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Quality, QC Automation and Robotics Terms

3D scanning: A methodology to capture and collect data on shape, appearance, and color of three-dimensional objects, such as component parts. (See also laser scanning)


Acceptable Instrument: A measurement method (instrument and process) with a P/T ratio between 10% and 30% may be considered acceptable. (see also P/T ratio)

Accuracy (comparative): Comparative accuracy is the variation of a part measurement when compared to a standard artifact where the artifact dimension is substantially the same as the part dimension being measured. This is reported as a +/- 3 σ value based on a significant sample size of measurements. (see also sigma σ )
Accuracy (full-scale): Full-scale measurement accuracy is the variation of a part measurement when compared to a standard artifact at any point in the instrument range of measurement. This is reported as a +/- 3σ value based on a significant sample size of measurements. The zero reference must be first established anywhere in the range of measurement. (see also sigma σ )

Air gauge or air gage: A type of non-contact measurement device using air nozzles to measure distance by sensing either flow or pressure. Learn more about air gauges at Quality Magazine.

Application Assessment: A review of the part to be measured, along with additional factors important to the metrology process, with respect to the Q-Span Workstation’s capabilities (New Scale Robotics).

Artifact: A standard part with a precisely known dimension. An example of an artifact is a NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technologies) traceable gage block. Learn more about gauge blocks at nist.gov

Automation: The use of electromechanical systems and control software to accomplish a well-defined task or process. Automation can free human workers from repetitive tasks and remove operator variability from processes.


Bottleneck: In automation and measurement, any process (such as a CMM) that operates more slowly than a previous station, thereby creating a backlog or bottleneck in the workflow.


Calibration The comparison of values delivered by measurement device to those of a standard of higher known accuracy. Learn  more about gauge calibration from Quality Magazine.

Caliper or Calipers: An instrument used to measure the distance between two features on an object, by touch, using a sliding mechanism with linear scale. The measurement techniques include inside, outside or depth. The linear scale may be a Vernier, mechanical dial, or digital readout with electronic display (digital caliper). Learn more about calipers at Modern Machine Shop.

Capability: Process capability (Cpk) is defined as a statistical measure of the inherent process variability of a given characteristic. A process-capability study is used to assess the ability of a process to meet specifications.
Capable Instrument: A measurement method (instrument and process) with P/T Ratio of <10% is considered capable. (see also P/T ratio)

CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine): A high-precision, usually slow-moving, measuring tool with granite base that measures the geometry of solid objects by using a probe to sense discrete points on the surface of the object. Manufacturers include Zeiss and Nikon Metrology.

Cobot: Short form for the term “collaborative robot.”

Collaborative robot: A new class of flexible industrial robot, with integrated sensors and controls that limit speed and force, few or no pinch points, and the ability to work safely alongside people in existing factory environments. Safety barriers may not be needed. If a cobot bumps into anything, people or tooling, it slows and stops automatically. Learn more about collaborative robots vs. traditional industrial robots at universal-robots.com.

Cobot grippers: End-of-arm tooling designed for use with collaborative robots to grip parts in order to pick up or manipulate them. Cobot grippers adhere to the same safety guidelines as cobots.
Comparative accuracy: see Accuracy (comparative)

CRX: The model name for FANUC’s collaborative robots. These robot arms have proven reliability and repeatability, with 8 years of maintenance-free operations, making them suitable for a variety of automation applications. Learn more about CRX collaborative robot series at https://crx.fanucamerica.com/


Data logging: Recording measured data to a computer for record-keeping or analysis.
Digital calipers: see calipers
Dimensions: Distance between two points on an object, such as length, width, or diameter. Can be an outside dimension (e.g. outer diameter of a ring) or inside dimension (e.g. the diameter of a hole or bore through an object.


EOAT: Acronym for End of Arm Tooling, which is the tooling mounted to a robot wrist that touches a part being manipulated or processed. EOAT is also used to refer to a gripper or other robot tooling.


Fingers (or fingertips): The moving components on a gripper that touch the part. In many cases the gripper fingers or fingertips are modular and easily exchanged to perform a specific function or process, such as measuring the dimensions of specific part features.
Flexible manufacturing: Also called Agile Manufacturing or Agile Automation. A production method designed to easily adapt to changes in the type and quantity of the product being manufactured. Machines and computerized systems can be quickly re-configured to manufacture a variety of parts and handle changing levels of production.
Firmware: Software in smart products that operates in embedded microprocessors, providing on-board functionality and decision-making without the need for an external computer or human intervention.


Gauge Blocks or Gage Blocks: A set of precision ground steel components, usually square or rectangular, used as a reference for the calibration of measuring equipment. (see also ring gauge)

Gauge Repeatability and Reproducibility (Gauge R&R): A methodology used to define the capability of the measurement system. Alternatively spelled Gage R&R. (see also capability)
Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T): A system for defining and communicating engineering tolerances on  controlled features of a part. It is used to define the nominal geometry of parts, the allowable variation in form and size of individual features, and the allowable variation between features.
Golden part: A reference sample (also called a control sample) of the production part, with all important dimensions measured using multiple gauges. The golden part is used to determine system changes and help establish an appropriate calibration frequency.
Gripper: The physical tooling on a robot arm designed to grip and manipulate parts. Types include parallel electric grippers, with parallel fingers that move in response to electrical signals. (See also EOAT)

Gripper/Calipers: A robot gripper that includes onboard position sensor feedback and embedded intelligence, allowing it to function as both a gripper to pick parts, and a robotic caliper to measure them.


Height Gauge: A dimensional gauge consisting of a sliding carriage with a movable stylus or scribe, mounted to a vertical beam or column with a measuring scale. A height gauge can determine the height of a workpiece relative to a stable base or table. See some height gauge examples.


Industry 4.0: The fourth industrial revolution. The ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology.


Labor shortage: A shortfall in the number of people available, willing and able to perform skilled or unskilled labor in an industry such as manufacturing. (see also skills gap)

Laser scanning: A type of measurement that uses a laser beam to scan and measure three-dimensional objects. (see also 3D scanning)


LVDT (linear variable differential transformer, or linear probe): A dimensional gauge with a spindle, or metal core, that moves through coil windings in the gauge body to produce an electrical signal corresponding to the spindle’s position. The spindle displacement from the null position corresponds to the height of the part being measured. Learn more about LVDTs at DesignWorld’s Motion Control Tips.


Machine tending: The act of automatically loading raw parts into, and unloading finished parts out of, a machine. Automated machine tending is usually done by a programmable robot. Typical machine tending applications may include robotic loading and unloading of a CMM, molding machine, testing or metal removal system.
Machine Vision: The automated capture and processing of images via hardware (cameras, computers and lighting) and software (algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI)) that provide guidance to an automated inspection system or station.
Material handling: The act of moving parts, bulk or boxes with robots, conveyors, rails and carts. Material handling occurs in manufacturing, assembly, warehousing and distribution.

Measurement fixture: A centrally-located holder designed to center and align a part during the measurement inspection process. A properly designed measurement fixture is customized for each part, or family of similar parts, and minimizes measurement variations due to gravity, grip location, and dynamic motion. See the in-depth article on metrology fixturing at Quality Magazine.

Measuring: The physical act of ascertaining the dimensions of a specific feature of a component using a tool or instrument such as a micrometer, caliper, gauge, laser scanner, coordinate measuring machine (CMM), machine vision camera, etc.
Metrology: The science behind the physics of measurement.

Micro-credentials: Educational programs to verify, validate, and attest that specific skills and/or competencies have been achieved.  They differ from traditional degrees and certificates in that they are generally offered in shorter or more flexible time spans and tend to be more narrowly focused. Micro-credentials can be offered online, in the classroom, or via a hybrid of both. (Microcredentials definition from State University of New York)

Micrometer: (a) mai-krom-i-ter – A device incorporating a calibrated screw and rotational scale, used to measure dimensions of components by touching. Also called a micrometer screw gage. (b) mai-kroh-mee-ter – A unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter, abbreviated μm.
Micron: Short for micrometer, a unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter or 0.04 thousandths of an inch.

MTM: Abbreviation for Multi-Tool Mount, from New Scale Robotics, used to describe the first multi-tool mounting system for collaborative robots from Universal Robots.


NIST: The National Institute of Standards and Technologies in the USA. Visit www.nist.gov

NSR: Abbreviation for New Scale Robotics, the company that manufacturers Q-Span™ Systems, a software and hardware system for automated measurement inspection using collaborative robots. New Scale Robotics is a division of New Scale Technologies (NST), based in Rochester, NY USA.


Part assessment: A review of the drawings of the part to be measured (mass, dimensions, features, tolerances) with respect to a Q-Span Workstation’s capabilities (New Scale Robotics).

Part trays: Engineered, molded or vacuumed formed trays with multiple compartments that hold parts precisely, in known orientation, for automated environments such as assembly, quality and testing. They are often used in conjunction with a robot. Learn more about designing part trays.

Pick and place: The act of using a robot to move an object from one place to another; a common robotic application usually referring to material handling. The robot may present the object for a value-added operation between pick and place. The new location may be pre-programmed, as in picking electronic components from tape and placing them in defined locations on circuit boards; or it may be determined by real-time decision making, as in a Q-Span System placing parts into pass, fail or sorting trays based on measurements made by its robotic gripper/calipers.
Pick-measure-record and place: A new collaborative robot application introduced by New Scale Robotics in 2019 for precision manufacturing. The process combines automated robotic part handling (pick and place) with automated measurement and data logging (measure and record).

Polyscope GUI: The touch-screen Graphical User Interface (GUI) from Universal Robots, used to program robotic actions such as pick and place. Learn more at universal-robots.com

Precision: The deviation of a measured value to a standard or known value. Depending on the context, this general term may sometimes refer to an instrument’s resolution, repeatability or accuracy. For Gage R&R evaluations, Precision (P) refers to the instrument repeatability.

P/T Ratio: The ratio of the precision (P) of a measurement system to the total tolerance (T) of the process it is part of. A low P/T ratio indicates that variation of the measurement system will have a small impact on product quality.


QA: Abbreviation for Quality Assurance; the part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.
QC: Abbreviation for Quality Control; the act of measuring or inspecting a component or system to verify that it meets the requirements for quality.

Q-Span® Workstation: An innovative product from New Scale Robotics, designed to easily automate part measurement for quality assurance in small-batch, high-mix manufacturing. Q-Span Workstation Kits install easily on collaborative robots from Universal Robots to automate manual digital caliper inspection and data collection. Q-Span is a registered trademark of New Scale Technologies.

Quality: A measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations.

QMS (Quality Management System): A system of business processes, policies, and procedures focused on achieving quality objectives. Learn more about Quality Management Systems from ASQ.org


Repeatability: The variation of a part measurement when the same part is measured many times using the same instrument and method to create a significant sample size. This value is reported as +/- 3σ. (see sigma σ).
Resolution: The minimum increment that can be measured and reported by the instrument.
RaaS (Robotics as a Service): A recent phenomenon in robotics and especially in autonomous robots. Factories can rent robots by the day, month or year to avoid capital outlays and achieve flexibility to respond rapidly when more automation is required, such as with seasonal peaks at distribution centers.


Ring gauges or ring gages: A set of precision ground steel cylindrical rings with inside diameters finished to gauge tolerance, used for checking the external diameter of a cylindrical object and as a reference for the calibration of measuring equipment. (see also gauge block)


Robot: A machine capable of executing a complex series of movements automatically, usually with a high degree of repeatability. Robots are often used in manufacturing and material handling. The most common robot is a six-axis platform. Each robot requires a controller, either built-in or integrated, and is usually controlled by a computer or programmable logic controller (PLC) device.


Robot arm: A programmable, mult-axis electromechanical mechanism that is usually part of a robotic or automated system.


Robotic Caliper: A digital caliper designed to operate as end of arm tooling with robots or collaborative robots. (see caliper)
ROI (Return on Investment): The time it takes for an equipment investment to “pay for itself” through delivering an equivalent value in cost reductions or other benefits to a company. In modern manufacturing, automation investments including robots, tooling, and software typically command a 24 month or shorter ROI to be considered for implementation in a factory.



Sigma (σ): One standard deviation. A number used to indicate how measurements for a group are spread out from the average (mean), or expected value.

Skills gap: A shortfall in the number of people available, willing and able to perform skilled labor in an industry such as manufacturing. In a 2018 study, Deloitte predicts an upcoming skills gap of 2.4 million people (2018 to 2028) with an economic impact of $2.5 Trillion USD. (Reference Deloitte 2018 Skills Gap in Manufacturing Study)
Smart Grippers: Robot grippers with onboard sensor feedback, drive electronics, embedded intelligence and closed-loop control. For example, the NSR-PG gripper for Universal Robots.

SPC: Abbreviation for statistical process control. SPC employs statistical methods to monitor and control a process; most often used in manufacturing. Learn more about Statistical Process Control from ASQ.org


Teach pendant: An accessory interface device for industrial and collaborative robots. The hand-held device, usually hard-wired to the robot, is used to create robot programs or make adjustments to existing programs, such as fine-tuning pick and place locations. See a teach pendant at universal-robots.com

Thou: Short for “thousandths of an inch.”
Tooling: Usually machined, hardened metal tools or devices that touch a part or component being processed or manipulated.

Traceability: The ability to trace something to its origins. In manufacturing this can mean tracing part history through its process history and supply chain to raw materials. In Metrology this means linking a measurement method to certified calibration standards and ultimately to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) masters. See NIST Standard Reference Data at nist.gov

U – Z

UR: Abbreviation for Universal Robots, a leading manufacturer of collaborative robots. Based in Odense, Denmark, UR is a subsidiary of Teradyne. Visit universal-robots.com

UR+ Store or UR Plus Store: Similar to the Apple Computer iStore, the Universal Robots UR+ Store contains authorized and tested third-party components and software (such as the Q-Span Workstation Kit) for UR’s line of robotic arms. Visit the UR+ Store

UR3e: The model name for Universal Robots’ smallest collaborative robot. The flexible, table-top robot arm is suitable for high precision tasks in high-mix, small-batch manufacturing environments. Learn more about the UR3e at Universal-Robots.com

URCaps: Universal Robots’ software platform on which distributors, integrators and suppliers present accessories that run successfully in UR robot applications at end users. Caps comes from the word “capabilities.”  UR explains that caps are to robots, what apps are to smartphones: useful accessories, hardware and software extending the capabilities of UR robots handling many different tasks. Learn more at universal-robots.com

Zero Reference: Setting a zero reference is a technique used to calibrate a measurement tool by measuring a part with a known standard dimension, comparing the measured dimension to the known dimension, and adding or subtracting units of measure to “zero” the tool. This may also be referred to as “zero offset.” Learn morea about “zeroing” a tool at Modern Machine Shop.

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If you have questions, suggestions for terms you’d like defined, or other comments, please let us know. Call +1 (585) 942 4450 or email New Scale Robotics today.