Home > Media > News report

Aspects of tactile probing on the micro scale, precision engineering

Edwin Bos, co-founder and CTO of Xpress Precision Engineering B.V., has published an article in precision engineering on the aspects that influence measurements on small scales.

Precision Engineering
Volume 35, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 228-240


This paper discusses the aspects that influence the interaction between a probe tip and a work piece during tactile probing in a coordinate measuring machine (CMM). Measurement instruments are sensitive to more than one physical quantity. When measuring the topography of a work piece, the measurement result will therefore always be influenced by the environment and (local) variations in the work piece itself. A mechanical probe will respond to both topography and changes in the mechanical properties of the surface, e.g. the Young's modulus and hardness. An optical probe is influenced by the reflectivity and optical constants of the work piece, a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) responds to the electrical properties of the work piece and so on.

The trend of component miniaturization results in a need for 3-dimensional characterization of micrometer sized features to nanometer accuracy. As the scale of the measurement decreases, the problems associated with the surfaceprobe interactions become increasingly apparent. The aspects of the interaction that are discussed include the deformation of probe tip and work piece during contact, surface forces during single point probing and scanning, dynamic excitation of the probe, synchronization errors, microfriction, tip rotations, finite stiffness effects, mechanical filtering, anisotropic stiffness, thermal effects and probe repeatability.

These aspects are investigated using the Gannen XP 3D tactile probing system developed by Xpress Precision Engineering using modeling and experimental verification of the effects. The Gannen XP suspension consists of three slender rods with integrated piezo resistive strain gauges. The deformation of the slender rods is measured using the strain gauges and is a measure for the deflection of the probe tip. It is shown that the standard deviation in repeatability is 2 nm in any direction and over the whole measurement range of the probe. Finally, this probe has an isotropic stiffness of 480 N/m and a moving mass below 25 mg.