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3D Coordinate Measuring Machines-Industry Standard in Modern Manufacturing

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In industry, coordinate measuring machines or 3D coordinate measuring machines are important tools in production and quality control. The technology enables accurate measurement of components in three dimensions. They are of great importance in modern manufacturing. 

What defines a coordinate measuring machine? A coordinate measuring machine or a 3D coordinate measuring machine is a measuring instrument used in modern industry to determine the geometric properties of components. These machines come in many different models, with different measurement methods. The measurement is done through the use of sensors that use a Cartesian coordinate system to accurately determine the position of object surfaces.

At Q-Tech, we use coordinate measuring machines from the ZEISS brand. You can find out which ones here in this article. If you want to know more about the technical data of the individual machines, it is best to take a look at our equipment.  


A coordinate measuring machine consists of three main components:

  1. The measuring head
  2. A mechanical structure (portal, stand with horizontal arm, etc.)
  3. A software for data recording and analysis

The measuring head moves along the axes of the machine and collects data from the surface of the component during this process. This data is recorded and analyzed by the software. The inspector can then determine the deviations from the nominal geometry of the component. 

A CNC control is often used as the basis for 3D coordinate measuring machines. This allows the traverse path of the measuring head to be precisely programmed so that the individual points in the coordinate system are exactly defined

This method is part of the length measuring technology. Each traverse axis (X, Y and Z) is assigned to at least one length measuring system.  

Basic construction types

In the field of coordinate measuring systems, there are different construction methods and basic designs to realize the three right-angled guides X, Y and Z. 

  • Column design: In this coordinate measuring system, the quill with the measuring head system can be moved horizontally. These can be moved vertically along a stand. The second horizontal movement is usually performed by moving the stand along the measuring plate or with the aid of a movable table. 
  • Bridge design: Here, the moving axes and the clamping area are separated from each other. This enables a large measuring range and thus the detection of very large workpieces. Machines with the bridge design are often used in aircraft construction.
  • Portal design: The supporting quill of the measuring head system is located on the portal crossbeam. This quill can be moved in the horizontal direction along the portal crossbeam. The gantry is supported by two feet on the edges of the instrument table. At the same time, the gantry is movable in the horizontal direction along the equipment table. Gantry measuring machines based on coordinate systems offer low measuring deviations, good accessibility and a measuring range that is sufficiently large. Nowadays, they are considered the most popular and widely used design. 
  • Cantilever construction: The basis of this design is a cantilever arm, which is attached to the measuring head system and can be moved in the vertical direction. In addition, two further axes can be moved perpendicular to each other in the horizontal direction. The horizontal movement can be achieved either by a movable table or, in the case of a fixed table variant, by movable mounting elements of the cantilever arm. 

These base designs are subject to the technical standard DIN EN ISO 10360-1:2003. Manufacturers must adhere to these specifications during the production of these machines. 


Measurement on coordinate measuring machines can be either tactile or optical. Until the 1990s, tactile sensors were the pioneers in measurement technology. In the meantime, optical methods are also increasingly being used. 

The reason is that in the last decades the requirements have increased and so the technical components require better and better sensor technology.

To improve the flexibility of coordinate measuring systems, several sensor methods are also combined today. Furthermore, it is possible to exchange the sensor or probe in most systems in order to solve several complex measuring tasks with a single machine

Mechanical/tactile probing

The workpiece surface is probed with a touch probe. The measuring task predominantly determines the different geometric shapes of the probe element. Balls with materials made of industrial ruby, hard metal or silicon nitride are frequently used. The human sense of touch serves as orientation for the process.

A measuring force of around 0.01 to 0.2 N acts during probing. For this reason, the stylus bends. This "bending" must be taken into account in the measurement. Therefore, a correction of the stylus takes place automatically. 

Contactless probing

Non-contact probing includes optical, electrical and X-ray tomographic sensors

In fact, any electrical or optical sensor can be used in coordinate measuring systems to extend the measuring range using the X-Y-Z positioning system. 

Non-contact probing includes: 

  • Triangulation sensors (line sensors, photogrammetry, fringe projection)
  • Image processing sensors (edge finder, binary processing)
  • Interferometer (laser interferometer, white light interferometer) 
  • Tunnel current sensors 
  • X-ray tube radiation and detectors


3D coordinate measuring machines have now been the industry standard in component quality assurance for several years. 

Here are the advantages of the machines in their entirety: 

  • High precision
  • Offer high repeatability
  • Acquisition of complex geometries
  • Measurement data can be acquired automatically
  • Human error sources are reduced

Importance of machinery in the industry

As already mentioned, coordinate measuring machines play an important role in quality assurance in manufacturing. They make it possible to check the dimensional accuracy of components.  

In addition, coordinate measuring machines also increase efficiency in production because component manufacturers can determine the quality of their products in a relatively short time and make adjustments in real time if necessary.

Application area

Basically, coordinate measuring machines are universally applicable

In doing so, they are ideally suited for statistical process control or for 100% control in small series.

Applications include welded or cast components or even entire assemblies such as engine blocks, car bodies, housings or gears. 

Common industries are the automotive industry, aircraft construction and, in the case of modern 3D coordinate measuring machines, medical technology. However, the measuring machines are also used in many other areas of industry

The coordinate measuring machines at Q-Tech

As an expert in the field of measurement technology, Q-Tech offers you a whole range of measurement services tailored to your specific needs. 

In our company we rely on the coordinate measuring machines of the manufacturer ZEISS

Our repertoire includes a ZEISS PRISMO ULTRA, a ZEISS PRISMO VERITY, a ZEISS ACCURA 7, a ZEISS ACCURA and even a ZEISS O-INSPECT 863, which combines both optical and tactile measurement technology.

Our coordinate measuring machines offer you the highest measuring accuracy and the fastest possible measuring process. 


Coordinate measuring machines are among the most important tools in modern manufacturing and quality control. They enable component manufacturers to maintain the dimensional accuracy of their products, ensuring customer satisfaction and efficiency. 

‍Contactus and enjoy our precise measurement services so that we can make a decisive contribution to optimizing your manufacturing processes.

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