Derbyshire, UK – LK Metrology, the coordinate measuring machine (CMM) manufacturer, celebrated its 58th anniversary this year as a fully independent company again, following a change of ownership in 2018. The company pioneered CMM technology, and its name is associated with various inventions, including ceramic bridge design, air bearing and granite guideways, carbon fiber composite spindles, and horizontal-arm coordinate measuring.
Sharing the progress that the company made in the short time under his charge, Angelo Muscarella, the new proprietor, who also runs Italian firm ASF Metrology, said, “We are delighted to find ourselves entering the fourth year of operation in April 2021 with a healthy order book. Revenue met budget in the last financial year, and we even made a profit, despite incredibly difficult trading conditions due to the pandemic. Machine service and upgrade activities actually performed ahead of budget every month since July 2020.”
In the last three years, the company has made significant advances in expanding its product portfolio. It joined the articulating-arm 3D metrology system sector in 2020 with the release of six different FREEDOM arms in six different sizes. Previously announced products included the SCANtek 5 variant of the ALTERAM CMM with Renishaw REVO-2 probe, as well as AlteraC 10.7.5 in three sizes. The latter range reduces the cost of entry to the company’s CMM multi-sensor inspection technology and has recently been enhanced in terms of precision and measurement speed.
On the tech front, there have been two notable introductions. The company's DMIS-based CMM programming software, CAMIO 2021, has been improved in five key areas, assisting in increasing inspection productivity, improving data quality, and gaining a deeper understanding of the components being measured. Previously, the company launched the Metrology Gate portal, a web-based platform consistent with the aims of Industry 4.0, that allows inspection activities performed by connected metrology devices to be monitored and controlled around the clock from anywhere in the world. A new MTConnect adapter has been released, allowing users to integrate their LK CMMS with existing dashboard applications in their factories that previously could only display information on machine tools.
Worldwide Sales Success
The company’s Michigan subsidiary has established an expanded dealer sales network in the US, involving nine new companies and 20 facilities. Significant sales success has been achieved in this market, with one notable example being the supply to an automotive OEM of a CMM capable of 0.8 micron measuring accuracy across a 1,500 x 1,000 x 800 mm measuring volume, a level of performance that competitor suppliers were unable to match. The installation is used to test machined automatic transmission gears and shafts before they are transferred to an assembly line. Sales in Asia remain strong, although major companies in Europe have resumed investing, and activity levels in Russia and South Africa are also high. The automotive and aerospace industries are especially buoyant in all markets. In addition to new machine sales, retrofit projects, and service contract renewals boosted the company’s global revenue.
Latest Product Developments
The ASF Metrology group has completed ISO 17025 accreditation, which is the primary standard used by testing and calibration laboratories around the world. In addition, the company recently passed the ISO 9001 audit without a single non-conformance. Furthermore, the CMM manufacturer has been officially registered for the Russian market via the local sales partner in Moscow, after two years of effort. At the end of 2020, a new stylus cleaner, LK StyliCleaner, was introduced to remove contamination in just 30 seconds, from the stylus tip automatically during a measuring cycle, ensuring accurate metrology. Two new horizontal-arm CMMs, one conventional and one in layout configuration, as well as a new range of wide, gantry-type CMMs, are set to be released soon.
The year 2020 has provided an opportunity for the company to focus on R&D in the areas of new CMM sensors, accessories, software integrations, and other new products to enhance its offering. The development and integration of a new laser scanner and several derived products for deployment on static CMMs and articulated arms is at an advanced stage. The benefits of laser scanning will be routinely leveraged, even by inexperienced operators, thanks to their ease of use, and a competitive price structure could contribute to their widespread adoption.
Inspecting the quality of machined parts often entails checking surface roughness, which was previously tested using handheld roughness sensors or dedicated set-ups in a metrology laboratory. Both are manual disciplines that necessitate expertise and are subject to change. Furthermore, since they are time consuming, only a limited number of samples from a production batch can be calculated. The integration of a roughness sensor on a CMM will make the measurement part of the inspection program, making it automatic, repeatable, and quick enough for 100 percent inspection. The development of this technology, including the related software, without the use of high-end, expensive scanning probes is currently a priority for the company. In addition, a third-party 2D vision probe with plug-and-play integration is being introduced, with demonstrations already available at company’s showrooms in Portugal and Sweden, which is particularly useful for quality control applications in the field of electromobility.
Image Source: LK Metrology