Direct from the Cloud: Quality Management Documentation

Software for automating the production of quality inspection packages can save manufacturing companies a stunning amount of time. That the software is cloud-based is merely a technicality.

Quality inspection documentation is yet another example where cloud-based computing and software as a service (SaaS) has penetrated manufacturing.

First, a review of some of the benefits of the cloud and SaaS: easy to install, no additional information technology infrastructure (programs are accessible and work through web browsers), secure (both data communications and the data itself), easier mobile access, and programs are always current (automatic updates). Plus, cloud-based operations help invoke consistency across remote, multiple sites of the same corporation—even the disparate partners in an entire supply chain—by enabling them to use the same software programs and the same set of current data.

If all of these benefits weren’t enough from an overhead-cost perspective, realize that the monthly or annual fees for cloud-based programs are relatively inexpensive—relative to the outright, prorated purchase of a software package.

What’s in an inspection package?
Creating quality inspection documents is a very manual, very time-consuming, very error-prone process. The documents typically include hand-ballooned (or bubbled) inspection drawings; a report in Excel or Word containing inspection data and results, which are typically entered manually; and a bunch of other documents, such as conformance certificates, customer specifications, and process tests. All of these documents regularly go through various, often numerous, revisions. Consider this: Just changing inspection drawings often requires manually redoing all the ballooned drawings.

InspectionXpert OnDemand for CAD from InspectionXpert Corp. (inspection
) automates this laborious process. The cloud-based program automatically creates balloons from native CAD files, generates inspection prints, and creates inspection packages, including first article inspection (FIA) and in-process inspection reports. It extracts dimension and tolerance-related information that meets production part approval process (PPAP) requirements, and it produces documentation compliant with SAE Aerospace Standard AS9102. (A template editor lets users also create custom reports, such as formal and ad-hoc inspection control plans. Along the way, users can customize default tolerances, lists, and fields to meet internal inspection reporting standards.)

The program eliminates manually entering specifications and values for geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T). It automatically extracts model-based definition inspection data to create inspection plans. It can also create those plans from traditional 2D printed drawings by applying optical character recognition to PDF or TIFF files, plus advanced logic to extract nominal measurements, tolerances, quantities, types, and other values that comprise inspection requirements.

While InspectionXpert is cloud-based, it works on a company’s local files. The program circumvents the problem of dealing with multiple CAD systems to generate or view 2D prints and 3D models because it can work with native CAD files from Dassault Systèmes CATIA V5 2D or 3D, CATIA V6, and Autodesk AutoCAD (2D DWG files). It can also read the dimensional data directly from Siemens PLM Software Solid Edge, Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks, and PTC Pro/ENGINEER-Creo. (The sister product, InspectionXpert OnDemand, balloons, and extracts inspection data only from PDF and TIFF files, including original or scanned drawings.)

The most recent version of InspectionXpert for CAD lets people export the CATIA data that contains part properties and parameters directly into an inspection project’s bill of materials and bill of specifications. Also, the latest version generates PDF files using vector geometry and text based annotations instead of image-based PDF exports. This method both improves the quality of the PDF files and reduces publishing time

Even more features
Several add-ons are available to add even more features to InspectionXpert. MeasurementXpert and CMMXpert let users capture measurement data and publish directly to the Net-Inspect FAI module from Net-Inspect. Other modules provide integrations to a variety of metrology, inspection, reverse engineering, CAD validation, statistical process control, and quality management products from Verisurf Software Inc., Dimensional Con-trol Systems (QDM-web), CEBOS, Prolink Corp. (QC Gage), and other vendors. 

InspectionXpert displays part and assembly drawings in Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. These web browser views are not static. Users can pan and rotate views, add balloons one at a time or by the screenful, customize balloons (location, size, type, and color), zoom in to see model details, extract annotations, save to PDFs, extract to export to 3D PDFs, and export characteristic data directly to Excel, among other actions. 

Incidentally, InspectionXpert OnDemand for CAD supports Adobe DRM (digital rights management), so inspection departments can protect their inspection-related data across devices and users.

InspectionXpert OnDemand for CAD runs on Microsoft Windows XP Professional or later; requires Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 or later; and is compatible with Adobe Acrobat Reader version 7.0.7 or higher and with Microsoft Excel 2003 or later. But users don’t have to use Excel. Exporting spreadsheet data to XLS and XLSX formats lets users create inspection reports in non-Excel spreadsheet programs, such as Open Office and Office 360.

InspectionXpert OnDemand right from the cloud saves $5,000 to $10,000 per seat. Simply put, says Jeff Cope, CEO, the program runs “on any computer, at any time, without manual installation, and eliminates the cost of expensive CAD software licenses.”

However, there are other cost savings. Automating the creation of quality inspection documents significantly slashes the time spent creating, reviewing, and revising inspection packages. The company estimates time savings from 50% to 90%. And of course, time is money.