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Height gages steer shop to efficiency

Height gages steer shop to efficiency

Digimar height gages accommodate tall parts and boost productivity at NSK.

NSK Steering Systems America Inc. (, one of the world's largest independent makers of steering columns and associated components for customers such as Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. USA, Honda of America Mfg. Inc., Mazda USA and Mercedes-Benz US International, initially purchased Digimar CX2 height gages to measure tall parts in the vertical position. However, the shop got more than it bargained for in that the gages not only accommodate the tall parts, they also provide speed and efficiency for keeping up with rapidly growing production demands.

Q1, ISO 9000 and soon to be TS 16949 certified, NSK's lab complex, with metrology, inspection and metallurgy labs, is fully equipped and climate controlled. The metrology lab handles 90 percent of the company's calibration needs and 65 percent of gage repair, while also serving as a gage crib that dispenses and tracks a host of micrometers, calipers, depth gages, dial indicators and more. The metallurgy lab verifies weld penetration on critical column components, and the inspection lab does incoming part and final-part inspections.

"We have three CMMs for final inspection, and they were running 24 hours a day. So we had an issue with piece part inspections," says Tom Leab, metrology and inspection group leader at NSK. "We had to wait to get on the CMMs, and since the largest was only 24 in., we ended up using precision V-blocks and things of that nature to raise it up. We just didn't have the height," he says.

Two Digimars that handle parts up to 40-in. long rest on a 60 120-in., 20-in.-thick, granite surface plate in NSK's inspection lab, and two people can use the gages simultaneously, which saves a lot of time. The company also has a Digimar height gage in its metrology lab, where it supplements an older height gage that is difficult to use.

The computer touch pads on the Digimar gage walk users through measurements, making it easier to use than the older height gage, Leab says.

Digimar CX2s, from Mahr Federal Inc. ( are part of a family of motorized, programmable height-measuring systems that offer a combination of features and performance previously available only in high-priced equipment. The line is designed for both gage lab and production-measurement use.

Motorized measuring slides minimize operator influence on part probing for measurement precision and repeatability. Users execute key measuring functions by pressing one button, and readily programmable measuring routines allow sampling batches of mass-produced parts quickly and easily.

Numerous measuring and evaluation functions include those for handling planes, grooves, bores and shafts and calculating distances and symmetries. The units also support maximum-minimum measurements, as well as perpendicularity measurements in conjunction with digital dial indicators. Canned routines for basic features and simple teach-and-learn techniques make for easy programming for a wide range of measurement tasks.

NSK's metrology and inspection lab technicians are not averse to using computers, and Leab says it is a relief to not have to use the shop's manual system all the time. The older height gage was cumbersome, and the new units are simpler and more efficient, he says.

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