Understanding portable CMMs is not difficult anymore.

The metrology industry has been on the cusp of new, innovative technologies for decades.

It’s projected to be worth billions and is continuing to grow at rapid rates worldwide.

The machinery and technologies that make up this industry are an integral part of its continued success – like coordinate measuring machines, for example.

Coordinate measuring machines — or CMMs — are pieces of equipment used to measure the geometry of specific objects.

They gather data points and allow manufacturers and shop floor operators to streamline production and ensure complete compliance across the board.

Portable CMMs are a subset of this technology and are quickly becoming one of the most sought-after pieces of equipment across a wide spectrum of industries.

Understanding portable CMMs – Understanding the basics of these machines and how they’re impacting industries are important.

With this insight, we can predict future behaviors and understand what to look for when the time comes for you to choose your own measuring machine.

Learning the Types of Portable CMMs

There is a variety of portable CMMs available from metrology suppliers.

Each piece of equipment offers a set of unique features and capabilities, allowing shop floor operators to select the coordinate measuring machine that’s best suited to their company’s needs.

Articulating Arms

This type of portable CMM uses an articulated arm to measure any given object rather than a probe that navigates on a three-cartesian axis.

They’re known as the most popular piece of equipment among the portable CMMs from CMMXYZ and have been broadly adopted for various industrial measuring tasks, particularly for objects that are too cumbersome to move from their original location.

Laser Trackers

Typically triple-mounted, laser trackers measure the position of their optical target, while said trackers are moved by hand to probe a specific measured part.

Originally designed for the aircraft manufacturing industry for assembly operations, laser trackers are now used across several industries — and are configured to effectively utilize a three-dimensional handheld probe.

White Light Scanning Metrology

Known as the latest development in portable CMM measuring and scanning, with many of these machines used for R&D projects.

Recently, more of these devices have been used on shop floors, thanks to their portability and tripod-mounted structures.

White light CMM systems operate similarly to a camera, with each shot collecting hundreds of thousands of data points in a matter of seconds.

Optical Portable CMMs

These non-contact CMMs gather information by scanning and capturing exact images of any given object and are typically used to measure delicate objects that could otherwise be compromised by the use of a probe.

As the newest extension of portable CMMS, most optical machines are wireless and can capture data from both small and large objects.

With added software, this type of CMM can accurately measure a wide range of objects and their various features.

How does portable CMM work

The Benefits of Portable CMMs

Across industries, portable CMMs offer a selection of unique benefits and capabilities — giving manufacturers and shop floor leaders more flexibility and increased productivity.

Lightweight & Portable

Unlike standard bridge CMMs, portable machines are exactly that — portable.

Their lightweight structure and flexibility, typically reaching no more than 20 pounds, make it easier to move the machine around the shop floor or transfer to a new site with ease.

Able to Measure Complex Objects

Portable CMMs offer adjustable features that can be moved around complex objects — including any objects with sharp angles or areas that would be difficult to reach with a standard CMM.

They can also measure objects that cannot be moved from the shop floor.

Quality Insurance and Assurance

One of the primary benefits of a portable coordinate measuring machine is its ability to offer precise measuring results.

This ensures they’re ideal for reverse engineering, quality assurance, and inspection purposes.

A portable machine can assess objects and provide accurate measurements, troubleshoot devices, and determine if they meet the appropriate safety codes.


Coordinate measuring machines are often costly pieces of equipment, especially bridge-style CMMs.

Portable machines are often sold at a fraction of the cost, making them the more budget-friendly alternative for shop floor leaders.

Industries Using Portable CMMs

Portable CMMs are becoming one of the most popular choices among manufacturers and shop floor leaders across a wide spectrum of industries.

Their ability to provide accurate measurements, engage in reverse engineering and measure complex, angular objects make them the go-to choice for a range of industries worldwide, including:

  • Automotive
  • Energy & Power
  • Electronics
  • Healthcare & Medical
  • Aerospace
  • Defense

Their efficient and innovative capabilities allow these industries to streamline their production processes and ensure they’re gathering accurate measurements — which play an integral role in manufacturing additional necessary parts.

How to learn CMM programming

Credit: Mech Mind via Unsplash

What to Look For in Your Portable CMM

If you’re in a position where you’re looking to invest in a portable CMM, it’s important to understand the features and capabilities that make these machines what they are today.

Size: Most portable CMMs have size limits for various parts.

They’re able to measure an object within that size range, but no more or less.

Time: The speed and efficiency with which you need to gather your data will determine which portable CMM is right for you.

Overall, measurement speed is essential, and even an additional 30 seconds can make a world of difference.

Software: Software is a crucial part of how your CMM operates. Typically, many portable machines are equipped with software to gather and analyze procured data.

The machine’s software should be user-friendly and include helpful features and capabilities.

Ease of Use: In addition to the software, the overall machine should be easy to use for both yourself and your workers.

If the machine requires a training period, you’ll need to spend time and money training your team to operate the portable CMM.

This is an important feature to consider when choosing your preferred piece of equipment.


This summary of understanding portable CMMs and their capabilities is designed to give you enough background information and context to make an informed decision for your business.

With these resources, you can effectively determine whether a portable CMM is right for your needs, and it allows you to select a piece of equipment that encompasses the features you need to streamline your production cycle.

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