What is Coordinate Measuring Machine?

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Published: 25th November 2010
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A coordinate measuring machine, or CMM, is a sophisticated optical device used for measuring physical and geometrical characteristics of a certain object. This modern machine can be controlled manually by a human operator or it can be controlled by a computer system. Measurements gathered by this device are defined by a probe attached to the third moving axis.

The typical bridge-type coordinate measuring machine is made up of three dimensional axes, the X, Y and Z. These axes or orthogonally aligned to each other in an archetypal three dimensional coordinate system. Each axis has a scale system that indicates the location of such axis.

The machine will then gather the input from the touch probe while being directed by the operator or a program. The machine then uses the coordinates of X, Y and Z of each point to determine size and location. Typical accuracy of a coordinate measuring machine is measured in microns, or micrometers, which is a millionth of a meter.

A coordinate measuring device is also used in manufacturing and in the assembly process to test a piece or assembly from the intended design. By accurately recording the X, Y and Z coordinates of the targeted object by the machine having a CMM certification, points are generated which can then be analyzed through reverse engineering, using regression algorithms, for the construction of digital copy of the object.

The points generated are then gathered into electronic data by using a probe that is positioned manually by a human operator, or automatically by a program created with accordance to CMM certification called Direct Computer Control, or DCC. Coordinate measuring machines with Direct Computer Control can be programmed to repeatedly measure identical parts. Thus, a coordinate measuring machine can also be a specialized type of industrial robot.

The coordinate measuring machine is commonly used for dimensional, angular and orientation measurements, depth mapping, digitizing or three dimensional imaging, or shaft measurements. Coordinate measuring machines with CMM certification often have features like crash protection, offline programming, reverse engineering, shop floor adaptability, SPC software and temperature compensation, computer-aided design model import capability, compliance with the DMIS standard, and I++ controller compatibility.

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