Industry: What are Coordinate Measuring Machines?

Coordinate Measuring Machines or better known as CMM for short are mechanical systems that used in manufacturing and assembly industry, particular in the field of engineering. It is a tool that used specifically to determine coordinates of points on a work piece surface. This machine is made up of four core components; the main machine itself, the measuring probe (the part that determines each point precisely), the computerization control system and the measuring software.

A coordinate measurement machine can either be manually controlled by a human operator or programmed to be controlled entirely by the computer system. Every measurement is defined by a special designed probe that is attached to the third moving axis of this machine. And depending on the usage of the machine and industry, the probes can be mechanical, optical, laser, or white light, among others. To cater with the industry demand, CMMs are available in a wide variety of sizes and designs.

A coordinate measuring machine has a few important specifications; and they are the measuring lengths along the X, Y and Z axes and as well as the resolution and work piece weight. These axes are orthogonal to each other in a typical three dimensional coordinate system. Without this principle, the measurement will not be accurate and might lead to serious problem in manufacturing.

Each of this axis has an independent scale system that indicates the location of that axis and the machine will read the input from the touch probe as directed by the operator or programmer. The machine will then use the X,Y,Z coordinates of each of these points to determine the size and position. The common measurement unit that a coordinate measuring machines use is known as ‘microns’ or micrometers, which is 1/1,000,000 of a full meter.

Since coordinate measuring machines are used in manufacturing and assembly processes to test a part or assembly against the design intent, it has the ability to analyze the collected points with regression algorithms. The tasks are performed either manually or automatically via Direct Computer Control, which can be programmed to repeatedly measure identical parts such as those used in industrial robot that commonly found in automobile industry.

Coordinate Measuring Machines General Specs

A coordinate measuring machine can have one of several mounting options so that it is not restricted only to be used in certain condition. And these include benchtop, free standing, handheld and portable. These terms are to be used interchangeably, particular in the manufacturing field. On top of that, a multi-sensor coordinate measuring machine has the capabilities to mount more than one sensor, camera, or probe at any given time.

Some common applications that used in coordinate measuring machines include dimensional measurement, profile measurement, depth mapping, digitizing or imaging, and shaft measurement. Common coordinate measuring machines features include crash protection, offline programming, reverse engineering, shop floor suitability, SPC software and temperature compensation.

What are coordinate measuring machines?

CMM in action


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