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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 TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:29PM (#31791776)

    It's the Germans and the Japanese that are currently at the top of the heap when it comes to CNC Machinery... However there are a lot of good American companies up there too, one of the most popular brands in the USA is HAAS, although their 5/4 Axis machines aren't very special.

    It's mostly because they focused on that market and become very good at what they did. You'll see in about 20-30 years China leading that area of industry since they have such a huge focus on manufacturing.

    Anyways, it's the people ultimately programming the machines and the software used to program the machines that are the real driving force behind this industry, without the software these machines would just be dumb lumps of metal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:30PM (#31791780)

    No, it's more that we're mired in worrying about maximizing profits instead of the big picture.

    But, don't you worry... There's a trend beginning to happen that might reverse some of this going on right now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:59PM (#31792294)

    The "people" aren't lazy, and your assesment is incorrect. Hondas made in the US are just as good as the Hondas made in Japan. So why is it that "lazy American worker" gets laid off from the Ford plant, then gets a job at the Honda plant and becomes "productive American worker?". Its not the people. Banks, corporations and economics mix to remove jobs from the American economy. Want a job in IT in the US? Good luck with that! If you have one, you can train your replacement before he (and your job) go back to Bangalore. So to sum up: American IT jobs are being shipped to Bangalore. In the 70's it was US steel companies that were being shipped to Japan, Germany and Poland/Czekoslovakia. (Although now a lot of those jobs are in India and China). The garment industry went to Taiwan, Singapore and South American from the '60's to the 80's. Car manufacturing is being lost to overseas competitors who are competing (locals are being squeezed by unions, wages, suppliers, etc). Pharmaceutical companies, the entertainment industry, and a few semiconductor manufacturing plants are still in the US. There are reasons why foreign students do better in school than American students (In the US, the school year is 180 days, in South Korea its 220 days long, in Japan its 243 days long...basically 1 trimester, then 1 week off, then 1 trimester, then 1 week off, then 1 trimester, then 1 week off, then the next school year first trimester...). Its not so much 'lazy' or 'stupid', a lot of it is structural. A lot of it is cultural.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:59PM (#31792302)

    Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area? Why have we decided that we're happy enough building Facebook applications?

    We're not? We have? Where's your evidence?

    I work at a US defense contractor. Five years ago, we contracted a shop to machine us a very complicated housing out of a single slug of titanium. Not aluminum, which is far easier to machine. Slots, threaded hardpoints, reinforcing ribs, detents for O-rings, and it had to mate up with a piece they weren't even allowed to see. It had to be made out of a single piece so it would be strong enough to withstand pressures at significant depths. Over 90% of that titanium wound up on the cutting floor when they were done, they had to machine so much out (the source material is only available in solid slugs).

    Nobody acted like it was some big thing. The machine shop wasn't some special secret DoD-only thing. They were a commercial company like any other with a 5-axis CNC mill. It took forever to go through the entire process from material specification and purchase to finished, machined part, and FedEx made plenty of dough off us hauling these heavy things around, but seriously, it was par for the course.

    Also, back while the Cold War was going (late 1980's), Toshiba Heavy Industries got into a lot of trouble with the US because they sold a 5-axis mill to the Russians by way of front companies, so the Russians could make quieter propulsors for their submarines. So the existence of these things isn't even news.

    Modern mills with electromagnetic bearings can run fast enough to cut through all kinds of metals like butter. That's not even getting into laser, water jet, or hot wire cutting.

    Guys, this article is just another slashvertisement. Computer techie with incidental relationship to thermodynamics, much less materials science, sees what modern mechanical engineering could do and gets starbursts in their eyes. Film at 11.

  • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:16PM (#31792574)

    Yes, this is rather silly since America still has the largest manufacturing industry in the world by a significant margin.

  • Aerospace (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <greg@gksnetworks.com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:30PM (#31792784) Homepage

    Ever see gas turbines machined? Goes for cars too. A lot of very cool and useful things wouldn't be possible without awesome machine tools. The physics and math behind these things is pretty amazing too.

  • by GuyFawkes ( 729054 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:42PM (#31792968) Homepage Journal

    You're right, I splashed the cash and bought.

    Mach3 CNC controller

    Let's say you have a small machine that has an XYZ envelope of 300mm a side, that's 27,000,000 millimetre cubes, or unique XYZ positions the tool and toolpath can follow.

    1mm precison is worthless, at 0.1 mm precision you just went up to 27,000,000,000 unique positions, at 0.01 mm precision you just went up to 27,000,000,000,000.

    You're probably not going to get a linear speed in excess of 1 metre second on anything even remotely hobby, 250 mm min is more like it...

    at 0.01 mm resolution that's 25,000 positions in 60 seconds, that's approx 417 a second

    we've got 27,000,000,000,000, so / 417 = 18 million hours to traverse all 27 x 10^12 points.

    even assuming you had that kind of time, your machine is burning electricity at several cents a kWh... do the math.

    So you can see how optimised tool paths, and so on are literally god when it comes to CNC.

    Sure, there are free OS alternatives to the stuff I paid for, but I don't have the time left to live, nor the inclination to pay the electric bill, that using the free OS alternatives requires.

    HTH etc

  • by takev ( 214836 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:43PM (#31792980)

    Actually, these machines are probably doing "high speed machining" which can only be done when they are software controlled, i.e. it can not be done manually.

    In high speed machining, the cutting speed is much higher than is intuitive. As one increases the cutting speed (from zero), the temperature of the tool increases, until it breaks. But there is a sweet spot at a much higher cutting speed where the tool actually is cooled by the cuttings it is removing.

    However this sweet spot is tight and it depends on the angle of attack, the depth of the tool, the forward speed, the rotational speed, and the amount of material being removed. And these must be maintained, as the material is entering the material, leaving the material, makes corners, etc.

  • by SWPadnos ( 191329 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:27PM (#31793526)

    You're right, I splashed the cash and bought.

    Mach3 CNC controller

    [snip the math and analysis]

    The resolution of the machine is irrelevant, it's the tool size that matters. If you have a 1/2" diameter end mill, you cut a 1/2" swath through the material. It makes no difference if you have 0.01 inch resolution or 0.00001 inch resolution, you'll still step over by about 1/2 inch when using that tool.

    So you can see how optimised tool paths, and so on are literally god when it comes to CNC.

    Yep, for production machining, optimized toolpaths are a very good thing. The common limiting factor for small machines though is spindle horsepower. The machine can only remove so much metal per hour, and that's directly proportional to the spindle horsepower. It varies with many factors (cutter material, cutter coating, cutter speed, coolant/lubricant, etc), but it's the thing that limits the depth of cut you can use for a given end mill. There's also no such thing as an "optimal path". There are many factors that determine what may be optimal in a given situation - surface finish (the look of it), surface roughness, tool life, machine rigidity, and more.

    Sure, there are free OS alternatives to the stuff I paid for, but I don't have the time left to live, nor the inclination to pay the electric bill, that using the free OS alternatives requires.

    I sure hope you're talking about non-optimal free CAM, because as it happens, the most capable machine controller available (for less than $5000) happens to be the open source one. I only put in the price limit because I hope that the vendors selling the more expensive controllers actually have some better features than EMC2 - I know what you have doesn't.

  • by Hasai ( 131313 ) on Friday April 09, 2010 @05:08PM (#31795044)

    A helmet?

    About five years ago at Oshkosh, Williams International was showing-off a compressor turbine hub assembly for their EJ-2 engine. It was milled from a single piece of metal; hub, compressor blades, everything. One piece.

    A 'helmet.' Pbbbbbttttt. . . .

  • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @06:17AM (#31798856)

    That's nothing... This is impressive, they're practically printing steel parts.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq-JYKG7TQc&feature=related [youtube.com]

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp