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Keith Mills of Perceptron reports on how the company is transitioning from selling measurement solutions into a major player in the growing industrial metrology equipment market

PerceptronUp until February 2015, Perceptron‘s contributions and market share were focused on non-contact fully automated dimensional gauging solutions that provide real-time process and part quality information. Since our founding in 1981, we have been a market leader in supplying a comprehensive range of automated industrial metrology products and solutions to automotive manufacturing organisations for dimensional gauging, dimensional inspection and 3D scanning. Products have included 3D machine vision solutions, robot guidance (RGS), and laser scanning and advanced analysis software. Perceptron currently has over 45 patents covering hardware and software intellectual property. We have over 900 installations in active daily use and more than 12,000 3D scanning sensors at the heart of these advanced automated metrology systems. In some automotive manufacturing facilities, Perceptron has become the generic name for Body in White laser-scanning systems.

Perceptron is a leader in supplying automated metrology using robotic technology to the automotive sector, technology that is used in the most demanding production line applications. Currently, Perceptron provides all the top luxury brand automobile makers with laser-based, 3D machine vision and robot guidance systems, and is the global standard for numerous major vehicle makers.  Helix allows us to deliver Robotic Inspection Cells for production metrology applications that are flexible and freely-programmable, allowing our customers to monitor their product quality in real-time including full BIW and gap-and-flush measurement. Helix incorporates MEMS technology and offers the world’s only programmable laser scanner, where the laser line quantity, density, length and orientation characteristics are all user-programmable. 

Global CMM solutions 
Although the Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) market is mature, it continues to be driven by automotive, aerospace and defence industries. With the acquisition of Coord3, Perceptron is aggressively expanding its global reach and introducing new CMM products. Coord3 has a wide range of CMM solutions that include bridge-style, horizontal arm and gantry designs. We have everything from an entry-level bridge-type CMM to sophisticated large gantry CMM designs that are ideal for automotive, aerospace and wind energy applications. The largest gantry-style CMM ever built was supplied to a major aircraft OEM for structural component inspection with a measuring range volume of 20m x 5m x 3m.

Universal Laser Scanning CMM
The recently introduced Universal bridge CMM range was designed with a ‘design-for-manufacture’ focus that dramatically reduced CMM assembly and calibration times, allowing Coord3 to compete in global markets against lower-cost Chinese manufacturing operations, while doubling CMM manufacturing capacity with a negligible increase in factory space or workforce. Perceptron’s new ScanR green laser scanning sensor is seamlessly integrated with Coord3 CMM’s offering fully automated laser scanning inspection.
TouchDMIS CMM Software
Touch technology is revolutionising human interaction to complex devices providing faster, simpler, more intuitive user solutions. Touch technology is now available for coordinate measuring machines with the next generation of metrology software, TouchDMIS. CMM software’s have long been criticised for being too complex requiring long training periods and extended learning curves. TouchDMIS is a full-feature CMM software with intuitive touch interface, offering unparalleled user experience and benchmark CMM productivity. Developed for both manual and CNC CMM’s, including portable devices, TouchDMIS is loaded with innovative and time saving features. 

Traditional CMM software’s provide access to functionality through complex systems of toolbars, dropdown menus and tedious window selections. TouchDMIS offers a revolutionary user interface using smart technology, whereby next suggested functionality is dynamically presented for user confirmation, minimising learning time to just a few hours with immediate productivity benefits. TouchDMIS represents a new and innovative presentation of software functionality for industrial metrology applications.

The recently added TouchCLOUD module provides seamless streaming of laser scan data with automatic extraction of feature geometry directly from the generated point-cloud for direct comparison with nominal CAD data and ultra-fast processing. The user can also program multiple scan patches eliminating the need to scan the whole part.

Developing new Collaborative Robot technology
Perceptron has developed a collaborative robot metrology solution with the AutoScan Collaborative Gauge by combining it its Helix smart scanning sensor and shop-hardened Vector analysis software allowing operator and robot to share adjacent space to perform tasks simultaneously. The AutoScan self-teach programming capability allows the robot to be programmed fast by manually dragging the robot to the next required component scan position. All robot moves are automatically written to the part inspection program, allowing subsequent parts to be inspected automatically. 

AutoScan captures a 3D digital representation of the part and reports complex form and surface deviations relative to the part CAD model, together with discrete information for critical features such as holes, slots and studs.

PerceptronAutoScan Collaborative Gauge

A second Collaborative Robot Metrology product was also recently launched by Perceptron;  the AutoScan RoboGauge (Patent Pending), extending further the family of next generation industrial robotic gauging products using 3D scanning for dimensional measurement and gauging applications on the manufacturing floor. RoboGauge, combines a traditional industrial Fanuc robot with Perceptron’s revolutionary Helix smart scanning sensor, integrated with an innovative collaborative robot Duel Check Safety solution as a standardised gauging package.

The AutoScan Collaborative RoboGauge provides a highly-flexible automated shop-floor metrology solution capable of handling a wide variety of parts including sheet metal, fabrications, moulded parts and castings, and can be used in comparative or absolute inspection mode. The Perceptron shop-hardened Vector software ensures no in-depth metrology expertise is required to operate the RoboGauge and provides real-time status monitoring, SPC reporting, Visual Fixturing alignment, and AutoSolve feature extraction comparison to CAD. RoboGauge is available with automatic temperature compensation.

Perceptron will continue to pursue and expand our market share in the automotive industry metrology market while also extending our reach into tier I and tier II suppliers with the expanded metrology product lines. We continue to capitalise on our global product support organisation and the outstanding customer relationships we have developed, while providing the tools to monitors their product quality, with almost every automotive manufacturer. 