Metrology machines are not just the most effective way of inspecting the components made in your shop, they are a sign to your clients that you take quality and efficiency seriously. The right combination of coordinate measuring machines, laser scanners, new software, controllers, and computers, can deliver highly precise, highly repeatable parts inspections. Clients look for suppliers who take metrology and inspection seriously; a supplier with a quick and robust inspection process is more likely to deliver accurate parts and deliver on time than someone using out-of-date technology.
However, that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to spend top dollar on a brand-new coordinate measuring machine. As long as you’re shopping for internationally reputable OEMs, names like Brown and Sharpe, Sheffield, Romer, Faro, Mitutoyo, Zeiss, OGP, LK, Leitz, DEA, and others, you can buy used equipment at half to two-thirds the original price. When it comes to coordinate measuring machines in particular, the structures are so mechanically sound that they have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years or longer with the right maintenance, care, and retrofits. Unlike machine tools, they aren’t bearing stress daily, so even a machine built in the early 2000s or in the ’90s will have years left of use.
That leaves the question of where you should go when you’re looking for used CMMs. You may have heard of great prices available online or at auctions, but you’re taking a gamble when you buy from sources that aren’t proven. You should look for a metrology dealer who inspects the equipment, provides delivery as part of the price, provides ongoing support for maintaining and repairing the machine, makes upgrades and retrofits available, and has operation and programming training for your staff.
The first step is inspection: North American metrology company Canadian Measurement Metrology (CMM) inspects the probing systems, air lines, bearings, drive systems, and cabling of all machines they get before resale. They repair any issues and give buyers a guarantee that the equipment will perform to original specifications on arrival, something no auction house can provide.
According to CMM, almost all of the used coordinate measuring machines they sell receive some kind of upgrade before they arrive at their destination. While they may be mechanically sound for decades, you will have to replace things like computers, controllers, and the software as technology advances. Upgraded software, new probing systems, and new fixture plates are not only common upgrades, they can also make a big difference in the efficiency of your inspections.
Last but not least, look for a metrology supplier who can also provide training for your staff. You may not be in a position to hire someone who already knows how to program the software for machine. It can be expensive to send a set of hands off-site for several days, which is why it’s so important that you can now find E-Learning courses for major software programs like PC-DMIS. Training is the last step in acquiring a new technology for your shop floor, but it’s not one to forget.Well-trained staff will reduce the time your shop spends on programming, be able to fix issues that arise with the machine, and keep things running smoothly. Of course, for advanced problems, you want to be able to call on expert metrologists who can troubleshoot the issue and get you back online.