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			  January 3, 1973

		An Automated Sheet Metal Shop

	Sheet metal fabrication has 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 thicknesses, yield strength and stock
strength, and stock dimension.  For prototype and short run production,
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 n.c. punches and n.c. stops on hand fed shears.  True automation 
has been accomplished only in very high production runs in which special purpose
dies are used in blanking and stamping presses to replace the traditional short
run methods.  
	I propose to develop and assemble a demonstration fully automated prototype
part sheet metal fabricating shop.  The shop would actually be an integral
part of 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 computer controlled 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 ambitious project, I will both utilize existing programs and
routines, and will develop new programs to fill the gaps in the chain.  More specifically,
I will take existing and shortly forthcomming rapid geometric design (GEOMED) programs
which presently exist and will develop new routines to monitor the design and 
provide interactive design assistance and comments
which would reflect the manufacturability of a particular design, as it is being designed.
I will also develop a program to interpret the compleded design in terms of manufacturing 
operations.  This manufacturing planning program would have as its inputs the design,
the material available, and the machines available. The output will be a sequence 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 both handle the materail
and operate the machines. Along woth this hardware setup, I will work towards 
developing 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 wrom a standpoint of  both
actually working, and being completed in a reasonable amount of time, I propose to 
limit the acceptable design to 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.  Multiple part assemblies would also be excluded
to simplify the manipulation tasks.  
	Coupled with this programming effort and hardware development project, will be
a study of new technology and new approaches to the execution of some of these traditional
problems.  As an example, laser cutting  of cloth is in industiral use now, and i
its implications for use in the sheet metal cutting , shaping and forming field 
are obvious.  Electromagnetic and explosive forming are other areas where improved 
automatic planning , control and execution can put a laboratory demonstrated technique into
a realistic place in industry.