After setting up a new production area, we decided to invest in the creation of an innovative and large space dedicated to a quality control and testing center to meet the increasingly stringent needs of the sector.
The quality control and testing center
A quality control and testing center serves to guarantee the conformity of the components that are commissioned with respect to the customer's requests. This means that each piece must comply with the prerequisites related to dimensional tolerances, surface roughness, mechanical specifications, hardness ... which, in order to be verified, require increasingly rigid and differentiated checks.
All the metrological checks are carried out starting from the best-fit algorithms up to the complex three-dimensional checks by CMM (coordinate measuring machines). Other metrological checks that are carried out in the center are: dimensional measurements, roughness test through roughness testers, reliefs with gauges, pads or micrometers.
Quality control and testing are concepts that are very close to each other and for this reason they are often placed side by side. When we speak of quality control we mean a set of operations that can be carried out at different stages of production: it is possible to act on the semi-finished product or on the incoming product in order to eliminate those samples that do not meet the requirements expressed in the specifications. Testing, on the other hand, is necessarily carried out in a more targeted phase of processing. It is an experimental check to which the component is subjected before being packaged and delivered to the customer.
Qualified personnel, tested machinery and suitable spaces
Quality control and testing is first and foremost a profession and, as such, requires highly trained figures as well as specific and dedicated equipment and spaces in order to guarantee repeatability in the measurement phase. This is a critical phase in the supply chain of a component that must be continually tested, this applies to both personnel and machinery which must be calibrated periodically, in some cases even weekly if a certain degree of precision is desired.
Likewise, it is also important that the spaces are suited to the activities: the measuring machines involve rather bulky structures and an adequate working area must provide ample room for maneuvering so that the operators can operate the machines and perform the checks. Finally, having adequate spaces also means investing in a work environment with the right peculiarities in terms of climatic conditions because narrower areas are more affected by thermal variations than a larger environment. Although more time is needed to bring the department to the optimal conditions, the result that ensues will ensure greater constancy of measurement and allow you to appreciate much more precise measurement values.
A department to reduce some preconceptions about additive manufacturing
The quality control and testing center is fundamental since our factory is called upon to produce components in high performance and critical materials.
Moreover, like any highly innovative processing technique, on the Additive Manufacturing a slight diffidence about the performances is still widespread, which, to be dissipated, requires an even higher number of checks than those to which the pieces obtained from the solid are subjected.
"These controls are not only significant because they reassure the customer about the compliance of components made in additive, but they are also important in order to build an archive to demonstrate the reliability of additive manufacturing."
-Andrea Pasquali, General Manager-
It is important to underline that our center does not only test certain technologies and materials, even if to date only for the metal we check and test all the pieces produced in the factory, but in general the controls have been implemented also on polymeric materials such as Ultem®, PA 603-CF and PA 620-MF to guarantee absolute conformity. Controls do not differ on the basis of raw materials or production techniques but on the basis of the project and the production chain itself.
It is not so important to distinguish between prototypes and functional parts in this phase of processing, since both types of products are subjected to first level checks. Actually, in some cases, the prototype undergoes stricter controls because the high costs mean that it is unseemly to implement some types of checks on series production.
"Time to market is shrinking more and more and even the prototype must be as perfect as possible."
-Andrea Pasquali, General Manager-
Why introduce a center of quality control and internal testing?
Investing in a center of quality control and internal testing with consequent investment in personnel and equipment is essential for a company like Zare that aspires to be a point of reference in the industrial 3D printing sector and that makes the constant updating of its Factory one of its cornerstones.
Reducing the time to market and shortening the supply chain are two of the fundamental advantages of the management of an internal department like this: a quality control and testing department that is unique because it is conceived, developed and focused on additive production.