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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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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:23PM (#31791676)

    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.

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:25PM (#31791696) Homepage

    By what set of criteria do you judge software to be less valuable than hardware?

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

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:34PM (#31791852) Journal
    The robot was extremely impressive.

    The idea of wearing a helmet made of a material hard enough to efficiently transmit blows directly to your skull, soft enough to deform under impact, ductile enough to stay deformed, and a sufficiently good conductor of heat to making cutting its deformed remains off of your head without burning you; but before you bleed out, a specialized operation makes me very nervous.
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:36PM (#31791900) Homepage Journal

    Industrial robots are getting precise enough that they're less like dumb machines and more like automated sculptors producing artwork

    No, the engineers who built them and the programmers who programmed them are the sculptors, the robots are simply sophisticated knives. They're tools that humans use to create the sculpture.

    It isn't artificial intelligence, it's real. It's the programmer's intelligence.

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

    by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:36PM (#31791910)

    Double what it will cost in 2 years, four times what it will cost in 4 years, and ten times what it will cost in a decade.

    How long you willing to wait?

  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:39PM (#31791948) Homepage

    I think it's not that the software's less valuable, per se- it's that we're worrying about things like Facebook, MySpace, etc. which aren't
    really in the same category of software. The software to make the CNC multi-axis machines go is rather valuable- without the machine
    it's useless, but without the software, the machine's equally worthless. I just wouldn't be putting investment effort into things like
    Facebook. In fact, if Facebook went bye-bye, little of value would actually be lost. Seriously.

    And, I think that's what the GP poster is on about.

    We've gotten where the sort of stuff like Facebook is more important than producing things of value. We should be #1 or #2 in things
    like the CNC space. We should be producing as many chips as the Asia market produces and we consume. But...that's not the case,
    now is it?

  • by Dunx ( 23729 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:39PM (#31791950) Homepage

    It's the startup cost.

    Software product companies are expensive to start, but they're nothing to companies making innovative physical objects. I used to work for a silicon startup - it was a cheap start for silicon company and it still burned through a phenomenal amount of money before it had a product. Software is just cheaper (and often quicker) to get to market.

    So really blame the VCs and the addiction to short term returns in the US stock market.

  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:52PM (#31792198) Journal

    False. The 5-axis system would still carve metal like butter if it were manually controlled. Just more clumsily and slowly.

    Whereas, frankly, Mafia Wars can never be allowed to be present on the winning side of any argument. If it means abjuring the entire history and future of accomplishments in software, it's still a small price to pay.

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

    by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:33PM (#31792828)

    And 40-50 years ago, people would have made the same statement about a motherboard being a rare piece of equipment that must be treated as a long-term investment.

    I am of the firm belief that the age of mass production is on the wane. There will of course always be plenty of mass production, but I think the next couple decades will see the rise of customized production in which people can order the fabrication of very specific consumer items, limited only by their own imagination coupled with the capabilities of the fabricator they are ordering from.

    Whether the demand is filled by 3D printers, or multi-axis CNC machines, or nanotechnology, or all three in competition, or all 3 in combination, or something else entirely, one thing I know for sure; the prices of production equipment will fall.

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

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:42PM (#31792962) Journal

    You also definetly don't want to do it for a living.

    Why not? My whole family has a machinist background. Used to own their own business too -- I worked many a summer in the machine shop doing everything from grunt work (deburring parts) to production on CNC lathes and milling machines. I would have no issues doing it for a living. There are much worse jobs out there. The only problem that I see with the machinist profession is that it's slowing being murdered by cheap overseas labor. Is that why you say that you wouldn't do it for a living or is there something else at play?

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

    by Fremandn ( 316311 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @05:18PM (#31795188)

    There are free programs which generate G-Code. Skeinforge is one of them. I'm not sure if it meets your expectations though. See: http://fabmetheus.crsndoo.com/ [crsndoo.com]

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

    by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:46PM (#31797284)
    Not a whole lot, actually. Do you have any idea how much time you have to spend to set this fucker up? You can't just throw a model at the machine and say "GO!". You have to generate tool paths and such which isn't a simple matter of just running it through some CAM software. You need to know what you're doing.
  • Re:Craves Metal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:54PM (#31797336)
    The difference is that 40-50 years ago people felt exactly the same way about these machines as they do now. Prices may slowly decline over the next many years, but they will not fall at anywhere near the rate computers did. Moore's law does not apply here. (If you doubt this then just look at the non-computerized machines). The capability of machines does not double every 18 months.

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