Most CMM suppliers ‘lock’ their equipment’s error maps, requiring any update to be undertaken by the OEM. Measurement Solutions’ MapBox3D can be retrofitted to existing CMMs, offering equipment owners choice in the matter of error map updating from a source other than the supplying OEM. That said, a locked error map may not be an issue for some, as Measurement Solutions’ (01733 325252) managing director, Iain Caville, says: “If a customer is getting good service at a fair and reasonable price from an OEM, there’s no reason to come to us. But just as with an older car, you might not want to take it to the main dealer after a few years, because you don’t need certain things that come as standard with a service, plus hourly rates are lower. But up to now, when people have come to us for lower cost UKAS calibration, we haven’t been able to update error maps, if required; now we can.” MapBox3D, he underlines, is a service-side offering; a solution to a problem, not a product that will be sold at every opportunity.

Prior to MapBox3D, the path to gaining an open error map might have been to retrofit a new controller and software; a service that Measurement Solutions already offers via Metrologic hardware and software, as does CMM Solutions (01902 563151) with Renishaw technology. But if an OEM undertakes the retrofit, the end result could be a locked error map again. Yet retrofit is a hammer to crack a nut, if nothing other than an open error map is the requirement – improved performance and capability are key retrofit benefits. MapBox3D is between 10-20% of the price of such a full retrofit, Caville offers, at a hardware cost of under £1,900, discounted should full error mapping be required.

While MapBox3D is only just now being offered in the UK, with the first installation imminent, it is already tried, tested and in operation in Germany. Some 70 units have been installed there by product originator 3D Service GmbH (, a company with an 18-year pedigree and started by ex-employees of a well-known German CMM OEM. But 3D Service is focusing on manual CMM upgrades. Measurement Solutions, which has a reciprocal service arrangement with the company, came into contact with the product earlier this year and saw another possibility, CMM error mapping.

For six months, Measurement Solutions has been testing the product to confirm its suitability, as Caville details: “We have CMMs in our demonstration room with error maps on. We have calibrated machines using the box and not using the box [using the internal error map], and they are within 2-3 microns of each other, which is within the normal repeatability range of a CMM.”

To make use of the product is simple, as he explains: “We will first carry out some tests, measuring a length bar in up to up to 20 different positions, taking half an hour or so, recording the data. We then unplug the scales from the controller, plug them into the box and plug the box into the controller. Now, there are two possibilities after this. You can leave the old error map in operation and use the box to make corrections, say, after a crash, bringing the machine back to original accuracy.Alternatively, we turn the old error map off and create a new error map in the box itself, which is our preferred option, because of the potential for the old error map to be updated, causing chaos. And since both approaches take almost the same amount of time, there is no reason not to use MapBox3D for the complete error map.”

This article was first published in the October 2016 issue of Machinery magazine.