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Post manufacturing inspection: The perfect way to make sure a part performs perfectly.

When a manufactured part is pivotal in the study of genetics as it applies to cancer research, essential to the life support of a heart surgery patient, or mission critical in the flight operations of a fighter jet, this leaves zero room for that part to have even a minor defect. If failure isn’t an option, especially if second chances are not given to those who lives are in the balance, what are the available options to ensure a part is void of defects?

First off, manufacturing a part for profitability is an obvious goal every company strives to achieve (this is what any company CEO or CFO would agree with). In today’s economic climate, where every penny counts and competition is waiting to strike the moment they see you make a mistake, any part that is less than perfect isn’t an option.

A very important aspect for achieving consistent part manufacturing success is through the use of services such as design facilitation. This is a very methodical, detail oriented and engineering driven solution that helps ensure a part can successfully transform from an idea on paper to manufacturability to successful implementation by the end user.

While design facilitation delivers manufacturing confidence and fail safe reassurance, there still is a great unknown for many manufactures that they want resolved: how can they be 100% positive that the part that comes out of their manufacturing facility is free of defects and meets the exacting design specifications, government regulations and client functionality demands for flawless performance in real world user environments?

The answer can be found, and ultimately obtained, with quality control and quality assurance through one very important manufacturing process: part inspection.

The importance of part inspection: the flaws it can detect and the issues it helps you avoid.

Quality control can be defined as a process utilized by manufacturers to ensure that their customers receive parts or products free from defects and that these same parts perform to the intended design specifications. Skip this step and you could be asking for other things you would rather avoid, including: costly recalls or even litigation due to end users who were put at physical risk due to a part defect.

A powerful reminder is seen in the recent revelation of the part defect in Takata airbags. According to an NBC News report from March of 2016, this defect resulted in multiple driver fatalities and lead to the biggest global automotive recall in history. The bad news only gets worse. The recall could affect 287 million air bag inflators and cost Takata, according to many analysts, an estimated $24 billion to recall and replace its airbag inflators. The recall may last until the end of 2019 and it could essentially take years or even over a decade to resolve the countless class action lawsuits by families of the victims.

As you can glean from just that one example, a lot more than profits is often on the line when a part is manufactured. This gets back to the importance of implementing quality control through part inspection as an essential manufacturing process to not only detect possible defective parts before they leave the manufacturer, but just as important, as a way to prevent/eliminate potential issues when the part is actually being used.

At Laser Light Technologies, we consider both of these factors mission critical for every part we laser micromanufacture. This is one key reason why we place so much emphasis on our part inspection capabilities as a method to ensure quality control for our clients and the customers they serve.

Just how serious we take part perfection is evident in our ISO 13485:2003 certification. It represents that we have systems in place to ensure the manufacturing quality of medical devices. In addition, we even have ISO 9001:2008 certification. This reflects we have met stringent and demanding requirements for a quality management system and have the proven ability to consistently provide a part that meets customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

These are all certifications we earned, in part, because of all the quality assurances we have in place such as our part inspection capabilities. This basically ensures that when a part leaves our laser micromanufacturing facility it functions flawlessly. For our clients that is the essential reassurance they demand since the laser micromachined parts we manufacture for them range from precision life-saving medical devices such as stents, to microelectronics for aviation and computers where tolerances are stringent, exacting and demanding. Failure here isn’t an option.

Part inspection: seeing the overall big picture in the smallest details.

Unless you are an ophthalmologist, you probably didn’t realize that the typical naked eye (a normal eye with regular vision and unaided by any other vision enhancing tools) can only distinguish objects down to about 70μm – about the size of a single strand of hair.

That’s a perfectly acceptable sight capability if you need to thread a needle, but what the engineers and expert technicians at Laser Light need to see is a lot smaller. In fact, we need to inspect parts that are designed to go into the human body or are used in the production of microchips. These parts could have been laser micromachined at feature sizes of 3µm. How small is that? It’s around the same size as phytoplankton in marine ecosystems.

The ability to take a look at the finest and smallest details of a part to inspect for flaws requires utilizing some of the most advanced inspection technology tools available. Laser Light Technologies is one of the few micromanufacturing companies that has an in-house VK-X 3D laser scanning confocal microscope. With it, we can get a non-contact, nanometer-level profile, roughness and film thickness data on any material down to 40nm of inspection. This is a critical metric for superior sub-micron level part evaluation. What’s interesting to note is that most micromachining companies are limited to measuring features (such as part channels) only in the 1µm to 2µm range. Anything smaller is a calculated guess, or calculated risk, that the part is ok for delivery and use by the client.

Laser Light takes the guesswork out of the equation by employing the most advanced automated optical inspection systems that meet your unique Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) specifications. Our major investments in optical inspection systems covers technology ranging from confocal to optical microscopes – all to guarantee the micron-level precision our clients require for almost any application.

Whether we’re measuring 40nm thick lens coatings or surface roughness profiles on a sapphire substrate, we have the technology to see what others can’t. That’s the Laser Light difference for consistent delivery of a flawless micromachined part.