The Cost of Metrology
“War” stories are more than just stories. They tell of hard-learned lessons. When it comes to metrology products and their impact on production processes, some stories stand out. Like all war stories, we share them to learn from past experience.
In the 1990s hard disks were going through a revolution of higher and higher data densities. This required radical designs of the air-bearing surface between the disc and the read-head. Controlling the polishing of the read head was difficult and required metrology to control. Phase-measuring and profiling microscopes were used to measure these small surfaces. Several companies bought hundreds of profiling microscopes to measure every read head because defective air-bearing surfaces led to early disk failure. Other companies thought they could buy a few profilers to control the process statistically and save money. Those companies that tried to save money were all out of business in five years. Those that measured every single read-head are still in business. The cost of metrology to those who tried to save money was extinction.
Underinvesting in metrology can cost your brand reputation
The advent of deterministic optical manufacturing by spot polishing has led to new shapes and higher levels of accuracy being possible. These optical polishing machines can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Efficient use of these is critical to keeping costs down and maintaining profitability. A certain manufacturing manager noted that buying an interferometer to just gain 15% efficiency in manufacturing performance paid for the interferometer in less than a year. In this case the cost of metrology is negative, it pays for itself.
15% process improvement = ROI in under a year
With advances in optical applications, specifications are more complicated than 20 years ago. Expensive polishing machines enable these advanced optics and require advanced metrology to measure features that were not present in pitch-polished surfaces, such as Mid-Spatial Frequencies (MSF). Now control of MSF, slope, and wilder shapes means metrology must improve. Zoom interferometers designed in the 1980s, even if purchased recently, cannot measure today’s optics, and if you cannot measure it you cannot improve your processes. Therefore, what feels safe is a trap. These were great for 1990’s optics, but not today’s.
The cost of not investing in your future is extinction. Maybe not tomorrow, but certainly in several years. The cost of metrology might seem high when it “doesn’t make anything.” But matching your advanced manufacturing equipment with advanced interferometers enables you to make products faster and achieve higher performance specifications, so the interferometers ultimately pay for themselves. The alternative is to see metrology as a cost to minimize at the risk of your business.
Äpre Instruments was founded on the belief that advancing the field of metrology can advance the field of precision optics. Their eyes are on the horizon—anticipating your and your customers’ needs for ever more advanced optics and designing the next generation of metrology equipment and reporting. Äpre manufactures interferometers and also develops and supplies interferometer software. Äpre meets today’s needs with upgrades and unmatched service, and is prepared to help you advance your capabilities for tomorrow.
To request more information or a quotation for Äpre products or service, contact IL Photonics.