August 28, 2022

To Embed or Not to Embed

Embedded metrology, the measurement science, can be integrated into equipment, allowing 100% inspection and real-time response to quality defects. In addition, the effective integration of embedded metrology will positively alter manufacturing and result in cost, time, and throughput improvements.
The Promise of Embedded Technology

The advancement of technology will allow those in the manufacturing sector to approach or even achieve zero defects in the products reaching their customers.  Embedded metrology, the measurement science, can be integrated into the equipment, allowing 100% inspection and real-time response to quality defects.  The effective integration of embedded metrology will positively alter manufacturing.

"Future metrology will be used to assess and guarantee the fit, performance, and functionality of every part and support the targets of zero waste and carbon neutrality." - The National Physical Laboratory
From Lagging Indicators to Real-Time Measurement

According to McKinsey & Company's article, a standard approach to tracking manufacturing plants' performance often includes compliance failures, customer complaints, first-pass yield deviations, recalls, rejects, and rework. These are lagging indicators that are often not uniformly applied across locations.  There is also a failure to accurately track the actual cost of quality issues.  There is general knowledge of quality concerns across the plant.  Still, managers are averse to risk leading to a failure to solve problems creatively and instead rely on increased quality checks and paperwork-based compliance.  While this is an acceptable approach when all competitors use the same system, it becomes a disadvantage when others successfully adopt advanced technologies.

Embed Instead

Embedded systems are computer hardware systems using microprocessors and software to perform dedicated functions.  These can be stand-alone or integrated with other operations to provide real-time metrology feedback.  Embedded system elements include a sensor that measures the physical detail, an analog-to-digital converter that converts the analog sensor signal to a digital signal, and a processor that evaluates the data and stores it in memory.  A digital-to-analog converter changes it back to a signal where an actuator assesses the result and responds appropriately.

A Watchful Eye

A Metrology News article shares that Autodesk and FARO Technologies predict that more intelligent factories will speed up operations while enhancing manufacturing dependability.  Instead of batch operations with random sampling, embedded metrology will provide quality conformance of every part and reduce or eliminate the waste associated with scrap produced using past inspection practices.  In addition, embedding the technology into each operation removes the need to pull a product from the line for inspection and integrates the process, allowing all functions to work cooperatively and connected.  The result is a real-time response that maintains product quality conformance.

Embedded Metrology in Action

G²Métric  is involved in the design of measurement systems for aerospace manufacturer Airbus.   They had adapted embedded metrology to four previous versions of Airbus programs.  The Airbus 350 program was the first in which embedded metrology was a part of the design and build of the production processes.  The goal was to build a standard approach to the metrology systems, software, and data management architecture used at all European Airbus facilities.  The result is a process that follows parts through each operation step.  Each subassembly is measured and passed to the next step in an as-built value, not nominal.  A simulation of the assembly evolves as the process progresses to provide feedback to the actuators and tooling, allowing for an opportunity to adjust to end assembly requirements for fit and function on the fly.  

Rapid Monitoring

Jiang, Tong, and Li wrote a chapter titled On-Machine Measurement System and Its Application in Ultra-Precision Manufacturing, offering a comprehensive review of embedded measurement systems.  These include contact profilometer systems, machine vision, confocal chromatic microscopy, optical interferometry, phase-shifting interferometry, vertical scanning interferometry, wavelength scanning interferometry, dispersive interferometry, and phase-measuring deflectometry.  While contact methods have been the norm due to technology maturity, they operate at slow speeds and are unsuitable for some materials.  The authors found that the best approach is robust interferometry for ultra-precision machining applications.

Key Takeaway

Ultimately manufacturing operations can choose to continue with the status quo with traditional quality methods or begin to consider embracing embedded metrology.  Why should you decide on the latter option?  The technology will result in cost, time, and throughput improvements.  Those who choose to adopt embedded technology will ultimately become more competitive.  They will also reduce the current negative impact on the scrap environment that results from the lagging indicators approach, another instance in which one can do well by doing good

First Step

Individuals interested in learning more can view the In-Line Embedded Measurement on YouTube.  The video is a good overview of the benefits gained through in-line or near-line inspection.  In addition, the content includes critical considerations, technologies and procedures, and advice on choosing an embedded metrology partner.

My Gratitude

I have always admired those in the technology sector who develop new products that improve all aspects of our lives.  The World Economic Forum in 2000 began to recognize a select number of technology pioneers each year.  The recognized technologies frame the work of the Forum around their leadership in world-critical discussions.  My gratitude goes to all who develop technologies that provide social and environmental good.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will explore the benefits of sustainable practices in manufacturing operations.  The result is to lessen negative environmental impact and to align with the humanist manufacturing framework.  

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