Personalised Engineering Gives New Meaning to ‘Made to Measure’

Sibylle Delaney
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The advent of additive manufacturing doesn’t need to spell an end to quality control.

Additive manufacturing isn’t just changing the way we make things; it’s shaping the way we

design them, too. Officially classified under seven distinct technologies, Additive

Manufacturing’s popular moniker is 3D Printing; a term that has become more common

thanks to a wide range of low-cost, often ‘crowd-funded’ printers that allow anyone to turn

abstract visions into physical entities.

In the industrial world, however, 3D printing isn’t quite so accessible to the casual user. To

be viable, the accuracy and consistency with which products are manufactured must be

much higher than that offered by a Maker’s solution; assured through the process of

measuring objects using a CMM (Coordinate Measurement Machine).

Now that its use is broadening to include bespoke medical implants, 3D printing can deliver

a level of personalisation that could never be economically achieved through traditional

manufacturing methods. However, traditional CMM is now the weak link; as well as being

slow and cumbersome in comparison with the manufacturing process, it actually has the

potential to damage the surface of the implant, thereby jeopardising both the quality and

the benefits offered by the 3D printing process.

This dichotomy presents a new challenge for manufacturers. They have the means to

manufacture objects that might otherwise be impossible to make, but no way of measuring

their accuracy. This is the real risk to the opportunity presented by all additive

manufacturing technologies; without viable quality control, the process cannot be

economically productised.

Of course, anything can be measured given enough time and the right equipment; two very

expensive commodities. Non-contact metrology is evolving rapidly to meet this challenge,

but to be successful in a production environment it needs to meet two prerequisites; it

needs to be fast and it needs to be affordable.

Non-contact metrology that is both fast and affordable would allow a CMM to become an

integral part of the production line, working in near real-time to influence and help control

the manufacturing process. It would relegate off-line metrology to the history books and

remove a major obstacle to realising the full potential of 3D printing.

Additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionise many industries, not only the

medical implant sector. White light based non-contact metrology offers a commensurate

level of quality control that is unparalleled by any other form of CMM. The advent of

additive manufacturing doesn’t need to spell an end to quality control.

Metrology for Additive Engineering / 3D Printing

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