National Physical Laboratory

Micro-coordinate Metrology

Micro-coordinate Metrology

Micro-coordinate metrology is required to assist modern manufacturing industries to ensure accurate and repeatable production and integration of miniature parts to produce products.

NPL has been active in micro-coordinate measuring machine (micro-CMM) development for over a decade and developed the world's first micro-CMM. We now have a Zeiss F25 micro-CMM, several optical systems and a patented vibrating tactile probe.

For almost all industrial inspection purposes, optical micro-CMMs (such as focus variation, confocal, coherence scanning interferometry) are the preferred solution, due to their non-tactile operation, their ease of use, speed of measurement and easy integration into production lines. However, these optical systems are difficult to verify and calibrate, and subject to many adverse optical effects. It is essential that these optical micro-coordinate measuring systems be unified with calibrated tactile systems to ensure industrial users can be confident on all micro-coordinate measurements.

Existing tactile micro-CMM probing systems are fast becoming inadequate for co-ordinate metrology of true 3D micro-scale parts, owing to their lack of sensitivity, damaging interactions and difficulty of use. Tactile micro-CMMs also lack adequate standards for verification (existing CMM standards, such as ISO 10360, are not applicable).

NPL's work in this area aims to bring tactile micro-CMMs in line with current manufacturing requirements. A developed solution, a novel 3D vibrating micro-probe, will be produced as a commercial product. The project will also develop traceability routes for non-contact/optical micro-CMMs, which are already being widely used in industry.

Research themes include:

  • Interface the NPL vibrating micro-probe with a commercial 3D precision micro-positioning platform to create tactile micro-CMMs accurate to less than 100 nm
  • Existing non-tactile micro-CMMs will be characterised and compared against existing tactile systems and the high accuracy systems developed by this project
  • The accuracy of these non-tactile systems in performing co-ordinate measurements will be determined
  • Traceability routes for micro-co-ordinate measuring systems, both tactile and optical, will be developed to address the issues in precision manufacturing industry
  • NPL will further develop its capability in micro-co-ordinate metrology and be able offer a greater suite of traceable micro-co-ordinate solutions to its customers

Research team

  • James Claverley
  • Andrew Henning
  • Wenjuan Sun
  • Alan Wilson
  • Anuar Ismail (PhD student in association with the University of Warwick)

Recent publications



For more information, please contact James Claverley or Alan Wilson

Last Updated: 10 Dec 2014
Created: 21 Sep 2010


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