Smart engineering and technology have often been the key drivers for any kind of industrial development. In particular, the science of Precision Engineering has been and still is a core enabler for complex manufacturing processes in manufacturing. One such company that contributes to the Precision Engineering industry is Self Levelling Metal Machines Pte Ltd (SLMM), part of the Self Levelling Machines (SLM) global network.
Incorporated in year 2000, SLMM is a Singapore-based alliance between Self Levelling Machines (Australia) and Metal Machines Engineering Services (Singapore). SLMM provides companies with large-scale, in-situ precision machining services such as boring, milling, and drilling. SLMM Project Engineer Lok Qiuquan shared, “Most of our clients are from the Marine and Offshore industries. Some examples of the offshore oil processing products we work on include floating production storage offloading (FPSO) turret mooring systems, offshore cranes and catenary anchor leg mooring (CALM) buoys. The sizes of these components are so large that they cannot fit into a conventional machining centre, so we have to bring our devices to these clients instead, and machine parts for them on-site.”
For every project that SLMM undertakes, surveys need to be conducted before and after the machining work. Mock-up installations, machine alignments and geometrical dimension surveys are also part and parcel of every day work at SLMM. “These surveys require detailed measurements that are sometimes of very different natures,” Lok said. “Measurements can range from 30mm holes to 30m diameter structures, and typically involve using a variety of conventional instruments and hand tools.”
FARO Laser Tracker performing set-up installation check
While such methods have worked relatively well, SLMM was in search of a more efficient alternative. “As our projects became increasingly complex, we realized that we had to improve our workflow to prevent bottlenecking. FARO Laser Tracker was introduced to us by our US counterparts as it worked really well for them, especially on projects where the Circular Self Levelling Machines (CSLMs) were required. When we started using the FARO device ourselves, it improved our work flow in so many aspects, surpassing our expectations by leaps and bounds.” Lok revealed.
FARO Laser Tracker enhanced on-site measurement process for large-scale measurement (up to 55m)
Depending on the nature of a job, the engineers at SLMM utilize various measuring instruments and devices that they need on-site for each project. Measurement instruments and devices owned by SLMM range from calibrated measuring tapes and lasers survey equipment, to optical scopes, inner diameter tubular micrometers, outer diameter micrometers, and bore gauges.
Lok shared, “With conventional instruments and hand tools, sometimes measurement fixtures had to be fabricated from scratch to cater for the need of individual projects, and this means that extra time and effort will be needed. If the fixtures were then found to be unsuitable when brought on-site, all that effort would be wasted. Apart from that, we needed technicians to be skillful and meticulous when taking measurements because they collect the information manually. This meant that even more time and effort was required for training and also to take the actual measurements properly.”
In addition, SLMM engineers had the extra challenge of presenting technical metrology data to their customers once measurements were taken and recommendations had to be made. In fact, the ability to generate comprehensive reports was an important link that SLMM felt was missing. “Reports are necessary to help our customers understand why we make certain recommendations,” said Lok. “In the past, it required a tremendous amount of time and effort for us to prepare these reports, as measurements needed to be processed manually before we write the reports. Even then, it was still difficult for customers to visualize our concerns at times.”
SLMM knew that it needed a good solution that would efficiently execute measurements prior to and after the machining processes, as well as one that could generate accurate and easy-to-read reports for their customers to appreciate.
When the suggestion to invest in the FARO Laser Tracker first surfaced, SLMM was very interested and quickly researched the measurement device to ensure that it was the right decision. There were a few options available in the market, but FARO stood out for several reasons. Firstly, one of SLMM’s top considerations is machine portability. All of SLMM’s jobs require its staff to go on-site with all necessary instruments and devices. Naturally, the aim is to minimize the load as far as possible. “In my research, I found that the size and weight of FARO Laser Tracker was the most suitable for us,” Lok revealed, “When I did a feature-to-feature comparison, it was clear that FARO offered the best value for our investment.”
With the FARO Laser Tracker, SLMM was more confident than before of the site surveys they conducted. The impact of possible human error was substantially minimized, since the new device did not rely on an individual’s skill. “Not only did the FARO Laser Tracker help us achieve repeatable measurements with tighter tolerances, it also helped us complete measurements in half the time. The need to fabricate customized check fixtures has also been cut down to a minimum. The new capabilities that we now enjoy with FARO have definitely translated into greater efficiencies and long-term cost savings.” said Lok.
Besides being able to take measurements more quickly, SLMM also enjoyed time-savings in the area of report preparation. Lok emphasized, “Other than being able to generate our reports in a much shorter time, we really value the fact that the reports are much more comprehensive now. FARO solutions enabled us to present technical data in a 3D format that is simple to understand, and our customers really appreciate the new reports that we are now able to provide.”
Leveling check using FARO CAM2 Q Software
SLMM also managed to ‘gain’ working hours in the projects it undertook. In the past, SLMM used laser survey devices that functioned on infrared rays. These devices could not be used in the day as sunlight interferes with its operations. “Given that our jobs take place under harsh weather conditions, we could only schedule work in the wee hours of the morning,” shared Lok. “This meant that we always lost out on daylight hours. Unlike our older device, FARO Laser Tracker’s accuracy is not affected by the sunlight, and can be used at any time of the day. We can now minimize time wastage and reduce the necessity of extended work hours for our engineers and technicians.”
SLMM found it attractive that it could purchase additional FARO devices to complement the Laser Tracker for greater measurement capability. FARO has a range of measurement devices (e.g. FaroArm® or FARO® Laser Scanner) that caters to different measuring envelope, which provides solutions to suit every measurement challenge. On top of all, the data collected is able to integrate with each other seamlessly. Lok disclosed, “In fact, we have since bought the FARO Laser Scanner, and may plan for further expansion with additional purchases.”
Looking back, Lok spoke more about training with the FARO device. “Although we had already shortlisted the FARO Laser Tracker, we were initially concerned about the steep learning curve associated with using a new advanced piece of device. However, these fears were quickly dispelled because our team managed to effortlessly train up on and utilize the FARO Laser Tracker well. The training and customer support offered by FARO greatly helped in the learning process.” shared Lok.
FARO providing local support to SLMM
Notably, the presence of local support offered by FARO in Singapore played a big part in helping SLMM make the final decision. “We expected frequent usage and transportation of the FARO Laser Tracker for various projects, oftentimes even overseas, and we needed to be able to recalibrate the measurement device locally first whenever necessary,” said Lok. “None of the other manufacturers could provide us with that level of support, so it was an obvious choice. The winning factor was the proximity and availability of FARO’s calibration services in Singapore.”
What FARO offered was a comprehensive package of solutions that was well tailored to suit SLMM’s needs. In short, the FARO Laser Tracker was the missing piece that fit perfectly to solve all of SLMM’s challenges. The company experienced a total change in metrology capabilities, productivity and efficiency, which makes this a long-term solution and partnership highly valued by SLMM.
Self Levelling Metal Machines (SLMM) is an alliance between Self-Levelling Machines Pty Ltd (Australia) and Metal Machines Engineering Services Pte Ltd. Both companies are leaders in the field of specialized large-scale on-site machining and the synergy between this partnership enables SLMM to offer an even higher level of expertise, technical capability and services.
With its headquarters strategically located in Singapore, SLMM began its operations since January 2000. Armed with more than 40 years of combined experience, a pool of professional managers, engineers and sophisticated, custom-designed equipment; SLMM’s current operations stretch across Asia, from China and Taiwan to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.