QMT Features: January 2010
Vision for the future
Loughborough University  push the boundaries of non-contact measurement to new levels with a video measurement system.

Loughborough University, one of the UK’s leading engineering institutes, is using its recently installed SmartScope Flash 200 video measurement system from OGP to help students, research groups and commercial organisations push the boundaries of non-contact measurement to new levels.

With around 130 staff and 1,000 students (150 of which are PhD students), the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Loughborough University is one of the biggest departments of its kind in the UK. It has an international reputation for maintaining extensive links with industry and for being at the forefront of technological innovation. In terms of metrology alone, the department has been responsible for many new hardware, process, standards and calibration innovations in recent years.

Helping support such an impressive track record is the Wolfson’s extensive metrology equipment portfolio, which includes optical, dimensional, surface texture and pressure-based instrumentation. In terms of dimensional metrology, the introduction of non-contact, video-based measurement has helped complement more conventional, tactile-based co-ordinate measuring machines (CMMs).

Initially installing a pre-owned SmartScope FOV, Wolfson has since acquired a new SmartScope Flash 200 from OGP UK.

“We measure everything from the sublime to the ridiculous,” states Dr Jon Petzing, senior lecturer in metrology. “Industries covered range from sports and biomedical through to electronics and automotive. Typically the parts are 1-off.”

“Aside from student conducting individual projects, we currently have 13 research groups here in the department and they frequently have to measure objects that do not lend themselves to tactile measurement, i.e. they are too thin, fragile, sticky or slippery, hence there is a real need for non-contact measurement,” explains Dr Petzing.

Until recently the department had two conventional bridge type CMMs. The original idea was to introduce a camera-system to one of the CMMs but the inherent accuracy levels did not allow this strategy, hence it was decided to replace both with one new CMM and a video-based system.

Duly installed in Wolfson’s temperature and humidity controlled metrology lab, the Flash 200 is operated today by three different user groups: undergraduate students at third or fourth year level; research groups; and commercial organisations from industry.

“With regard to the latter, most companies use our services because they have a component or feature that they cannot measure,” says Dr Petzing. “With this in mind, it’s important we can offer a range of metrology solutions to try and meet demand. Furthermore, our cost base is typically lower than equivalent laboratories – we only cover the costs we need to cover.”

SmartScope Flash features a 12:1 zoom lens that maintains accuracy by calibrating itself automatically with each magnification change, while patented illumination technologies include a fixed array of LED lights which track the X-axis and provide square-on profile lighting - crucial for the accurate measurement of thick walled or shaft components.

Dr Petzing says that vision technology is particularly useful when measuring components such as printed circuit boards, etched glass, biological samples, or where there is a need to avoid contact force, such as in polymer components. l

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