Interview : Gauging the market for bespoke metrology solutions


Simon Elliott, General Manager at Mitutoyo Gauging Technology, talks to Contributing Editor Steed Webzell about the rising demand for bespoke CMM fixtures and other innovative metrology services

Although Mitutoyo Gauging Technology (MGT) is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2023, many remain unaware of this specialist Mitutoyo division. This situation is likely to change, however, as the number of major manufacturers gaining substantial benefits from adopting the services of MGT is growing fast. So what are these services precisely?

Coventry-based MGT is dedicated to providing customers with bespoke metrology systems conceptualised, designed, built, tested and delivered to solve a particular measurement need that is not completely met by off-the-shelf products. From small custom-made fixtures and bespoke hand tools through to turnkey measurement systems.

“In 1998, Mitutoyo identified the need to offer bespoke solutions beyond those in our standard catalogue,” explains Simon Elliott, General Manager of MGT. “There are many occasions when a caliper, height gauge or co-ordinate measuring machine [CMM], for example, doesn’t quite meet exact customer requirements. Or maybe there’s nothing standard that comes anywhere near. In instances like these, MGT can help.”

MGT is unique to Mitutoyo’s UK subsidiary with reference to the skill set it offers. For this reason, the division also works beyond these shores, with systems in operation across Europe, the US, China and even Japan, home of the parent company. Word is spreading fast, particularly following the creation of a dedicated website, MGT-specific brochures and distinctive branding.

“We’ll undertake any project related to measurement,” states Mr Elliott. “It might be something simple like modifying a caliper, right through to designing and manufacturing totally bespoke machines. As well as the mechanics, we also design the electrical/electronic, pneumatic and software systems. The only limitation is that it must be associated with measurement.”

CMM fixtures are a mainstay of business at MGT. There are many situations that benefit from the use of custom fixtures to position and hold components in the optimal way for measurement. A common example is measuring multiple components within a single cycle, where a fixture enables the operator to load and clamp them all at once, reducing fatigue and improving productivity.

MGT can supply fixtures with new Mitutoyo CMMs as part of a turnkey package, or as a retrofit solution for existing CMMs in the field, be they Mitutoyo or other brands.

There are two different markets for CMM fixtures. Subcontractors benefit more from modular-type standard fixtures as they make many different parts on a daily basis. Mitutoyo offers a full range of equipment and components for standard fixtures. MGT, however, focuses more on OEMs with high-volume, low-mix production. Here, bespoke fixtures can maximise the capabilities and throughput of CMMs. MGT can also provide CMM loading/unloading solutions, particularly when the customer’s components/products are large or heavy. In such applications, the fixture often becomes part of the loading system.

In terms of the process, following initial enquiry, MGT will meet with the customer to discuss specific requirements. A subsequent discussion with the in-house design team at Coventry will lead to a concept CAD model of the proposed fixture for presentation to the customer.

“At this point, the customer quite often comes up with further objectives, so we begin an iterative loop to arrive at a final concept design proposal,” says Mr Elliott. “Once the customer is happy, we provide a quotation. Assuming we receive a purchase order, we then work on the detail of that concept design and return to the customer for final sign-off.”

Manufacturing, assembly and Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) all follow prior to delivery, installation and, lastly, Site Acceptance Testing (SAT). Both FAT and SAT will involve a degree of Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA).

Mr Elliott reports that current demand is strong and, despite the recent challenges of Brexit, Covid-19 and war in Ukraine, business today is even surpassing MGT’s pre-pandemic performance. The medical industry in particular is booming, with the division regularly finding new ways to improve cycle times or capabilities when fixturing complex orthopaedic implants on CMMs. Shoulder and knee joints are among recent examples. Automotive is also strong, while the aerospace industry is returning to full strength following a hiatus due to the pandemic.

“In addition, the general skills shortage is driving engineering improvements, typically through the need to increase automation or productivity, which are things we do on a daily basis,” says Mr Elliott. “In all cases, we listen carefully to what the customer wants and find the optimal way to make it happen. Anything is possible!”

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