| 11:19 AM EST

Inspection Software Advances

What more can be done to metrology software?  Plenty, as this round of new features shows in the  2017 versions of three inspection software packages.  


Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

At the core of any inspection, metrology and quality management system is software that sits between, for starters, computer-aided design (CAD), handheld and fixed coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), parts and assemblies, and, most important, people: product designers, manufacturing, external suppliers and customers.

No wonder the updates found in the latest versions of inspection software range from more direct interactions with 3D CAD models, more detailed on-screen inspection visualizations, better coordination of CMMs, and, most important, enhanced reporting. Here’s a very incomplete list of what’s new in three popular inspection packages.

ATS Inspect
ATS Inspect 6.0 from ATS Applied Tech Systems LLC (ats-global.com) lets operators enter defects directly onto 3D CAD models, and the name and ID of every component within the model can be imported into a quality inspection database, thereby reducing setup time. When adding and assigning defects, the operator can rotate the CAD model on the screen, then zoom in to the area affected by the defect. Bookmarking key positions lets operators jump to preset perspectives of inspection parts.

Multi-layer views of objects under inspection help those perspectives. For example, when inspecting the interior of a car door, the operator can have layers representing the door panel, the wiring harness within the door panel, and the door’s shell. As required, the operator can strip away layered information—add and remove parts from the image of the assembly—to see inside the car door for a realistic feel of the actual inspection. The result of this is real-world-like inspection. Data collection is accelerated.

The new version also has a new method for relating defect reasons to components, which reduces configuration time. In operation, when an operator first tries to highlight a defect, ATS Inspect displays a list of available concerns. Once enough data is collected, an inspector can create a list of concerns for each component based on these associations. 

Reports generated using Microsoft SSRS can now be viewed directly in ATS Inspect. These reports let operators see quality-related trends emerging in real time. ATS Inspect can also show any document related to the currently viewed product, characteristic, part, concern or repair, as well as access web pages. The ATS Advanced Reporting Services can run multiple reports simultaneously, save multiple report configurations so everyone can customize reports to their own needs, export to many different formats and schedule automatic report generation and emailing. Last, operators can search and filter defect entry workflows, add comments to checklist answers, and take photos and upload images to support answers given in checklists.
Geomagic Control X
Geomagic Control X 2018 SP/1 is the latest version of 3D Systems Corp.’s metrology software (3DSystems.com), formerly called Geomagic Qualify. Among the new features is one ideal for automotive: Deviation location analyzes the size, shape and location of dents, corrosion spots and similar imperfections and types of wear in a part surface. Multi-Alignment Inspection lets users create repeatable, automated inspection routines that require measurements based on different alignments. This is especially useful when inspecting parts that could have large deformations, such as sheet metal.

Also enhanced are “interactive probing tools that work with CMMs in a pre-planned or unplanned, kind of casual, ways,” says Scott Green, director of product management, Software Business Unit, for 3D Systems. Guided probing lets inspectors control the location of where points are to be probed. It also provides more structured inspection with portable CMM devices. Control X’s LiveAlign guides users through probe alignment; LiveInspect guides users to acquire points in designated locations; and LiveDimension provides instant 3D measuring capabilities.

In fact, Control X has several new probe-specific features for portable CMMs. Probes can give on-demand location readings, which is useful for real-time information about jigs and fixture workflows. CMM devices can issue comparison points to probe for accurately checking deviations. A clipping plane feature automatically eliminates unnecessarily probed features. Last, inspectors can switch instantly from handheld or CMM-based probing to laser scanning.

Some of the miscellaneous enhancements include additional Control X data table templates for more flexible reporting, Result Navigator can be included in reports, and users can now export that into a 3D PDF format—without Adobe Acrobat PDF writer. (This feature is in PolyWorks 2017 as well.) Improvements in Control X algorithms decrease calculation times by about a third. Also improved is Control X compatibility with input data: legacy control files and geometry from text-based formats can be imported, and updated CAD converters provide more reliable imports of CAD files.

Improvements to PolyWorks 2017 from InnovMetric Software Inc. (innovmetric.com) focus on project reviewing, moving users away from, says Marc Soucy, president of InnovMetric, “a 2D, flat, formatted report with static tables, snapshots and relevant comments to help interpret the measurement results. Interpreting the results in these extensive reports can be quite challenging, frustrating, and inefficient, [requiring] lots of back and forth communications with morphology operators.”

Helping reach that goal is the new Control Reviewer, which incorporates the display capabilities of the 2D reports into the 3D project. Explains Éric Roberge, InnovMetric lead product manager, “This new reviewer is the entry point of the control-centric reviewing and reporting workflow. It provides you with a global list of all project controls, where you can see critical information, such as the deviation values, the passage of tests and so on. Using the new Control Reviewer, you will be able to search for controls, sort the controls or filter the controls.” Specialists can also add custom controls to the global list of controls (e.g., those measured using manual gauges); split an inspection project into smaller and logical groups of controls (called “Control Views”); tie individual controls to specific data alignments and cording systems; search, sort and filter controls; and generate formatted reports automatically. 

Through the reviewer, operators “can center the 3D scene on the specific control, look at the scanned data, look at the 3D color map and better understand the problem,” continues Roberge. “This new reviewing workflow is much more powerful than looking at the 2D PDF. You have access to the project.”

Two new object display options aide dimensional inspection and analysis. First, deviation vectors display the deviations between the measured points and the nominal component, which helps in analyzing positional errors or validating a bad alignment. Second, the display technology used for cross-section features has been expanded to 3D distance and 3D angle features.

PolyWorks 2017 offers a way to measure a plane and use it as a clipping plane, says Richard Légaré, InnovMetric product manager. This ability, for example, helps operators eliminate the points of a scan, the surface on which a part sits. PolyWorks supports defining the clipping plane either before or after scanning.

A real-time collision analysis in PolyWorks 2017 detects potential tool collisions with parts or fixtures, and provides visual feedback about problem tool paths. This feedback occurs while measurement sequences are created or edited (such as when new objects are added to a sequence). The collision analysis works both offline and online, and saves on breakage—both CMM equipment and parts.  


  • Introducing Product Portfolio Management

    Project portfolio management (PPM) is a disciplined approach to objectively analyze potential investments, some requiring shared resources, against a common set of criteria so that a company can pick the right things to do.

  • What's Blocking The Move From 2D to 3D?

    CAD software vendors and pundits have long been predicting 'everyone' will soon be on 3D CAD. Why hasn't that happened?

  • QFD ANALYSIS: From Customer Needs to Design Specs

    Translating customer needs and requirements into design and engineering specifications is mostly a matter of listening, seeing, quantifying the qualitative, and then figuring out the possibilities. Yes, there are tools that can help.