Prior to its MACH 2016 launch, Aberlink Innovative Metrology’s Extreme CMM ran on North Devon-based Jamestan Engineering’s (01237 471878) shopfloor.The company supplies precision machined components to the aerospace, autosport and oil and gas markets, providing turning, milling, wire and sink EDM plus surface and cylindrical grinding services. The trial Xtreme was located on the shopfloor and made available to all of Jamestan Engineering’s machine operators.

Paul Jeffery, Jamestan Engineering’s managing director, takes up the story: “In addition to other tasks, we decided to use the Xtreme to take in-process measurements of the high volumes of tight-tolerance aluminium rings that we produce for an aerospace customer.

“Our quality management system meets the requirements of both ISO 9001:2008 and AS/EN9100 Rev C. As the quality of our output is all important, we were originally sceptical about the Xtreme’s ability to provide the levels of accuracy we require in such a harsh environment. Given the safety-critical nature of our aluminium parts and the potential for shopfloor temperature variations, we were initially worried about the ability of the Xtreme’s temperature-compensation function.

“However, by cross referencing the Xtreme’s results with those we achieved on the CMMs within our dedicated inspection department, our early fears were soon dispelled and we quickly gained complete confidence in the Xtreme’s results.

“As Aberlink’s management asked us to place the CMM within a challenging environment, to work it hard and to report any problems, we were happy to oblige. Given that the Xtreme was so easy to use, our operators were soon able to recall the relevant program for the part they were machining and to perform accurate, fast, automated CNC inspection routines.

“At the end of the six-month pre-launch evaluation period, we were happy to report that, despite the harsh surroundings and the sheer amount of work it performed, the new Aberlink CMM had completed thousands of very fast and accurate measuring routines, and that we had not encountered a single problem. In fact, so impressed were we by the speed, accuracy and robustness of the Xtreme, and as the use of a shopfloor-based CMM had given us so many advantages, we gave the machine the ultimate endorsement by purchasing the pre-production model from Aberlink.

“Now, the use of our Xtreme CMM has enabled our inspection department to concentrate on tasks such as final inspection, as all in-process checks are now made on the shopfloor. Also, as parts are now measured so soon after production, our already low scrap levels have been further reduced.”

Destined for the shopfloor: about the Xtreme CNC CMM

Developed to be an inexpensive, accurate, easy-to-use, CNC-driven CMM that could stand up to the rigours of harsh operating environments and be able to perform rapid automated measuring routines, Xtreme was developed in under two years. At less than £13,000, it is said to be a quarter to a third of the price of existing CMMs.

Aberlink Innovative Metrology’s (01453 884461) shopfloor unit sports a hexapod structure – a system that employs six legs to position the probe. That said, although it has six legs, it is constrained to move in three axes by software – the probe body being maintained in the vertical axis and not tilting, as it would were it a true hexapod. This is an easier system to error map, reveals technical director Marcus Eales – error mapping of aluminium structure CMMs is Aberlink’s forte.

Using Renishaw scales, probe and controller, everything else is made by Aberlink. To support its temperature-variation-resistant precision credentials, each strut is controlled to 40 °C, while change in the aluminium top triangle into which the struts locate is compensated for. Xtreme has a measuring volume of 425 mm diameter by 200 mm tall and offers 3 micron +L/250 measurement accuracy. Managing director Gavin Bailey is aiming to reach output of 1,000 units/year within two years.