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A presentation on seam validation measurement at this year’s Coordinate Metrology Society Conference (CMSC) in Nevada, USA showcased how Lockheed Martin incorporates GapGun - Third Dimension’s best-selling hand-held laser measurement system - into its quality inspection process of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Lockheed Martin explained how seam validation - the process of measuring the gap and mismatch between body panels – has become a networked process meaning seam types can be measured at a faster rate, repeatedly delivering significant improvements in time saving and reducing the risk of human error.

Quick and easy to use, GapGun takes measurements throughout Lockheed’s production line, so problems can be headed off before they arise, thereby speeding up and streamlining the production process. 

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Third Dimension has launched an all new countersink measurement solution for its GapGun range. The first of its kind on the market, it can calculate the dimensions of a countersink hole to accurately predict the flushness of fasteners once fitted. What’s more, it can operate in real time on the production lines of aircraft, cars and vans, and also in the energy and marine markets.

Last year in the commercial aviation industry alone, 1481 planes were manufactured with a total estimated 296 million countersinks. The average requirement is to measure 5% of each aircraft’s 200,000 countersink holes, meaning 10,000 countersink holes would have to be measured for every commercial aircraft produced. Done manually, these checks rely heavily on the competencies of the operator and are extremely time consuming.

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Dennis de Roos, Third Dimension’s Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, said: “If the hole for a rivet isn’t the right size, it will create severe quality problems, either at the time of production or more worryingly further down the line. Our new, patented system will help prevent these issues in just a couple of seconds, per measurement. For the first time, fastener flushness and countersink characteristics can be measured quickly and accurately, time and time again, with no possibility of operator error.”

Non-contact laser measurement devices are saving manufacturers time, money and resources by increasing efficiencies in quality checks. 

For manufacturers in the 21st century, ensuring the products they produce are of the right quality is paramount. As customers we demand quality products that are competitively priced, longer lasting and more fuel efficient. We expect our cars to be water and wind tight thanks to correctly fitted panels, doors and seals. Similarly, when we fly, we expect a smooth touch down thanks to precisely fitted landing gear. 

Add to this regulators requiring improvements in safety and reductions in both noise, waste and carbon emissions and a picture soon emerges of a manufacturing world that is constantly evolving. The pressure is on to make ever more complex products with tighter tolerances in a cost effective and reliable way whilst always ensuring quality is at the forefront.

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Sound familiar? For any manufacturer struggling with these demands, non-contact hand held and automated laser measurement devices can play a big part in helping achieve this. Optical metrology is the principle behind non-contact laser measurement devices that determines the dimensional profile of a part, by taking a series of pictures of its surface.

The key to profile measurement is to reliably report the surface in a lot of detail. Laser triangulation technology is used to collect measurements by projecting a laser stripe across the surface of a part to determine the measureable feature. Simultaneously, an integrated camera system takes images of this static laser stripe. As the angle is known between the camera and the laser projection, an algorithm can be written to calculate the dimensions of the surface over which the laser falls and the camera sees. This measured data is then output to point cloud format to generate a digital copy of the surface.