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		     An Automated Sheet Metal Shop

	Sheet metal fabrication has long been considered  a  hard  to
automate  field because of the types of machines used and the need to
do a lot of manipulating of material, which can frequently  be  large
floppy   sheets  of  varying  thickness,  yield  strength  and  stock
dimension. For prototype manufacture, the setup time of each cutting,
notching,  punching,  bending  or  spot  welding operation represents
almost the entire cost of manufacture. Automation of these  processes
has  been limited to numerically controlled punches and stops on hand
fed shears. True automation has been accomplished only in  very  high
production  runs  using special purpose dies in cascaded blanking and
stamping transfer  presses  to  replace  the  traditional  short  run

	I  propose  to  study  and  assemble  an automated design and
manufacturing system consisting of an  interactive  graphics  display
terminal,  a large timeshare computer, a design automation program, a
manufacturing planning program, a  manufacturing  execution  program,
and   a   totally   automated  manufacturing  facility  containing  a
collection of computer controlled sheet metal  working  machines  and
one  or  more computer controlled manipulators to set up the machines
and perform all the necessary manipulation of the sheet material.

	To execute this project, I will develop new programs and will
utilize existing programs and routines to create a complete chain  of
automation.  More  specifically,  I  will  take  existing and shortly
forthcomming  rapid  geometric  design  (GEOMED)  programs  and  will
develop new monitor routines to provide interactive design assistance
reflecting the manufacturability of a particular  design,  as  it  is
being  designed.  I  will  also  develop  a  program to interpret the
completed  design  in  terms  of   manufacturing   operations.   This
manufacturing  planning  program would have as its inputs the design,
the materials available, and the machines available. The output  will
be  a  set  of instructions detailing each operation required to make
the part. Completing the entire system, I will work to develop a  set
of  computer  controlled  machines  and a manipulator with a suitable
grasping device to handle the  material  and  operate  the  machines.
Along  with  this  hardware  setup,  I  plan  to  develop  a workable
execution  program  which  would  properly  interpret  the   planning
program's output in terms of machine and manipulator commands.

	To make the scope of this project realistic from a standpoint
of both actually working, and being completed in a reasonable  period
of  time,  I propose to limit the acceptable design to sheet aluminum
chassis and boxes of a generally  regular  shape.  Included  in  this
category  would  be  degenerate shapes, such as brackets and sections
with simple hole patterns and bends.

		Coupled with this  programming  effort  and  hardware
development  project,  will  be  a  study  of  new technology and new
approaches to the execution  of  some  traditional  problems.  As  an
example,  laser  cutting  of  cloth is in industrial use now, and its
implications for use in the sheet metal cutting , shaping and forming
field are obvious. Electromagnetic, impact, and explosive forming are
other areas where new automatic  planning  ,  control  and  execution
methods  can  put laboratory demonstrated techniques into a realistic
and viable place in industry.