American Machinist

Sight, touch, and 'smarts' for MCs: lab project brings planning, auto setup, on-machine checking to metalcutting operations. (Cover Story)

Sight, touch, and 'smarts' for MCs

THE FULLY AUTOMATED metalworking workstation that takes a part description from planning through first-part-produced-acceptably is several steps closer to reality with completion of the Air Force's Intelligent Machining Workstation (IMW) project.

Though further refinement work remains to be done for both hardware and software, basic principles of most of the requisite technology have been demonstrated during this contract.

Keeping in mind that the effort was conceived as R&D, intended to identify areas that need further work to achieve the fully automated workstation and not a hardened commercial version of same, this project has to be considered an overwhelming success.

The original contract (AM--Jan'89,p53) envisioned an unmanned machining workstation. David W. Bourne, principal investigator at Carnegie Mellon Univ's Center for Integrated Manufacturing Decision Systems, conceived the fundamental approach that was followed.

The program consisted of a series of artificial intelligence (AI) programs for planning, holding, cutting, and sensing to be implemented through automated hardware.

The IMW contract was let by the Air Force's Material Laboratory (Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio), to a team of contractors including Carnegie Mellon Univ (Pittsburgh) and Cincinnati Milacron Inc (Cincinnati).

The hardware development was done primarily at Carnegie Mellon while the software was developed at both CMU and Milacron.

Besides David Bourne, F. Brack Hazen, a research engineer at Carnegie Mellon, worked on the hardware aspects of the program. Contract manager at Milacron was Daniel D. Barash. The Air Force contract officer at the conclusion of the contract was Charles Wagner.

The demonstration machine tool was a three-axis Cincinnati Milacron 5-VC vertical machining center with a Milacron 900 Acramatic machine controller. This machine was modified at CMU.

It includes a 24-pocket tool drum, in which novel tooling is stored. Tooling is connected to the machine tool through a standard receptacle in the spindle taper as needed.

The standard receptacle is essentially a box on the lower end of the spindle and includes electrical, pneumatic, and video signal connections.

Spindle-held camera

The optical measuring system is a two-axis (tilt and pan) CCD (charge-couple device) camera mounted in the standard taper of the machine-tool spindle. The videocam device (cover photo) has been designed and built and is currently being integrated into the cell.

Eventually this camera will be used to inspect fixture setups, check for chips, examine the results of metalcutting operations, and build a visual representation of the machine environment. …

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