National Physical Laboratory

New freeform standards to support scanning CMMs

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has developed a new range of dimensional standards for verifying freeform coordinate measurement machines (CMMs). The standards allow the verification of portable and fixed non-contact coordinate measuring systems such as those employing laser scanning and fringe projection technologies, as well as those employing tactile sensors. They also help evaluate the surface measurement capabilities of new scanning measurement technologies.

The NPL FreeForm reference standard
The NPL FreeForm reference standard

Items that are freeform are unconventional in shape or design, especially in being asymmetrical and irregular, but with a flowing outline. Freeform manufacturing projects include the development of more efficient engines for aeroplanes, drag reduction for cars, longer lasting prosthetics and reverse engineering of archaeological finds to learn about their provenance.

Traditionally, such forms have proved difficult to measure practically with optical systems of the type used on production lines or away from the factory. It is often difficult to provide measurement traceability for mass produced freeform shapes, limiting innovations in freeform manufacturing. With the right measurement facilities, freeform brings many advances to the manufacturing sector.

NPL FreeForm dimensional standards ensure measurement traceability within freeform manufacturing industries. The standards are complex reference artefacts which provide traceability routes for a range of diverse measuring techniques.

Each NPL FreeForm standard bears several geometrical forms that are blended to form a single surface that tests various aspects of a scanning instrument's performance. Ceramic tooling balls or hemispheres on each corner of the standards aid registration. The precise nature of the surface employed by the standard allows traceability to be transferred to the freeform measurement technology. It is also possible to incorporate designed deformation to the surface, typically 100 µm in size.

The Freeform development project was funded by the National Measurement Office. NPL worked with industry on a number of freeform measurement projects to identify the relevant measurement requirements. These highlighted many errors in existing optical scanning measurement systems, which the final artefact was designed to overcome.

The NPL FreeForm standards are available in various sizes with linear base dimensions of 37.5 mm, 75 mm, 150 mm and 300 mm. They are available to buy directly from NPL and are each supplied with a calibration certificate, the relevant CAD model and traceable measurement data files. This forms part of NPL's calibration consultancy offer, which can be carried out onsite or at NPL.

Find out more about the National Freeform Centre

Find out more about NPL's Dimensional Products & Services

For more information, please contact dimensional_enquiries@npl.co.uk

Last Updated: 21 Nov 2012
Created: 21 Nov 2012

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