Wireless integration of precision measuring equipment is a relatively new innovation that is destined to become widespread, if not universal, within a short few years. WalMart were one of the first to adapt wireless to an application back in the 1980s for inventory management. For engineering applications, incorporating wireless into measurement and inspection process tools, and systems, reduces system costs and simplifies deployment. Getting rid of wires makes operational work easier and faster, with less faffing around required to complete a task. To assess the benefits of adapting wireless technology to handheld CMM tools, let’s look at wireless calipers.
Take for example the Mahr digital depth gauge 30 EWRi. Available in 4 versions suitable for measuring ranges of 150 mm, 200, 300, 500 with a resolution of 0.01 mm and an error limit of 0.03 mm with optional built-in wireless. With a slide and beam made of hardened stainless steel it delivers immediate measurements due to the Reference System and is about as solid, robust and dependable a caliper that you can find anywhere in the world.
What sets it apart is the integrated wireless capability that makes using it a lot easier than wired or traditional manual versions, and measurement tasks a lot faster. Let’s look at the advantages of wireless digital calipers with specific reference to the Mahr instruments:
1. Lack Of Clutter
The most visually obvious difference is the absence of a data lead that inevitably gets in the way when concentrating on a delicate inspection process task. Wireless also permits you to use it almost exactly as you would an older instrument, with freedom to access all angles and without the physical restriction of a data lead but with the convenience of automatic recording of the readings. That means you don’t take your eyes off the subject, remain fully focused and inevitably deliver a higher and more accurate performance over time compared with older models.
2. Low Cost Means Higher Uptake & Utilisation
The Mahr system has just three primary wireless components that integrate invisibly to deliver the expected seamless performance
- Wireless transmitter integrated in the caliper means no need for bulky and power hungry add-on transmitter
- I-stick station nearby to capture signals from up to 8 measuring instruments simultaneously at a range of 12 metres
- MarCom software that runs the system from end to end
The i-stick resembles a standard USB memory stick and is a low cost item. That means that several shop areas or benches can have one, each linked to the calipers of the team working in that section. Of course, it is not limited to calipers only. Mahr offer a growing range of handheld devices with wireless incorporated.
3. Seamless Operation - How It Works
Mahr has integrated wireless data transmission into its MarCal range of digital calipers and they cost about the same as a wired caliper. Mahr's already-proven wireless technology sends data securely to a small i-stick receiver, that looks just like your everyday USB memory drive.
The MarCom software simplifies data acquisition making it really simple. All you have to do is take a measurement and send that data directly to Excel or into any Windows application using a keyboard code. You can also capture this wireless data collection capability into your existing SPC applications.
An added bonus is that, by integrating the wireless transmitters with the caliper's own electronics, the units become very energy efficient. Mahr reckon it adds as much as 50% to battery life compared with competitor systems.
4. Simple To Install
One of the trues benefits of this type of wireless technology is that it really is plug and play. The integrated MarConnect wireless interface is activated immediately the i-stick and its station are plugged in. Each measuring instrument is identified by signal coding in the MarCom software so no mix-ups between what is what. The fact that wireless data transmitters are integrated neatly into these digital calipers means no additional batteries or interface boxes or are needed.
5. The Interconnected Shop
There will come a time very soon when every process and operation in the shop will be linked by wireless to a central “command module” or management dashboard. From there, a manager or supervisor will drill down to a specific process, operation or machine as required, to view its data and KPIs. While our example of wireless calipers might not easily fit into that picture, there is no doubt that wireless is the way to go. Smooth operations consider adopting every technology that gives them an extra edge in some respect. Anything that speeds up the inspection process, and increases productivity and throughput, should be high on the list of priorities for consideration.
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