By its very nature, the work of a precision engineering firm requires tight tolerances, repeatability, and stability over time. On top of these demands, projects often need to be completed within a short time frame, which further stresses a production team in its attempt to balance the constraints of schedule, scope, and costs. While speed is required, it cannot be achieved at the expense of quality; companies are therefore willing to invest in technology to enable all-round customer satisfaction. One such precision engineering firm that found a way to circumvent production limitations is Chong Ngai Engineering Pte Ltd (Chong Ngai).
Shop floor space at Chong Ngai’s facility in Defu Lane, Singapore.
Incorporated in 1964, Chong Ngai is a Singapore-based, precision engineering workshop that provides turnkey machining services, mainly for customers from the oil and gas industry. Equipped with the latest computerized machining centers, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) lathes, and Computer Aided design (CAD)/Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) systems, the company produces components for use in both onshore and offshore oilfields.
A veteran of the industry, Chong Ngai’s sole outfit in Singapore serves both local and overseas markets, generating annual revenue figures of around S$3 million. Quality management is an utmost priority for the five-decade-old company, which has an ISO-certified quality management system in place. “Before any product leaves our facility, it would have gone through several checks,” said Mr. Francis Fong, Director, Chong Ngai. “This includes first article inspection, in-process measurement, as well as final outgoing dimensional checks.”
While customers welcomed the idea of proper checks, any time delay to project schedules are never acceptable. In order to satisfy customers’ demands, Chong Ngai had to look for ways to help them ‘buy some time’. Mr. Fong expressed, “Our teams always relied on conventional measurement tools in the past. While they served their purpose, we found them to be inefficient and inconvenient. Not only were these tools often more time-consuming to set up, it also took longer and required more care for us to obtain accurate measurements.”
In the company’s quest for a better solution, Chong Ngai learnt about FARO from its customers in the oil and gas industry. Their independent positive reviews piqued the team’s curiosity to find out more. As it turns out, the FaroArm proved to be a perfect complement to Chong Ngai’s array of in-house metrology tools.
The FaroArm, a portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM), takes the form of an articulated arm with six or seven axes of rotation. The device mimics the movement of a human arm, giving users maximum versatility and flexibility when performing measurements. With a simple point-and-click action, the device can immediately register three-dimensional coordinates of the ball probe’s position, which corresponds to the point that is being measured.
Measuring components with ease, right on the shop floor.
The team at Chong Ngai identified their measurement needs to mainly revolve around inspection, quality control, and dimensional calculations. As the objects ranged from several to 30-odd inches in diameter, the measurement device had to be able to cover that wide range. In addition, Chong Ngai specified the need for tolerance to not exceed two thou (0.002 inches) in its measurements. FARO eventually recommended the 8-feet FARO Prime to Chong Ngai, who purchased the unit in July 2013.
Since investing in the FARO Prime, Chong Ngai has experienced a boost in its measurement capabilities and overall productivity. To begin, the levels of accuracy and repeatability are higher than what conventional tools used to offer, contributing to an improvement in product quality and consistency. Even though time-savings was the main factor that drove the search, FARO Prime clearly provided more accurate measurements that could easily be replicated across users.
Apart from the device’s precision, its portability was another attribute that Chong Ngai greatly appreciated. Unlike conventional CMMs, the team could deploy FARO Prime anywhere on the shop floor, right where production took place. “Eliminating the laborious task of moving large, bulky parts makes our work easier, helps us save time, and also improves on worker safety,” shared Mr. Fong.
He continued, “What’s marvelous is that once the FARO Prime is anchored on a stable pallet, it can start measuring right away.” With the FARO CAM2 Measure 10 software, the exact position of each measurement point is identified immediately. As compared to conventional measurement methods, FARO provides Chong Ngai with accurate measurements more quickly, because hand tools (e.g. micrometers and tape measures) need more time and effort for calibration before use. On top of that, technicians need to make manual calculations to obtain certain data points. Mr. Fong reported, “Using conventional methods, it typically took us two hours to measure fixtures accurately. With the FARO Prime, our technician only needs less than an hour to complete measuring tasks.”
Without a doubt, the FARO Prime has ‘earned’ Chong Ngai some precious buffer time for its project schedules. The investment in equipment provided the precision engineering firm with a competitive advantage over other players in the industry. However, the story does not end here. Mr. Fong concluded, “Even now, we are still uncovering possibilities and pushing our usage of the FARO Prime to maximize its fullest potential. There might be other measurement needs that FARO can help us address. The company’s local presence is an assurance for us, as we know that the support will always be there whenever we need help. We look forward to many more years of partnership ahead.”
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