Rafael Lelo de Larrea
Director of Industrial Metrology at ZEISS de México
View from the Top

Touching, Rather than Seeing, is Believing

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 10:14

Q: Where do you see the metrology segment going in terms of technology development?
A: The ultimate goal is to become part of the production line, delivering more accurate measurements in a noncontrolled environment. Today, normal quality control processes require sampling and testing in laboratory conditions. These steps are performed while the production line is still going so if there is a problem that needs to be fixed, the production that left the line in the meantime represents scrap and losses for the company.
Automation is a key element in the evolution of metrology, making connectivity between robotized systems and quality-control equipment a must for clients. Integration efforts are normally managed by Germany but we have looked to have more autonomy in this process by collaborating with local technology integrators. Similarly, data management has become a priority for accuracy in manufacturing processes. Companies require as many points of data as possible to digitalize a component, which has led to a preference for vision systems over tactile solutions. Additive manufacturing has made it crucial for companies to analyze the interior of a component thus giving more importance to X-ray applications.
Q: As vision technologies gain ground in the industry, what will be the future of tactile equipment?
A: I do not think tactile technology will disappear but we will definitely see a reduction in demand for these systems. That being said, tactile technology is still the most precise in the market and it will be a while before vision systems deliver the same level of precision and certainty in measurements. In automotive manufacturing and in electric-vehicle production particularly, manufacturing processes have narrowed their tolerances significantly. Although an electric powertrain will have 90 percent fewer components than an internal combustion engine, the 10 percent remaining will have to comply with the strictest tolerances, thus requiring tactile metrology solutions to deliver the best results. We might have a focus on vision systems at ZEISS but we still have not given up on tactile technology. To this day, the most accurate tactile machine for dimensional control is probably ZEISS’ with a precision of 0.3µm, mainly because there is no probe capable of offering a more accurate measurement. In comparison, the most accurate vision equipment in the market can deliver results with a ±10-12µm tolerance.
Q: How has ZEISS advanced in its efforts to integrate software developments to its portfolio and what are your growth projections for this business division?
A: Developments such as πWEB have been quite successful in the market although we found some resistance from companies unwilling to change their reporting and data collection methods. However, our software solutions have helped us grow our collaboration with existing clients and even to enter market niches we had not yet explored. Our priority now is to streamline communication between quality areas and the production floor. That way, data from quality control can be analyzed to impact production planning automatically. So far, this process is managed manually but we can digitalize it following Industry 4.0 concepts. This is a completely new project based on an acquisition ZEISS made in May 2018. We are integrating our own DNA into this solution and we expect to deliver a product in the near future.
Q: How has your collaboration with R&D centers helped you understand the needs of the automotive industry?
A: This collaboration helped us understand that we need to grow our presence in the Mexican market and to decentralize our operations. Thanks to this, we are present in many industrial hubs in the country and we have invested in building our own research centers, such as that in Monterrey. We still maintain our relationship with public research centers and academic institutions, however, since we see them as a key part in our communication with the industry. Our priorities at the moment are to open new centers of our own in the north of the country and the Bajio region and to participate in the implementation of metrology norms together with CIDESI, CENAM and other public centers.