Measurements made easy with depot machines
August 15, 2013
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Anniston Army Depot's Technology Integration Division is frequently called upon whenever shops in the industrial area have an item whose dimensions cannot be measured by shop personnel.
The reason doesn't revolve around their abilities with tape measures, but, rather, with a laser.
The Faro Laser Tracker is a portable precision Coordinate Measuring Machine. The depot also has a portable CMM with a multi-axis, articulating arm ruggedized for shop use.
Complicated measurements are often needed for repairs to combat vehicles. These portable measuring machines use point probing with laser sights and robotic arms, coupled with software, to create a "point cloud" of the area being checked. This makes it possible to perform dimensional analysis or geometric dimensions and tolerance measurements.
The depot has nine CMMs, four of which are portable, enabling employees to make critical measurements at the job site.
"These machines can measure accurately to within the width of a hair," said Brian Anderson, chief of the Technology Integration Division.
Drue Snow, a mechanical engineering technician for the Directorate of Engineering and Quality, said the devices are invaluable for measuring anything from a vehicle hull to a small component with accuracy to thousandths of an inch.
"There are jobs we are called to which are very large and complex and certain features, such as parallelism, perpendicularity or concentricity need to be checked," said Snow. "This is new technology, providing a better and more accurate way of checking things."
Snow said the coordinate measuring machines have been used often with Stryker vehicles, due to the unique dimensions and requirements of their design.
And three-dimensional, computer-aided design drawings can be imported into the software used by these machine, enabling employees to compare real-world measurements to designs.
"We can see whether or not parts are within specifications or how far out of tolerance the component is," said Snow.
Simply measuring parts or vehicles in need of repair barely taps the capabilities of this equipment.
"Sometimes, we use them to do reverse engineering," said Snow. "They are useful when we are working on a prototype or trying to make a part or fixture."
Snow explained one of the FaroArms was used in the turret trainer program to determine placement of components as well as to generate design drawings.
The machines also come in handy for quality checks, especially if a report is needed to verify parts conform to specific tolerances. They've even assisted with placement of large equipment.