Metrology Solutions Go NanometricSat, 09/01/2018 - 10:06
Q: How did Helmut Fischer’s participation in the metrology equipment market evolve during 2017?
A: Our client portfolio remains unchanged but we have explored new business opportunities. Helmut Fischer is introducing nanoindentation equipment to Mexico for the first time. The Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon (UANL) was the first to buy this technology and employ it for academic purposes. Now, we have collocated a highly sophisticated material-analysis piece of equipment in CIDETEQ. This machine does nano-superficial analysis on thin films and CIDETEQ will use it to engage in cutting-edge research and development of new technologies. We also delivered a similar machine to MAHLE, which will be used for analysis of piston rings in the company’s laboratory, and another to Termoinnova in Hidalgo.
2017 was pivotal for Helmut Fischer because it is the first time we placed this technology with three different customers. This shows that the Mexican automotive industry is increasingly interested in being well-equipped and in producing more sophisticated products.
Q: What advantages can nanoindentation offer over other hardness measurement methods?
A: Hardness is usually measured with testers that hit a small area of an object with a weight. The footprint it leaves is used to calculate the hardness of the material and its capacity for plastic deformation. Helmut Fischer’s nanoindentation method can gather data on how much a component can deform and how much it can recompose after applying pressure. The main advantage that nanoindentation offers over other hardness measuring methods is that it allows for the material’s elongation coefficient to be measured after it regains its original geometry. In other words, traditional methods only measure plastic deformation and not the elastic characteristics of a component like nanoindentation does. This data can be used to improve component design.
We want to boost micro and nanoindentation technology in the Mexican market because both have many possible applications and can improve component design processes.
Q: How can nanoindentation improve measurement processes on production lines?
A: The footprint that nanoindentation leaves on a component when hit can only be seen through a microscope. As a result, the parts that are tested with this method can be easily reintegrated into the production line. Nanoindentation is an automated method that explores the surface of components, which enables Helmut Fischer to register any detail of a component’s surface and compare the characteristics of an optimized and a nonoptimized area within the same piece. Prior to this method, it was necessary to cut a component in half and analyze areas in a component that received heat or surface treatment and those that did not. Helmut Fischer’s nanoindentation solution enables users to focus only on the surfacing material or coating rather than the entire piece. It is similar to testing the hardness of a person’s skin without the hardness of the bone interfering.
Q: What is Helmut Fischer’s position on the debate between optical and tactile measuring technology?
A: Most of Helmut Fischer’s metrology solutions are tactile but the future is in optical technology. Metrology is migrating toward nontactile technology because of Industry 4.0 and automation trends. Riding the wave, Helmut Fischer is betting on the development of pulsed-laser technology. These systems can measure the thickness of several coats of car paint remotely through the detection of variations in light frequency as the laser beam penetrates the car’s paint coats.
We trust pulsed laser will revolutionize the automotive industry because it will allow for all cars to be tested quickly. Car paint is usually tested manually with operators choosing a sample vehicle in the production line and revising the coating’s thickness in a laboratory. Helmut Fischer’s pulsed-laser technology will continuously gather data that can be used to improve processes.
Q: What milestones has Helmut Fischer reached in integrating its metrology solutions into automated production lines?
A: It is natural for Helmut Fischer as an equipment manufacturer to collaborate with automation providers. These companies can offer robots and automated devices to make production lines more efficient while we can solve inspection tasks with our technology. Integrating automation solutions is one of our main objectives for 2018. We need to establish synergies with automation companies so our equipment can be successfully integrated into automated processes. We collaborate in this area with Autechnik on a pipe-measuring project and with AVR in Queretaro.
Q: What will be Helmut Fischer’s most important project in Mexico for 2018?
A: We expect to install X-ray metrology equipment in a production line at TE Connectivity’s Hermosillo plant. This machine will be used in a reel-to-reel process for plating of electronic contacts using zinc, nickel, copper, silver or other conductive metals. Our equipment will measure the thickness of these coatings to prevent material waste and ensure that components meet specifications. Being able to control the plating process nanometrically reduces companies’ overhead by optimizing the use of expensive materials such as silver. Helmut Fischer was successful in the US with a client that needed to control its plating process to control the thickness of gold depositions in electronic contacts at 25nm.
Measuring coating thickness requires high precision and speed and Helmut Fischer will have the opportunity of installing, adjusting and calibrating advanced X-ray measuring equipment in TE Connectivity’s first automated production line and we expect this to be a benchmark for other potential clients. Although Helmut Fischer’ solutions are costly, savings thanks to the control of deposition of precious-metal coatings can pay for the equipment in itself.
Q: What is Helmut Fischer’ strategy to continue growing in Mexico’s automotive industry?
A: We are working to secure two certifications. The company is getting certified in the updated version of ISO 9001:2015 for quality management and we need to gain the ISO 17025 certification that guarantees traceability and technical competitiveness of measurement labs and metrology equipment manufacturers. These certifications are important for both Helmut Fischer and Mexico because they improve the industry’s capabilities, they guarantee minimum standards of service and validate our calibrators.