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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
r e;teach.   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 (n.c.) punches
and  n.c.    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 methods.

	I  propose to  study  and  design  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 demonstrate the  completeness of the design study,  I also
propose to  develop  and  assemble a  demonstration  fully  autometed
prototype part sheet metal fabricating shop.

	To  execute  this ambitious  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.