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Case Studies

GREENLEE: 3D Measurement Systems

Keyence Corporation of America

XM SeriesThe quality assurance technician is out sick. The backlog for the coordinate measuring machine (CMM) is five jobs deep. The machine operator needs to check a hole position on a rush job. These are common occurrences on any manufacturing floor, ones that cause machine downtime, employee frustration, lost productivity, and bad parts. Some shops attempt to solve these problems by placing a conventional CMM in the production area. This consumes valuable floor space, however, and often requires a special foundation and plumbing for compressed air. What’s more, most CMMs require lengthy operator training, and are not suitable for the temperature swings and less-than-pristine air quality typical of many manufacturing environments. Nathan Blair, plant manager at Greenlee Textron’s Genoa, IL facility, recognized all this, and in the spring of 2016 decided to do something about it. He contacted his local KEYENCE representative and scheduled a demonstration of the metrology provider’s newest addition to its shop floor lineup, the XM Series handheld probe coordinate measuring machine.

“Greenlee has been around for more than 150 years,” says Blair. “We became part of Textron Inc. in 1986, and primarily serve the electrical industry. Our facility has 63,000 square feet of manufacturing space, with 80 employees working two shifts. We machine and assemble several Greenlee products at this location, including electric and hydraulic benders, cable pullers, cutters and strippers, and several hydraulic tools such as impact wrenches and drills, chainsaws, and orchard pruners.”With that many products and employees, Blair needed a fast and simple to use measurement solution. The XM proved to be just that. Using a combination of high-resolution camera and unique, handheld probe, it guides the operator through a series of steps—simply touch the workpiece with the stylus, select the measurement parameters, and follow the on-screen guide to measure points, surfaces, circles, ellipses, and a variety of 3D shapes, including freeform surfaces.The XM also allows recording of positions obtained while checking, a feature that greatly simplifies creation of work instructions. It uses “augmented reality” to visually overlay measurement points and anticipated geometry on top of and alongside the workpiece image. This makes it easy for anyone to walk up and start using the XM, with no need for lengthy training or knowledge of measurement principles.“The XM was purchased to relieve capacity constraints on our larger production CMMs,” says Blair.

"We mounted the system to a cart that allows us to roll it anywhere on the shop floor that a setup is taking place, and can begin measuring a part as soon as it’s removed from the machine. This is a big improvement from our past program prove-out experiences, in which we would need to break into the CMM schedule of normal production parts in order to perform first article inspection and complete the machine setup—all while the CNC sits idle waiting for the inspection report so the operator can make the necessary offset modifications. It also greatly reduces the time needed for the manufacturing engineering and/or quality department to diagnose a quality issue.”Shop supervisor Derek Ernest agrees. “The XM’s capabilities are an important part of Greenlee’s move into the digital manufacturing era. Not only is it a key player in managing part quality, but the XM also makes statistical process control (SPC) easier with its Cp and Cpk tracking capabilities. This helps to put our operators at ease with the whole idea of SPC, which in the past has been a very manual, pain-staking ordeal that can now be completed behind the scenes automatically.”Ernest says the transition to shop floor measuring has been easy due to the high level of support from KEYENCE, as well as the system’s ease of use, robustness, and flexibility. “Installation was quick and pain-free, and the training very helpful and straightforward. KEYENCE has really done a great job streamlining the entire process with easy-to-understand instructions and training exercises. They’ve been great about answering our questions, and helping with the transition from the training material to programming our own production parts. The XM is proving to be a very useful tool that provides immense value to our facility.

KEYENCE has steadily grown since 1974 to become an innovative leader in the development and manufacturing of automation equipment worldwide. Our products consist of automation sensors, static eliminators, barcode readers, measuring instruments, vision systems, laser markers, and digital microscopes.


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