In 1980, a young French engineer called Philippe Cimadomo formed a small electrical engineering company — in Grenoble — dedicated to improving efficiency in quality control.
Metrologic Group was born; and with the arrival of desk-top computing and Windows operating systems in the early eighties, it introduced the first-ever Windows-based 3-D measuring software — Metrolog.
It now has an annual turnover of around £40 million, offices and resellers throughout the world, and thousands of licences of its latest software (Metrolog X4) in daily use.
In 2018, Metrologic Group was acquired by Sandvik Group for over £300 million — a record figure in the metrology sector.
Metrolog X4 is available in the UK from Peterborough and Derby-based Measurement Solutions Ltd (www.measurement-solutions.co.uk
Managing director Andrew Tagg says there has been a market perception in recent years that this software is costly to buy and maintain.
“This is true in some respects, as several lower-cost software solutions exist, particularly those offered directly by measuring-device manufacturers.
“However, these solutions do not offer the array of functionalities and flexibility of Metrolog X4, and no other software can interface directly to CNC CMMs (even those deemed obsolete by the OEM), portable measuring devices, laser trackers, scanning systems and industrial robot cells.
“Indeed, unlike Metrolog X4, all other software solutions either require specific interface features, specific hardware configurations or upgrades — or in many cases, the software simply cannot do what the user wants.”
Following the recent acquisition by Sandvik, Metrologic Group has been dispelling misconceptions relating to cost and maintenance with the introduction of new licensing models — X4 Essential and X4 Expert.
The only difference between the two versions is that with X4 Expert the user can deal with highly complex measurement requirements via advanced programming commands that are only needed for the most extreme of CMM programming requirements.
Mr Tagg says that in most cases, X4 Essential will cover ‘all the bases’, because it includes as standard: a complete geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) ‘engine’ with advanced multi-feature and composite tolerances; Metrologic’s reporting and report editing module; multiple data import and export formats; all types of alignment from basic ‘3-2-1’ to the most advanced best-fit analysis; and STEP and IGES CAD import.
Mr Tagg added: “For those familiar with Metrolog of old, almost every one of these functionalities was an extra-cost option, whereas they are all now included as standard.
“When it comes to device interfaces, the philosophy has again completely changed.
“Unlike a CMM, which is acquired and used typically for 20 years or more, organisations are now upgrading to the latest portable metrology on a regular basis, so when a customer decides to acquire Metrolog X4 for use with a portable device, every portable-device interface is supplied as standard, and the new device can be used at no additional software cost.
“Metrologic has also considered those who may only want the software for one device.
“If a user selects a single device, such as a Creaform HandySCAN, the price of the software is reduced significantly to reflect the limitation imposed.”
Mr Tagg says Metrologic Group’s new philosophy results in particularly competitive pricing, and that Metrologic X4 can be installed on a CNC CMM with all the advanced functionalities from £12,000, including 12 months’ software maintenance and product support.
“Bearing in mind that Metrolog X4 can interface directly to just about any make or model of CMM CNC system without the need for a hardware exchange or upgrade — such as to an I++ controller — any CMM of any age can be brought back up to date with the latest software, GD&T and CAD capabilities for a fraction of the cost of a new machine.
“The user also has several options when it comes to maintenance and support after the first year.
“The user can decide not to pay any further maintenance fee, in which case the software can continue to be used at the current revision, with no further support or updates provided; or they can take an annual maintenance contract that is paid in advance and provides a further 12 months of software updates and product support — and like the initial licence cost, maintenance costs are significantly lower than previously.”
Recognising that smaller organisations may have limited budgets, Metrologic Group also allows users to opt for a Yearly Usage Right.
“This is effectively a reduced annual maintenance fee, albeit ‘with a twist’.
“In this case, the annual maintenance is mandatory, so if the user decides to no longer continue with maintenance, the software will stop working at the end of the maintenance period.
“This is very similar to the licencing model employed by many CAD software systems.
“Many software companies are moving towards licensing based on ‘software as a service’.
“In this case, there is no ‘up front’ cost to buy the software; instead, the software is effectively used on a subscription basis.
“This involves the user paying an annual fee to use the software, which includes maintenance and product support, thereby providing the user with significant cost savings in the short term.”
The latest Metrolog X4 software gives users a fully customisable user interface that can work with any type of measuring device.
It treats all measuring devices as XYZ data-point collectors, so irrespective of whether it is a traditional touch-probe CMM taking 10 points per min or a 3-D scanner taking a million points per sec, the software works in the same way.
It is also designed to make full use of the latest Microsoft Windows operating system and computer hardware architectures.
This capability means that huge CAD files and data point clouds can be quickly loaded and manipulated, thanks mainly to the use of intelligent processor and memory management, as well as the industry-standard OpenGL graphics engine.
A more recent development has been Metrolog X4 i-Robot, a software solution that turns any make of industrial robot into a fully programmable CMM solution.
It was first introduced almost five years ago at the international Control show in Germany, where Metrologic showed that it is possible to program any make of industrial robot fitted with any make of 3-D scanner directly from within a traditional metrology software package — without the need for specialist robot PLC programming.
“Today, many scanner manufacturers are promoting the use of scanners on the end of industrial robot arms, and most are using Metrolog X4 i-Robot software to make it work.”
In conclusion, Mr Tagg said: “For many years, we have seen companies, technologies and concepts burst onto the scene, only to disappear just as quickly.
“Throughout that time, Metrologic Group has been at the forefront of metrology software, and its software is still used daily by leading manufacturers to solve complex measurement problems.
“I know of many customers that have gone through the pain of having to change software several times in recent years, due to the lack of software development or product support — a situation that is neither efficient nor cost-effective for the user.
“For anyone that is considering measuring software, Measurement Solutions will visit users and quickly connect a lap-top PC to just about any device for a live demo, using the customer’s own measuring equipment.
“The look of disbelief from users when we visit them and have their equipment measuring using Metrolog X4 within a few minutes of arriving on site is great to see.
“The benefits are most noticeable on CNC CMMs or robot-based systems, where we can quickly and confidently take full control of the measuring system under one software — and it works, every time.”