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Robotics Hardware

5-Axis Robot Carves Metal Like Butter 277

kkleiner sends along an amazing video of what robot-controlled machining is coming to. "Industrial robots are getting precise enough that they're less like dumb machines and more like automated sculptors producing artwork. Case in point: Daishin's Seki 5-axis mill. The Japanese company celebrated its 50th anniversary last year by using this machine to carve ... a full-scale motorcycle helmet out of one piece of aluminum. No breaks, no joints, the 5-Axis mill simply pivots and rotates to carve metal at some absurd angles. Every cut is guided by sophisticated 3-D design software (Openmind’s HyperMill)."
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5-Axis Robot Carves Metal Like Butter

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  • Re:Craves Metal (Score:2, Informative)

    by jayme0227 ( 1558821 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:18PM (#31791604) Journal

    I, for one, welcome our new metal sculpting overlords?

    Seriously though, the video was kind of mesmerizing. And now I want a new aluminum motorcycle helmet.

  • Nice enough demo (Score:4, Informative)

    by HEbGb ( 6544 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:28PM (#31791752)

    It's a nice enough demo for a five-axis mill, but these are hardly new nor revolutionary in any way. These have been around for at least a decade, probably much longer.

  • Re:Craves Metal (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:34PM (#31791862)

    Decent CNC machines tend to run anywhere from $250K to $1Million USD in new condition. Consider this is a 5-axis so going into the millions wouldn't be too surprising and also consider unless you are a master of G-Code programming you will need a software program to write the codes for you so you can tack on another $10K-$25K over a few years for the CAD/CAM Software package.

    Also yes I realize there are probably "Free" programs that write G-Codes and I realize that Blender will do modeling but if I am running a machine like this I want software with real support and a reputation which means I would probably go with an AutoCAD/MasterCAM, Solidworks/MasterCAM, Solidworks/SolidCAM or CATIA package.

  • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:40PM (#31791974)

    I'm starting to get involved in CNC machining (hobbyist level). One of the things that is quite clear is that there are really no good open source CAM packages. For that matter, open source 3D CAD has a long way to go, although I have great hopes for FreeCAD (not ready yet, but huge progress in the past year). If someone out there is looking for a challenge, take a look at 3D CAM, starting with 3-axis milling. Toolpath planning is *hard*. Your problem: Here is an arbitrary chunk of arbitrary metal. Here is a list of arbitrarily shaped tools. Here is the work envelop of your machine. Here is a table of chiploads that won't break the tools. Here is a 3D CAD file. Produce gcode. gcode that will not break the tools, not crash into fixtures, not crash the machine, and can start with roughing cuts to carve the initial block to something close, and plan finishing cuts that give you the desired surface finish at the end. A do your debugging where a "crash" can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in broken tools and machinery.

  • Re:Craves Metal (Score:3, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:48PM (#31792108) Journal
    Oh certainly. Clearly just a tech demo. I was responding to:

    And now I want a new aluminum motorcycle helmet.

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:49PM (#31792136) Journal
    There are scads of youtube videos of multi-axis machining, from impellers [] to V8 engine blocks [], that are several years old. But, way before youtube, in the 1970's, Japanese nine-axis milling machines helped Soviet designers make submarine propellers vastly quieter, meaning subs like the Soviet Typhoon-class were roughly as quiet as American subs had been for a while. The military and export implications of multi-axis milling machine technology was mentioned in US Congress debates at the time: In 1983-1984 the Japanese firm Toshiba sold sophisticated, nine axis milling equipment to the Soviets along with the computer control systems, which were developed by Norwegian firm Kongsberg Vaapenfabrik. U.S Navy officials and Congressmen announced that this technology enabled the Soviet submarine builders to produce more accurate and quieter propellers. [] So this is by no means new, but it sure is pretty.
  • by Capt James McCarthy ( 860294 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:50PM (#31792146) Journal

    I don't mean to take anything away from the Japanese who are clearly leading in the robotics industry. Especially with technologies like this, humanoid robots like Asimo, and even those creepy robots that have the bad latex skin, these are all really impressive displays of Japan's prowess in this field. More importantly, the control mechanisms are being refined at both the software and hardware interconnects, so this isn't just "robotics", but rather the whole field covers a much broader scope than merely software or just hardware.

    Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area? Why have we decided that we're happy enough building Facebook applications? It's sad to see that we aren't as focused on building real systems that will have an actual physical impact on our surroundings. We took Laertes' ridiculous admonition "to thine own self be true" and turned ourselves and our energies into the very worst of what we are as a nation. We have become exactly what the Japanese saw 20 years ago: a nation of lazy, overpaid workers. And, I hate to say it, we are paying the price for that with our jobs.

    I always thought that one of the goals of innovation and technology is to make life easier (physically). Just because fewer folks in the US have their own gardens for food, or chop their own wood for heat in the winter, doesn't make us more or less lazy then those in the past. Some would see it as better time management. Assuming that the person utilizing these technologies is working towards something other then gaining 1000 friends on facebook. Regardless of where it originates.

    However, as tech grows, and you logically look to the future of mankind, robots and software will be able to accomplish all that mankind "works" at. Manual labor will be a thing of the past at some point. Albeit long into the future. As soon as it is cheaper to pay for a robot to do manual labor, human manual labor (brick laying, welding, construction, farming, etc..) will no longer be required. So does that mean mankind will be judged in society for only their creativity at that point or leisure skills? I don't know. But I will probably be long gone by the time that happens.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:52PM (#31792194) Homepage

    Very nice. But not that unusual for a modern machine tool. Here's a Matsura mill doing much the same thing. [] It's the software that's interesting.

    The current generation of machining software finally has constructive solid geometry that really works. The software can predict where the surface of the work is, as material is removed from it, and can reliably calculate clearances to the tools. I'm very impressed. This really works for arbitrary convex objects now. I've worked on collision detection enough to understand how hard that is.

    Coordinating the multiple axes isn't the hard part. That's just relative transformation matrices, which has been done in computer graphics for many years. (Although the newer robot and machining systems understand some of the machine dynamics, and consider inertia. That's new.) It's the modeling of the surface as it changes that's hard.

    This is very expensive software, but it's worth it. You need both HyperMill and either SolidWorks or Inventor. You design the part in SolidWorks or Inventor, then use HyperMill to generate the commands for the CNC machine. Total cost is upwards of $10,000. The CNC machine tool itself is relatively dumb; it's just running previously computed moves. The newer machine tools have software to display the 3D model and the tool, so you can check the planned moves against the actual ones when setting up.

    Nobody machines consumer products out of solid blocks of metal except as a demo, of course. It takes hours to machine something that can be made in seconds by stamping or molding. Machine tools are used mostly to make stamping and molding dies, and one-off parts. Also, even in modest volumes, you don't start with plain blocks of metal. You cast or forge a blank and machine off the excess.

  • by shiftless ( 410350 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:02PM (#31792354) Homepage

    The U.S. *IS* leading in this area. Japan is not the only country that manufacturers CNC machines. Bridgeport has been *THE* name in milling machines for decades. Haas is another big name based out of California.

  • by shiftless ( 410350 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:08PM (#31792436) Homepage

    What do you mean "they dont make anything any more"? Shows that you know NOTHING about America. Mills are one of the cornerstone tools of our *very large* manufacturing industry here in the U.S.

  • Re:Nice enough demo (Score:4, Informative)

    by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:13PM (#31792520)

    6 axis, yep count 'em six, CNC mills have been around for over 25 years, my father's company sold one with over 10 meter table that was used to cut out propellers for submarines. they had another multi-axis one (don't remember how many) that had 40 meter long bed.

  • by cdrnet ( 1582149 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:17PM (#31792600)

    Total Fertility Rates 2010:

    Niger: 7.75 (top)
    USA: 2.05
    France: 1.98
    China: 1.79
    Germany: 1.41
    Italy: 1.31
    Japan: 1.21
    Taiwan: 1.14
    Hong Kong: 1.02
    Macau: 0.92 (lowest)

  • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @04:14PM (#31794176) Homepage
    Mis-read the article. I'm not sure what Daishin Seiki actually does, looks like a prototype shop. They use hyperMill (tm) from Open Mind Technologies [].

    So it is basically Daishin Seiki's demo of what they are capable of with a Deckel-Maho (German) machine and hyperMill (US)CAM software.
  • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @04:23PM (#31794298) Homepage
    Granted, they appear to be multi-national. []

    I'm lost as to why Daishin Seki is getting credit here, other than a poor write up on someone's blog and a cool demo.

    And on a personal note, I need to get my reading comprehension checked, or check my meds...
  • by greyhueofdoubt ( 1159527 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @05:57PM (#31795674) Homepage Journal

    The environmental control system on the F-16 contains a bowling-ball-sized turbo (including hot and cold side + housing) with both the turbine and the compressor milled from solid stock. These have been in use since the 70's.

    This is a very rough, very imprecise, and much less complex version of what I'm talking about: []

    I took special note of that particular assembly because as far as I have seen, it is the most complex machined part on the entire aircraft (minus the engine itself, which is in a league of its own). I recently had the pleasure of stripping an entire aircraft, so I've seen what there is to see.

    The technology that I find fascinating is water-jet cutting. Here's a great video of a 5-axis machine cutting an impeller of some sort: []
    Start watching at around 2:30


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