Introduction to Laser Trackers 365

“Introduction to Laser Trackers” provides an overview of the components, functions, and applications of laser trackers. A laser tracker is a type of portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) that is used to measure large-scale workpiece features and record their geometry. Laser trackers gather measurements by sending a laser beam to a retroreflective target and can be used in most environments on the production floor. Additionally, operators use handheld probes to measure out-of-sight areas and record 6DoF measurements.

Laser trackers are used for many applications in manufacturing, including inspection, GD&T analysis, and reverse engineering processes. After taking this class, users will be able to describe laser trackers and how they function.

Class Details

Class Name:
Introduction to Laser Trackers 365
Number of Lessons:

Class Outline

  • Portable CMMs
  • Laser Trackers
  • Laser Tracker Applications
  • Review: Laser Tracker Introduction
  • Laser Tracker Components
  • Laser Tracker Measurement
  • 6 Degrees of Freedom Measurement
  • Review: Laser Tracker Components and Measurement
  • Laser Tracker Operation
  • Data Collection and Analysis
  • Final Review


  • Describe portable CMMs.
  • Describe laser trackers.
  • Describe laser tracker applications.
  • Describe laser tracker components.
  • Describe how laser trackers function.
  • Describe 6DoF laser tracker measurement.
  • Describe laser tracker operation.
  • Describe laser tracker data collection and analysis.

Job Roles



Vocabulary Term Definition
6 degrees of freedom 6DoF. The possible directions of movement for an object. An object's 6 degrees of freedom include pitch, yaw, and roll and can be measured with some laser tracker probes and scanners.
6DoF 6 Degrees of Freedom. The possible directions of movement for an object. An object's 6 degrees of freedom include pitch, yaw, and roll and can be measured with some laser tracker probes and scanners.
aerodynamic Having a shape that reduces the drag from the movement of passing air. Aerodynamic components require tight tolerances and precise alignment.
alignment The accurate positioning of machine components. Alignment ensures accuracy and optimal performance of automotive and aerospace machine operations.
articulated Consisting of segments connected by joints. CMM arms are articulated, which allows them to move in many directions.
automated Controlled by machines or computers with little human interaction. Automated robots can use laser trackers to measure parts.
automation The use of self-regulated equipment, processes, or systems that meet manufacturing requirements with limited human intervention. Many automation operations are calibrated using laser trackers.
axes An imaginary line or circle that is used to define the position of an object in space. Laser trackers have horizontal and vertical axes.
base The foundation of a machine that supports the machine's other components. The base of a laser tracker stabilizes the head and contains the working components.
body-in-white The stage in the automobile manufacturing process that occurs after a vehicle's frame has been joined together. The body-in-white stage allows for the inspection of the frame's structure.
calibration The comparison and adjustment of a device with unknown accuracy to a device with a known, accurate standard. Calibration eliminates any variation in the device being checked.
climate-controlled Having artificially regulated air temperature, humidity, and movement. Climate-controlled environments are not necessary for portable CMMs.
CMM Coordinate measuring machine. A sophisticated measuring instrument that uses a suspended probe to measure parts in three-dimensional space. A CMM operates using either contact or noncontact methods.
CMM arms A portable measuring device consisting of segments connected by joints. CMM arms operate using either contact or noncontact methods.
computer-aided design CAD. A computer software program that aids in the automated design and technical precision drawing of a part, product, process, or building. Computer-aided design models can be used in part inspection.
contact probes A type of probe consisting of a synthetic ruby-tipped stylus that makes physical contact with a workpiece. A contact probe records one single point each time it touches a part's surface.
coordinate measuring machines CMM. A sophisticated measuring instrument that uses a suspended probe to measure parts in three-dimensional space. Coordinate measuring machines operate using either contact or noncontact methods.
distance meter An instrument that uses a laser to accurately determine the distance of an object without contacting it. Distance meters are highly accurate and can measure far distances.
distortion Warpage in a machine's parts due to stresses caused by exposure to pressure and other manufacturing forces. Distortion is caused by heavy loads.
field of vision The entire area that can be observed from a fixed position. A laser tracker's field of vision is viewed by a sensor above the laser's scope.
fixed CMMs A stationary coordinate measuring machine. Fixed CMMs have a large base with a suspended probe and are operated in a controlled environment.
fixtures A customizable, modular workholding device created by configuring locators, supports, and clamps on a body fixture. Fixtures are common workholding devices for CMM inspection because they allow a part to be accessible while secured in place.
fuselages The central body portion of an aircraft designed to accommodate the crew and the passengers or cargo. Fuselages are inspected and aligned using laser trackers.
geometric dimensioning and tolerancing GD&T. An international standard for communicating instructions about the design and manufacturing of parts. Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing emphasizes the function of the part.
geometry The measurement, properties, and relationships of the lines and points of an object that make up its shape. Geometry describes a shape using its components.
head The rotating top portion of a laser tracker that emits a laser beam. The head of a laser tracker rotates both vertically and horizontally.
in-process Currently being produced by manufacturing. In-process parts are found throughout the process of turning raw material into finished products.
inspection The examination of a part during or after its creation to confirm that it adheres to specifications. During inspection, defects may be identified and corrected.
jigs A customized workholding device used to position and hold a workpiece while guiding the location and motion of a tool. Jigs are a type of fixturing that can be used when inspecting a part.
laser A device that generates an intense beam of light that can be precisely aimed and controlled. Laser beams are sent to a target or probe held against a part's surface to capture its position.
laser scanner A portable measuring device that uses a beam of light to measure an object's geometric shape. Laser scanners collect large amounts of surface data quickly.
laser trackers A portable measuring device that projects a beam of light at a retroreflective target to measure large objects. Laser trackers require a person to hold a target or probe on the object being measured.
LED Light emitting diode. A semiconductor device that emits a narrow spectrum of light in a forward direction. Laser trackers use LED lights to read pitch, roll, and yaw.
legacy Relating to a previous technology. Legacy models are typically archived or obsolete.
line of sight A visible path from one point to another. The line of sight for a laser tracker begins with the laser tracker's scope and runs to the laser's target.
metrology The science of measurement. Metrology strives for accuracy, precision, and repeatability.
noncontact probes A type of probe that consists of a laser or scanning system that does not physically contact the part surface. Noncontact probes are used to streamline surface inspection.
on-machine Relating to or being on a machine. On-machine parts can easily be measured with a portable CMM.
orientation Position in three-dimensional space. Orientation is determined by the X, Y, and Z coordinates.
pitch Rotational movement around the X axis. Pitch can be calculated by a laser tracker with a 6DoF probe or laser scanner.
point cloud A large collection of data points of a three-dimensional object. Point clouds are typically used to create CAD models of objects.
portable CMMs A coordinate measuring machine that can be easily carried or moved. Portable CMMs can be used on the factory floor.
positioning sensor A device that orients a laser tracker's beam and keeps it locked on a retroreflector or probe. A positioning sensor can reconnect with a retroreflector when obstructions break the laser's line of sight.
quality reports A document of measurement data used for inspection. Quality reports provide the information needed to determine the dimensional accuracy of parts.
retroreflective Reflecting light back in the direction from where it came. Retroreflective targets are used with laser trackers.
reverse engineering A process that captures geometric data of an existing object to convert it to a three-dimensional (3D) computer-aided design (CAD) model. Reverse engineering can be used to create a reproduction based on a part's composition.
robots A machine that automatically performs complicated and repetitive tasks. Robots often perform work that is more precise and consistent than work performed by humans.
roll Rotational movement around the Z axis. Roll can be calculated by a laser tracker with a 6DoF probe or laser scanner.
sensor A device that detects and conveys information used to make an image. Laser tracker sensors detect the LED lights on a probe.
SMR Spherically mounted retroreflector. A small sphere consisting of mirrors positioned within a metal housing. SMRs are placed against objects and reflect a laser beam back to a laser tracker.
spherically mounted retroreflector SMR. A small sphere consisting of mirrors positioned within a metal housing. Spherically mounted retroreflectors are placed against objects and reflect a laser beam back to a laser tracker.
stylus A precision tip that records measurements. On a CMM, the stylus is the spherical portion of the contact probe that is mounted to the wrist and makes contact with the part.
three-dimensional 3D. Having or appearing to have length, breadth, and depth. Three-dimensional models show an object's shape better than two-dimensional drawings.
tolerance An unwanted but acceptable variation or deviation from a desired dimension of a part. A part within tolerances will meet specifications and pass inspection.
white light scanners A portable measuring device that projects a grid of light on an object and scans an image of it to record 3D surface measurements. White light scanners may take several scans before gathering all the dimensional data.
yaw Rotational movement around the Y axis. Yaw can be calculated by a laser tracker with a 6DoF probe or laser scanner.