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Metrology: Splitting Hairs
March 29, 2012   
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Contemporary geometric metrology enables measurements with an accuracy of a few thousandths of the diameter of a human hair. This makes it possible to precisely monitor the quality of manufactured parts of machines and equipment.

Adam Wo¼niak, a researcher with a postdoctoral degree at the Institute of Metrology and Biomedical Engineering—part of the Faculty of Mechatronics at the Warsaw University of Technology—is carrying out a zl.800,000 research and development project funded by Poland’s National Center for Research and Development along with his team of Ph.D. students.

“Today’s factories, especially those in the automotive industry cannot function without modern measurement technology, which makes it possible to ensure the exact dimensions of geometrically complex parts of machinery and equipment without disrupting the production process,” says Wo¼niak.

Accurate measurements have a direct impact on the reliability of equipment—it is less susceptible to wear and sudden damage. According to Wo¼niak, the increasing reliability of cars today is largely due to advances in geometric metrology. Today, the average car user visits a service station only for periodic oil changes. In the old days, such visits were far more frequent, due to poorly manufactured parts. Today the automotive industry relies on automatic monitoring of parts and components in terms of their dimensions, a process involving what are called coordinate measuring machines. Automatic quality control makes it possible to reduce manufacturing costs.

The automotive sector is just one of many examples, Wo¼niak says; other examples include aerospace and precision engineering.

Wo¼niak won a scholarship for young scientists under the Start program in 2003. He also received scholarships under the Kolumb 2005 program and the Powroty/Homing 2007 program run by the Foundation for Polish Science.

After receiving this last scholarship, he said he would work to build a research team focusing on coordinate measuring techniques competitive with regard to those offered by the best research centers abroad.

According to the Foundation for Polish Science, Wo¼niak’s research will contribute to the development of modern measuring techniques needed in the manufacture of hi-tech machine and equipment parts. In May last year, the results of his research were published in the prestigious scientific journal Precision Engineering and in the International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology.

At the moment, Wo¼niak, aided by a team of Ph.D. students, is carrying out a project financed by the NCBiR. The project concerns a new trend in global research known as on-machine measurement, based on measuring manufactured objects directly on computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools.

The innovativeness of this method is based on the possibility of singling out and eliminating errors made by the measuring head—as opposed to those made by other components of the coordinate measuring machine.

Wo¼niak’s research is hoped to benefit a wide range of sectors, including the aerospace and automotive industries as well as the production of engines, fuel pumps, and vehicle body parts. The research should also help improve the quality and durability of products used in dentistry: false teeth, crowns and dental fillings. Wo¼niak’s research findings are also expected to help improve the performance and reliability of products and streamline the process of early detection of defects in manufactured equipment.
Wo¼niak’s work involves a constant search for new ways of increasing the accuracy and speed of measurements. For his Ph.D. he investigated what are called CMM pulse probes. He analyzed the metrological characteristics of existing measurement devices and their most important components—pulse probes.

As part of his postdoctoral qualification, in March 2011 Wo¼niak proposed a new, original method to significantly reduce measurement errors. The method attracted the interest of international manufacturers of measurement equipment and software such as Quality Vision International, Inc. and Origin International Inc., as well as other partners from industry, including Pratt & Whitney Canada. Wo¼niak has co-authored a patent filed in the United States.

During his career as a researcher, Wo¼niak has worked as a researcher at a university in Canada and also spent time in Japan and the United States.

The Warsaw University of Technology’s Coordinate Measuring Technology Laboratory, headed by Wo¼niak, is equipped with high-end coordinate measuring machines from the Carl Zeiss company. In 2010, the laboratory was provided with additional modern equipment enabling contact-free measurements using a laser scanner, for zl.1.3 million in funds from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Last year, more equipment was bought for nearly zl.2 million, including computed tomography (CT) equipment for engineering applications, one of the first such devices in Poland. Such equipment makes it possible to undertake important research topics and work with the best research centers in the world.

Increased automation of production processes requires constant improvements in quality control, especially in the case of technologically advanced devices. Growing quality requirements with regard to mass-produced devices necessitate continuous development of new measurement methods to make products safer, more reliable and competitive.

Karolina Olszewska
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