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Measuring devices on the move – laser thickness measurement with MESACON Messelektronik

With the demands of Industry 4.0, the requirements on the digitalisation of production data and, in this context, data density are constantly growing. Higher data density leads to an ever better understanding of production and thus to higher documented quality – a key to competitiveness in many manufacturing processes.

Especially in the metal, plastics and textile industries, production monitoring, quality assurance and machine control by means of automated thickness measurement often play an important role.

In the field of non-contact thickness measurement, MESACON Messelektronik from Dresden, a special machine builder with over 60 years of experience and expertise, is one of the top four measuring system manufacturers on the market. Worldwide, MESACON systems impress customers with their highly accurate measurements, short delivery times and good on-site service.

“Our measuring systems can be easily integrated into almost any production line,” says Alexander Rasch, authorized representative of MESACON.

A special feature of the high-precision laser-based measuring systems is that they can be used universally for many process lines. Due to the low-maintenance and compact design, the laser systems can be used as plug & play solutions for non-contact thickness measurement of flat products regardless of the alloy, such as metal strips or sheets, foils or plastic and textile webs.

The measuring principle is based on two laser distance sensors positioned opposite each other. In addition to the high local resolution and the very small measuring spot, the recording of measured values up close to the edge area of the material to be measured is one of many advantages over alternative measuring methods.

Without a doubt, laser-based measurement systems offer an efficient and high-quality solution for improving production quality and productivity. Martin Kuss, Sales Engineer at MESACON: “The advantages include the simple and compact design, as well as the comparatively low acquisition costs and low maintenance requirements. In addition, topics such as radiation protection and approval permits, which are required for the operation and handling of radiometric measuring systems, are no longer necessary.”

 

Accurate measurement in dynamic processes – HIWIN keeps laser thickness measurement on the move

Precision and consistent movements are essential for measurements and their informative value. “Until about ten years ago, our measuring systems were still classically built from components with guide rails and a rack and pinion drive, depending on the application. This made the mechanics very heavy and also high-maintenance,“ explains Martin Kuss (MESACON). “Switching to a linear axis with a toothed belt drive had several advantages: The drive and the guide are combined compactly in one unit. This considerably reduces the effort required for construction as well as assembly. Another benefit of the HIWIN linear axes is the cover strip and the integrated sealing air connection, which creates a low overpressure in the axis. This optimally protects the components from dirt ingress and maintenance intervals can be extended.”

Among other things, MESACON uses the HM as well as HT and HD linear axes as drives in its various measuring systems. The linear units really shine in laser-based measuring systems. Their task: To move the C-frame including sensors as smoothly and precisely as possible. “In addition, the mounting of the linear units on the measuring system really saves space,” adds Martin Kuss (MESACON).

The measuring system is characterized in particular by its modular design. Thanks to the modular component design, sensors, electronics and, above all, the mechanics can be customised to each customer application. “Due to our flexible modular principle, adaptation of the linear axis, the central element of the mechanics, must also be flexible. HIWIN was the perfect partner to help us do this,” reports Martin Reger, project manager at MESACON. “Thanks to the modular HIWIN system, the axis can also be configured flexibly and individually – a stroke in millimetre steps, a specific carriage length, the right drive adaptation or a cover strip can all be configured in no time at all. This is a huge advantage.”

 

The technology in detail

With an precision starting at ±1 μm, laser-based measuring systems from MESACON Messelektronik achieve comparable precision to tactile and X-ray-based measuring devices. Basically, the measuring principle of the differential measurement is based on constant distances between the individual sensors in all laser-optical measuring systems.Based on the principle of laser distance or differential measurement, the laser triangulation method or the confocal chromatic measurement method is used, depending on the application. Here, a pair of sensors integrated in the mechanics and placed opposite each other measures from above and below without making contact with the material surface.With laser systems, the traversing speed also plays a significant role in measurement accuracy. “Really precise measurements are best made at approx. 100 mm/s. This is where most of the measurement information can be recorded,” Martin Reger (MESACON) reports. “We have also created projects with movements of 1 m/s. That’s very fast, especially when you consider the mechanics and the weight involved. All the components have to be perfectly matched to each other.”

The linear guides with ball chains installed in the linear axes ensure smooth and even running, even at high speeds. The linear guides, which also come from HIWIN, therefore also play an essential role in the accuracy of the measurement results.

 

HIWIN – reliability guaranteed

“The fast and on-time delivery from HIWIN allows us to make individualised customer projects a reality very quickly. This was and still is one of HIWIN’s great competitive advantages. The positive collaboration and assistance provided by the field service and the extraordinary customer service, including the design and CAD tools on HIWIN’s website, are not to be underestimated,” said Alexander Rasch (MESACON) in praise of HIWIN.

“With this support, we can quickly reconfigure systems and adapt them to suit each customer.” In the process, HIWIN not only supplies standard products to the measuring systems manufacturer, but also customised products.

With decades of experience in the field of non-contact thickness measurement, MESACON Messelektronik has developed a system that shines with absolute precision despite its simplicity. Together with the linear axes of Offenburg-based drive specialist HIWIN, they supply not only standard solutions but also customised measuring systems. A great team!