3D Surface Roughness and Wear Measurement, Analysis and Inspection

Remembering Roger Simpson

Michigan Metrology opened its doors in the Detroit area in 1994. I’d spent the previous several years working with the team at WYKO, developing the ”white light interferometry” technology that enables 3D optical profiling. It had been a frantic pace, always exciting, occasionally grueling, and full of memorable moments. I’d moved back to Michigan to introduce the new technology to the Detroit industries—and Roger Simpson played a pivotal role through it all.

Roger Simpson in the late1990s

A phone call changes everything

In the early 90s, we received a call at WYKO connecting us to Roger, who was the founder and CEO of Advanced Materials Process Corporation (AMPC). Roger was gregarious, visionary, and a natural networker. He’d heard about phase-shifting interferometry (PSI) for measuring optical surfaces, and wondered whether we could apply it to measure rougher surfaces, like shot blasted components. PSI can’t accommodate such rough surfaces—it would take a new technology. But Roger had planted a seed, and if we could figure out how to do it, our solution would solve many quality challenges in the automotive industry and beyond.

A leap of faith

In the months that followed, WYKO received enough requests for measuring “rougher roughness” that we decided to pursue it—with Roger checking in every few weeks to track our progress!

The first prototype “white light interferometer” was humble: fixed magnification, limited data analysis, and measurement times in the 12–14 minute range. Nevertheless, after a rickety demo, Roger was sold. He bought the first machine.

Taking the show on the road

In the coming months, the WYKO team did some amazing work, inventing and improving the hardware and software. The WYKO RST that emerged was ready for prime time.

We knew the RST was ready for Detroit, but we also knew that no one in the area knew how to use the new tech. Roger offered to set up a base at his facility that could serve as a demo center, and that support was vital to helping us introduce optical profiling in the area.

“Just take my key…”

The start-up years at WYKO had been non-stop and had taken a toll on us and our families. I was looking for a new option, to pursue my own business and to get back to my home turf in Detroit. The trouble was, there weren’t many jobs in the area for optical profiler managers!

And it was here that Roger presented an option for which I am forever indebted: He offered to let me operate my new company, Michigan Metrology, out of his demo center. In fact, he took out his wallet and handed me his key card. “Just take my key, use the machine whenever you need it.” And that’s how I spent my first years back in Detroit: drumming up business during the week, measuring parts on nights and weekends at Roger’s place.

Eyes on the future, remembering the past

Roger helped me, and the business, in countless other ways as well. In fact, he championed the development that lead to a patent for non-destructive measurement of peened surfaces (US 6,415,044 B1).

As Michigan Metrology has grown, I’ve never forgotten those formative years. Data analysis has matured, our Bruker measurement systems have gotten faster and more capable, and 3D optical profiling has become indispensable in manufacturing and product design. We’ve learned to keep up with it all, and we continue to provide volume measurements for Detroit, the Midwest and the country.

Roger unfortunately tragically passed away back in 2001. It’s no exaggeration that Michigan Metrology would not be here today without his belief and support. I carry Roger’s key card in my wallet to this day, to remind me of him, and of all the people who have helped me throughout my career.

To you, Roger.

– Don Cohen, Michigan Metrology