MM Live 2010 (www.mmliveuk.com) is a global showcase of technology aimed at manufacturers of precision micro components. Products and services from more than 150 exhibitors will cover the full spectrum of micro-manufacturing techniques, from laser cutting, welding and micro-machining through to injection moulding, measurement, photo-etching, handling and assembly. One of the more dominant technology areas evident at the show will be metrology. Making micro-parts is one thing, but measuring them is quite another. However, there will be plenty of innovative solutions on display, including the new InfiniteFocus 3D measurement device from Alicona (01732 746670), which is described by the company as a non-contact "micro CMM". Based on focus-variation technology, it offers many advantages over other optical and tactile methods, Alicona says. For instance, it is possible to measure steep-sided walls on micro-components, as the scan range allows a vertical dynamic of 1:400000. The InfiniteFocus 3D's measurement capabilities include profile, area, roughness, volume, difference and form. On the stand of Spectrum Metrology (0116 276 6262), visitors will witness a range of recently launched high precision optical and multi-sensor measuring instruments designed by German optical specialists Dr Heinrich Schneider Messtechnik. The range includes: the VideoCAD 2D optical measuring device for profiles and stamped parts; the table-top DP digital projector with CCD camera, touch-screen PC and precision measuring stage; and the bench-top WMM100 shaft measuring machine, with touch-screen PC. Image: The InfiniteFocus 3D measurement device from Alicona Elsewhere at MM Live, Imaging Associates (01869 356240), which is part of the Carl Zeiss group of companies, will be showcasing its Axio CSM 700 true colour confocal system. This non-contact surface analysis system, together with innovative add-ons for stereo and compound light microscopes, is said to help users make the leap into the 3D world. Measuring the thickness of coatings is a technology area currently witnessing impressive levels of innovation. Take Nightingale-EOS (01978 351711), for example, which is using MM Live to promote its new n-Gauge metrology tool for characterising the thickness and material properties of thin film coatings on a range of devices that includes medical implants and micro-engineered parts – in fact, wherever there are thin transparent films to be measured, with thickness in the range of a few nanometres up to tens of microns. Image: The n-Gauge metrology tool is for characterising the thickness and material properties of thin film coatings on a range of devices The tool employs innovative beam profile reflectometry (BPR) technology, which has been used successfully in high volume semiconductor manufacturing for many years. Nightingale-EOS says that the n-Gauge makes this technology available in a smaller form-factor, at lower cost, and with more capability than ever before. EXPLAIN FURTHER So what exactly is it? Well, the n-Gauge is a compact, self-contained unit (with no moving parts) that sits on top of a standard optical microscope, replacing its standard illumination module and eyepiece assembly. An ethernet cable connects the tool to an external computer that provides a simple-to-use graphical user interface and the data analysis capability to make sophisticated measurements of the properties of any films or coatings present on a sample. The reflected laser light is analysed automatically to determine the thickness, refractive index, orientation and strain of the coating at that point. Aimed at a similar market is the new Talysurf CCI SunStar with automated XYZ motion from Taylor Hobson (0116 276 3771). The company says the instrument is the world's only fully automated, entry-level optical profiler. The CCI SunStar merges non-contact dimensional measurement capability with advanced thin and thick film technology from 5 micron down to 300 nm or less. Among its benefits are: 4 million pixel camera for high resolution imaging over a large area; auto-range and auto-fringe-find for ease of use; single mode of operation over all scan ranges; and a strong, stable and robust closed-loop Z-scanning mechanism. Moving from measurement to manufacturing, the offering at MM Live concentrates on a range of technology areas. Beginning with machining, Rainford Precision (01744 889726) will be keen to promote the Kyocera Micro Tool range of boring bars (minimum bore diameter 0.4 mm), thread mills (from M0.5) and reamers (from 0.2 mm diameter), together with the Union Tool ranges of carbide micro end mills starting at 60 micron and drills at 100 micron. Visitors to the stand of Contour Fine Tooling (01438 720044) will witness the latest innovations in the field of single point diamond cutting tools – the company has both manufacturing sites and repair facilities in the UK, while, for those interested in the workholding of micro-components, visitors should make their way to the stand of Leader Chuck Systems (0121 771 4843). Accurate positioning, whether for machining or inspection purposes, is a vital ingredient in successful micro-manufacturing. As products become more compact and features become ever smaller, the need to move objects tiny distances with great accuracy has increased enormously. As a result, a host of innovative motion control systems will be present at MM Live, including linear, rotary and multi-axis positioning stages, plus motion controllers designed for micro and nano-positioning applications. For example, the new ProScan III motor controller from Prior Scientific Instruments (01223 881711) is modular by design, which means the system can be configured to specific requirements. Capable of driving up to 15 stepper motors, the entry-level cube provides 3-axis control, along with four programmable TTL inputs/outputs, to trigger a variety of peripherals. Auxiliary drive modules can be added, either vertically or horizontally, each adding control for a further three axes. Also new from Prior is the FB range of motorised translation stages and the ES10ZE low-cost single axis motor controller. From simple sub-assemblies to complex multi-axis motion systems and controllers, visitors will find all of these on the stand of Newport Spectra-Physics (01235 432710), while a trip to see the micro/nano-positioning products offered by Orlin Technologies (01525 306100) is also recommended. For those specifically seeking nano-positioning solutions, Aerotech (0118 9409400) will be offering its new ANT range of long travel nano-positioners, which are said to incorporate best-in-class electronic and magnetic circuits, innovative feedback technology, dynamic trajectory management, application specific materials, and an easy-to-use, yet powerful control system. The result is a large selection of linear, rotary and multi-axis positioning systems with nanometer and sub-arc-second resolution, extreme accuracy, linear travel ranges from 25 to 160 mm and rotary ranges from 20 to 360° continuous travel. Shifting the focus to lasers, which are at the heart of many micro-manufacturing processes, Swiss Tec (07733 609346) will present two main platforms for micro-machining solutions: Multi Flexi Tube (MFT) for machining tubes and Multi Flexi Sheet (MFS) for sheets. The former is aimed at the cutting and drilling of intricate tubes, such as cardiovascular stents, specialty needles or guide-wires. For those seeking laser engraving and scanning systems, look no further than the stand of Applied Laser Engineering (0208 941 1101), which can offer laser technology for engraving, texturing, imaging and micro-machining the surface of cylindrical forms that are used in a variety of printing, embossing or texturing applications. Image: Multi Flexi Tube (MFT) for cutting and drilling intricate tubes, such as cardiovascular stents Another expert in laser technology, Trumpf (01582 725335), will use MM Live to demonstrate its TruMark laser marking systems, which are modular and easily upgradeable. TruMark systems are today used to mark anything from solar cells and electronic components, through to aircraft parts. Over on the stand of SPI Lasers (01489 779696), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trumpf group of companies, a range of fibre lasers and direct diode lasers will be on show, while the display of TLM Laser (0845 260 2220) will feature offerings from the Foba range, such as the DP50 and LP100 Nd:YAG lasers, the patented IMP intelligent mark positioning system, and the DP2UV diode laser that expands the product portfolio into the ultra violet range. Image: Trumpf's TruMark laser marking systems For visitors seeking subcontract laser micro-machining, then one exhibitor matching this very description, Laser Micromachining (01745 535165), will be a good starting point. The company's services range from simple proof-of-concept trials through to high volume manufacturing. Offering a similar service, Micrometric (01522 509999) suppIies fine laser machining – flat and tubular section cutting of most materials on the periodic table. If higher volumes are the order of the day, then presswork and stampings specialist Brandauer (0121 359 2822) should probably be the first port of call. The company is one of the largest of its type anywhere in Europe and can supply a complete package of services that include design and in-house tool production (or a specialist tool transfer service) through to high quality manufacturing and logistics. Another way to cut micro-parts is by water jet and this process will be featured heavily on the stand of Bystronic (02476 585114), which will be taking a ByJet Classic waterjet machine to the October event. Image: Water jet cutting is also suitable for micro-machining, says Bystronic Bystronic says that water jet is used in the medical, aerospace, automotive, electrical and watch industries, and for specialty applications. Tight tolerances are achieved for a variety of materials, including non-conductive, such as carbon fibre, while decreasing deburring and scrap rates, without the negative effects of thermal stress. Box item Micro Manufacturing Conference 2010 MM Live 2010 sees the return of the Micro Manufacturing Conference, which features leading industry experts, who will take to the stage and discuss the latest techniques and case studies. Dedicated sessions will take place across both days on subjects such as micro-machining, laser micro-manufacturing, micro-moulding and micro-inspection. Day 1 of the conference will kick off with a keynote address from Professor Dragos Axinte, the director of Rolls-Royce UTC in Manufacturing Technology at the University of Nottingham. Professor Axinte will present a paper entitled '3D micro-texturing of diamond structures: from fabrication techniques to opportunities in developing innovative micro-products'. This paper looks at how diamond structures are currently under-utilised in industrial applications, and will discuss his revolutionary findings and examples of innovative applications of diamond 3D micro-features for the development of high value-added micro-products. Brent Hahn from Accumold will present the keynote address on Day 2, with a focus on 'material selection with an eye on micro-moulding'. Other speakers will include Anthony Marrett, the managing director of Precision Micro Ltd, who will talk on 'laser evolved micro-machining', and Franz Helmli, Reinhard Danzl and Stefan Scherer from Alicona, who will present on 'optical 3D measurement and analysis of complex cutting tools'. For the full conference programme, visit www.mmliveuk.com. First published in Machinery, September 2010