Case Studies

Ariel Saves Countless Hours of Inspection Using a Family of FARO Solutions

Ariel Saves Countless Hours of Inspection Using a Family of FARO Solutions

Ariel Corporation is an innovative manufacturer of gas compression equipment (www.arielcorp.com). Based in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Ariel leads the world in the development and utilization of new technology. Since 1966, Ariel has been at the forefront of modern compression technology with market-driven innovation. When it comes to compression technology, the company is determined to remain experts and the leaders in the industry.

Ariel takes pride in their world-class manufacturing processes and product designs. Quality is the foundation of their success and is deeply embedded in their company culture. Maintaining their reputation as the world standard compression company requires them to design products that can be manufactured, installed, and serviced with ease.

To design a world-class compressor, nothing can be left to chance. Because the compressor is at the center of an integrated system that includes the driver, cooler, piping, and other components, each Ariel design carefully integrates the compressor with the driver and the package system – this lowers lifetime cost. Maximum driver power and efficiency and precise piston stroke coordinated with valve design for optimum valve efficiency and life are all part of the design integrity. Every design considers the feasibility of patterns, castings, and machining. Integrating the technical design of the compressor with an understanding of manufacturing technology has been a key to Ariel’s success.

Problem

Ariel machines parts anywhere from just a few pounds up to 20,000 pounds. These parts are machined out of steel and cast iron, both grey and ductile. Machined parts such as compressor connecting rods can be 8¼” center to center and weigh about 13 pounds or can be up to 23” center to center and weigh almost 300 pounds. Crossheads vary in size from 8 pounds (6” overall x 6” diameter) up to 800 pounds (19” overall x 17” diameter). The largest single part Ariel machines is over 13 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 4 feet tall.

Previously, hand gauging was used to verify smaller products while larger products were verified directly on the machine tools (mostly CNC equipment). These methods were time consuming and, more importantly, tied up the machine for inspection rather than production. This was a waste of both capacity and money. Also, an important point often overlooked was that by using the machine tool to inspect its own work, there was no independent verification of the readings.

“At Ariel, individual machinists are always expected to produce good products, but there are some geometric features that they can’t measure themselves at the machine tool,” said Quality Analyst Ned White. “At manufacturing’s request, the quality department instituted a program where we would verify parts off of certain machines. Under this program, we can provide a complete dimensional report in about 30 minutes. Previously, this was something that was not easily done.”

In addition to this in-house verification, Ariel also checks certain dimensions on every frame that is machined outside of their main facility in Mt. Vernon. This can be as many as 30 frames a week, and at over two hours per frame this alone was a full-time job for at least two people.

Solution

To implement this new program, Ariel considered adding additional hand gauging, height gauges, or even more people. They also considered a traditional CMM, but that was both cost and size prohibitive to their needs. They were looking for a device with a large measuring envelope – the largest single part they measure is over 13 feet long and weighs more than 20,000 pounds. The tolerance they hold ruled out any laser scanning equipment.

Flexibility, portability, ease-of-use, and accuracy were the final deciding factors for Ariel. After looking at a couple of different articulating arm manufacturers, Ariel ultimately decided on FARO because of their cost, quality, reputation, and support.

What Ariel found in FARO was a full family of solutions to best suit specific needs throughout their facility. Each of the FARO devices they have implemented provides them with a true 3D picture of what they produce. In fact, the equipment gives them a good, and independent, 3D verification of their machined parts. It is now very easy to take coordinates and then compare those readings to a CNC program. This allows for very simple corrections and offsets in the machining process.

The FARO Gage was the first solution implemented by Ariel. The Gage is a small, highly accurate, and easy-to-use articulating arm. They use two GagePlus units to pass/fail product in manufacturing. These units are used directly in the machining cells. Because of the similarity in design a nd the flexibility of the software, Ariel is able to use one custom tool for all of their connecting rods and crossheads.

The GagePlus has also been used to assist in troubleshooting dimensional issues. By verifying and reporting dimensions of a feature after each step of machining, Ariel is able to pinpoint where and when in the manufacturing process a potential error could be made that would result in scrap. Not only is the measurement process fast, but the Gage gives them information of geometry that they simply couldn’t obtain any other way.

Ariel also has a FaroArm® Platinum that they use to measure “just about everything.” Specifically, they use the FaroArm in their inspection department to verify both incoming product and product made internally. For the internal parts, the arm is used to verify features that otherwise could not be checked – such as GD&T and larger dimensions where hand tools lose accuracy. They also use the FaroArm to assist with the verification of machine tool adjustments as well as tracking any changes in machine accuracy. Parts off of certain machines are completely checked and verified at set intervals. This provides Ariel with a good history of what a particular machine tool is doing over time and helps them better plan preventive maintenance and repairs.

For parts that are too large to be easily measured with the FaroArm, the inspection department uses the FARO Laser Tracker. The Laser Tracker is also used by maintenance for machine alignments and large dimensional verifications. As part of the product verification system using the FaroArm, the Tracker is also used as a quick way to improve the consistency and accuracy of their machine tools.

“For us, the fact that both the FaroArm and the Laser Tracker can run on the same software is a great feature,” said Mr. White. “It dramatically speeds up training and allows us to use pre-set inspection programs from either device interchangeably. Many of our parts are of a similar design – usually just different sizes – and so we can use the same program to measure all sizes within a family of parts. For instance, we can use the same program to measure six different frames – some with the FaroArm and the larger ones with the Tracker – all using the same easy-to-use program.”

One particular feature of the FaroArm that is especially beneficial to Ariel is its wireless capability through Bluetooth®. A user can take a laptop and with the extended-use battery of the FaroArm they can literally climb up and into the machines and verify parts in production without having to take them off of the fixtures or worrying about tripping over any external cords or knocking over the computer. Ariel often needs to check just a few features on a part during the machining process and the wireless capability allows them to leave the part fixed in the machine for additional verification and saving them repeat setup time.

Return on Investment

Ariel is leading the world in the development and utilization of new technology. They were an early adopter of internationally-recognized quality programs and both their design and manufacturing processes conform to the highest quality standards. It is then not altogether surprising that Ariel’s implementation of the technologies provided by FARO was quick.

In less than a week, Ariel was able to have the Gage up and running and used in production. The training of individual users in basic operations takes less than 15 minutes. The training to build custom tools can be done in less than an hour. Implementation of the FaroArm took less than a month and the Laser Tracker in even less time since it uses the same software as the FaroArm (FARO’s CAM2® Measure X).

Ariel uses their FARO Gages every day in production. They use their FaroArm several hours per week, while the Laser Tracker is used at least once a week for part inspection and several hours a month for machine alignments.

Checking the connecting rods used to take up to 30 minutes using traditional hand gauging. Using the FARO Gage has dropped that time down to under three minutes – a 90% time savings. Since 2009, Ariel has saved about 260 hours of inspection time using the Gage.

Checking the dimensions of every frame that is machined outside their facility used to take over two hours per frame. Using the FaroArm, this time was reduced to just twenty minutes – an 85% reduction in time. Now, these verifications are a job that can be done in a couple of hours each day by one person and frees up valuable man-hours that can be better used on other projects and tasks.

Smaller frames were checked using a height gauge and hand tools and would take over three hours to finish. These frames can weigh about 2,500 pounds and had to be rolled on their side to completely check the features. Not only was this time consuming, it was sometimes dangerous. The FaroArm allows Ariel to check these same parts in just twenty minutes – a 90% reduction in time.

The larger frames used to take up to full shift (10 hours) to check using a height gauge and hand tools. And that still did not provide Ariel a complete picture of their part. Using the FARO Laser Tracker, this can be done in just two hours – an 80% time savings, and that includes laser setup and warm up.

“Using FARO has saved Ariel countless hours of inspection time,” said Mr. White. “The capabilities these devices offer really have no counterpart with other CMM equipment and provide us functions we did not have prior to acquiring them. Our process inspection time has been greatly reduced using FARO. In addition, the ability to save the inspection reports has allowed us to go back and review the initial measurement of some parts where we might have had issues during assembly. FARO has allowed us to focus our troubleshooting and best efforts in the right direction.”

Ariel’s traditions of quality and integrity have produced the best compressors in the world. Today, the Ariel compressor is considered the world standard for performance and reliability. Ariel continues to set the world standard in gas compression and is shaping the future of the compression industry.

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