehensive software needs to be used. It is also wise to look at the output of the software. How does it display the information that it has measured? Can you understand it? Is it what your customer requires? Remember, software is the heart of the coordinate measuring machine. It is wise to look carefully at different products before making a decision.
A list of popular comprehensive software products includes:
In some circumstances, depending on what you’re trying to measure, specialised software is required. This is especially true for the measurement of the following products: gears splines and involutes, airfoils, turbine blades, tubing, threads, and scanning/reverse engineering applications.
It is important to emphasise the role that training plays in successfully utilising CMM Machine software, most training is held in a classroom setting and is generally the best way to make someone familiar with the software that has been chosen. In-plant training is often disrupted by the hectic goings-on in the quality department, and often the potential programmer is taken away to do other jobs because the “department just can’t run without them.” On a comprehensive software package, it normally takes 5 to 10 days of training to become proficient (this time is usually split into two or three sessions).
What kind of person should be trained to run a coordinate measuring machine? Simply taking anyone from another part of the factory almost never works out agreeably. The prospective CMM machine programmer should have the following skills and experience:
- Basic maths skills
- Fundamental knowledge of measurement
- Experience within the manufacturing environment in which he is working
- Practical knowledge and understanding of GD&T (Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing)
- Basic understanding of CAD (Computer Aided Design)
- Operational knowledge of a desktop computer
It is generally pointless to train someone without at least four of those six skills to program your coordinate measure machine, as the individual must understand why and what he is doing, while also having a grasp of the validity of the results the machine is giving. There are many great night school courses that can teach basic Metrology and GD&T. Our suggestion is if your candidate does not have the skills, send him or her to such a course. Only then will the full capability of the coordinate measuring machine be realised.