Steffen Hailer, Head of Product Management & Strategic Business Development
Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM´s)–as well as machine tools–due to their mechanical structure and the accuracy of the guides deviate from their ideal geometrical shape. Without any special correction procedures, they can therefore only measure and manufacture with limited accuracy. These errors can either be very low–with just a few microns or sometimes higher up to 100 of microns. To calculate these errors safely, one needs reliable measurement devices, which can either be different types of DAkkS calibrated reference artefacts with smallest possible measurement uncertainties, or laser device that is ten times more accurate than the desired accuracy–it’s called the “Golden Rule of Measurement Technology.”
Against this background is the German-based firm, eumetron GmbH that conducts calibrations of reference standards and reference artifacts with the smallest possible uncertainties. A DAkkS-accredited calibration laboratory, eumetron determines the measurement results of the test-characteristics with very small uncertainties and executes the calibration within short lead times in Aalen, Germany. The company was founded in 2005 by industry experts Klaus Banzhaf and Theo Hageney, who infused their ingrained experience of three decades in dimensional metrology, especially in coordinate measurement technology and are now able to offer correct and safe measurement results to their customer. By minutely measuring and correcting objects’ geometry, CMM ensures very low measurement uncertainties for the calibration of the inspection characteristics. And that lead Banzhaf and Hageney asking themselves, “Why is it not possible to correct a machine tool?”
Volumetric compensation for machine tools was the answer. In 2007 AfM was founded with the same vision to make machine tools volumetrically more accurate.
"Owing the volumetric compensation, the machine tools have high accuracy that imparts minor tolerance levels on work pieces"
Banzhaf and Hageney’s zeal to introduce the same concept of calibration into machine tools sparked the genesis for AfM Technology GmbH—a company that offers tailor-made solutions in the field of mobile measuring technology and brings to the table a plethora of services–ranging from engineering support to software packages to 3D measuring technology–for monitoring and calibration of machine tools, coordinate measuring machines, and other multi-axis machine systems.
When it comes to ensuring accuracy in a machine, AfM Technology stands second to none. While manufacturers continue to believe and view their devices as ideal, they often overlook the environmental and mechanical influences that bring deviations in a machine. Hence, they often remain unaware of how big and significant the variations are, as they lack an accurate way of monitoring these changes. This is precisely what AfM Technology was born to change. With over three decades of rich experience and in-depth industry know-how, the company specializes in empowering machine tool users with volumetric correction procedures, which allows them to measure all 21 errors of their 3-axis system and correct them online for all well-known controller manufacturers. Driven by volumetric correction, the company’s solutions from different accuracy classes promise an increase in accuracy upto 85 percent on the mechanical state.
A machine tool correction is always just a screenshot on the basis of the actual environment and it is recommended for each machine tool user to have own tools for making interim accuracy checks on their own. Additionally, a volumetric compensated machine tool equipped with a probe and a measurement software could then be certificated by ISO 10360 to use it as a CMM. AfM can also offer solutions for all these demands.
Before we delve deeper into the value proposition of AfM Technology, it is imperative to go back in time—where the founders conceived and believed in a novel technology—to truly appreciate its contribution to the quality management realm.
Setting the Standards for Superior Precision
We (the Task Force) developed the paper in ISO 230, which is referencing to the ISO 10360 standards to have a handshake between the quality department and manufacturing paradigm–a proactive step to allow manufacturers either conduct a measuring test on their probe or get certificated to the ISO standards
AfM Technology banks on the knowledge and experience of eumetron to offer volumetric compensation of machine tools. eumetron carries out calibration of references standards and reference artifacts and offers high-end calibration with a measurable uncertainty. The company’s unparalleled expertise led them to derive an uncertainty measurement of 0.2 μm per meter–an unprecedented achievement which, when compared to the height of Mount Everest (8848m), corresponds to a measurement uncertainty of 1.8 mm!
Fuelled by such impressive results, Steffen Hailer, Head of Product Management & Strategic Business Development at AFM, explains that although volumetric compensation was a familiar theory on CMMs since the 80s, to blend the principle with machine tools was beyond any organizations’ wildest imaginations. During 2007, AFM’s proficient team observed that most machine tool controllers were unable to handle and read volumetric error maps. To eliminate this complexity, AfM Technology collaborated with Siemens and launched a project that paved the way for volumetric compensation as the mathematical corrective procedure for machine tools–a significant breakthrough in the calibration space. “Owing to the volumetric compensation, the machine tools have high accuracy solution points that impart minor tolerance levels on workpieces,” says Hailer.
Even today, the ingrained knowledge and expertise of eumetron in the calibration domain propel AfM Technology to effectively align the proven technologies in the field of coordinate measuring technology volumetric compensation with machine tools. Hailer highlights that this precision enables customers, especially from the aerospace and semiconductor sector, to produce more reliable results within their threshold limits under mostly variable environmental conditions and eventually eradicate the need for frequent tuning, thereby reducing the damage of workpieces.
Pushing the Bounds of Calibrations and Measurements
AfM Technology also offers software solutions to standardize and optimize calibration processes. Hailer mentions that the traditional approach of manual adjustments in the machine tool sector was cumbersome and often led to erroneous results. To solve such inconsistencies, AfM Technology upgraded its offerings. It developed the calibration software–AxisCalibration, making it convenient for customers to handle values, record machine errors, instrument readings, standardize sample reports, and also correct their machines to produce more accurate results.
Besides, be it a step gauge or ball beam, a sphere or a ring, the company’s AxisCalibration software is highly compatible with artifacts of any geometry used by manufacturers to either check the precision of their coordinate measuring machines or machine tools.
An additional software solution, AfMGaugeCheck, enables IATF 16949-compliant calibration of gauges in CNC pallet operation on ZEISS CMMs with CALYPSO measuring software. Under the same umbrella there are more software solutions for automation and standardization.
The symbiosis of eumetron’s artifacts and calibration services and AfM Technology’s software solutions propels them forward to better solve clients’ impediments and are foundation to provide solutions for accuracy improvement to their customers.
As an ISO/IEC 17025:2005 certified DAkkS calibration laboratory, eumetron forms the solid base on which AfM Technology stands. The companies’ cumulative dexterity enables them to issue valid certificates confirming the maximum certainty attained to specific customers like the aviation industries, where it is an official mandate.
Safe to say, eumetron’s hands-on expertise in CMM field positions AfM Technology as the perfect vendor of services and solutions that warrant “accuracy for machines.” In essence, these stellar capabilities make AfM Technology one of the few companies to support all kinds of controllers from disparate manufacturers. Whether a machine is equipped with controllers from Siemens or is embedded with Heidenhain’s parts, AfM Technology explicitly maps the error and attunes the device.
Tackling Challenges of the Current Times
With eumetron’s experience and expertise strengthening its core, AfM Technology is always prepared to combat adverse circumstances. At present, in the wake of Covid-imposed challenges and stringent safety measures like social distancing, strenuous lockdowns, and more, AfM Technology offers online calibration services and helps customers achieve desired results with their machine accuracy.
Moreover, AFM Technology is one of the driving forces integrating measurement traceability between QA/QC (CMM) and the production department (Machine Tool) utilizing Industry 4.0 initiative. The integrated traceable on-machine tool measurement process determines the uncertainty on measurement on a machine tool. The process flow considers error sources such as machine tool geometry error, touch probe performance, and ambient temperature criteria. The handshake between ISO 230 and ISO 10360 will allow a more pro-active, flexible, and effective communication between the quality and manufacturing department and presents a new paradigm and mindset in any size of manufacturing organization.
AfM Technology is also a part of the German taskforce wherein it has developed the latest extension of ISO 230 to make it closely comparable to ISO 10360. “We (the Task Force) developed the paper in ISO 230, which is referencing to the ISO 10360 standards to have a handshake between the quality department and manufacturing paradigm–a proactive step to allow manufacturers either conduct a measuring test on their probe or get certificated to the ISO standards,” explains Hailer. In the future, the company plans to emerge as a state-of-the-art enterprise that provides ISO 10360 certifications and solutions on machine tools. It also aims to probe artifacts to assess a machine tool and allow manufacturers to offer ISO certifications.
Elaborating on AfM Technologies’ vast expertise in helping clients in their accuracy requirements, Hailer mentions an instance when the company worked with a large automotive manufacturer in Germany. The client used the volumetric compensation approach to create perfect surfaces on their components. These offerings were augmented by its calibration software, which significantly reduced the number of processes needed to be carried out for calibration; a task that would have otherwise taken up to seven hours took less than three hours with AfM Technology’s software.
Setting the Course for Success
Owing to its dedication and loyalty to clients, AfM Technology is experiencing phenomenal growth. Moving forward on its path of exceptional development in the calibration space, AfM Technology is beginning to expand its capabilities according to the customers’ needs. The company anticipates assisting manufacturers in determining machine accuracy and, in the process, emerges as a competent partner by adding value to their portfolio. In the upcoming years, AfM Technology will expand its network and assist new companies in their quest for extraordinary quality.