Reconfigurable Parallel Kinematic Machine Tools
The evolution of manufacturing systems is triggered by the dynamic customer environment of its time. The main characteristics of today’s customers’ environment are mass customization and responsiveness to market demand, and thus the reconfigurable manufacturing system has been suggested for such environment. A reconfigurable manufacturing system (RMS) is one designed at the outset for rapid change in its structure, as well as its hardware and software components, in order to quickly adjust its production capacity and functionality within a part family in response to sudden market changes or intrinsic system change . Ideal reconfigurable manufacturing systems possess six main characteristics: Modularity, Integrability, Customized flexibility, Scalability, Convertibility, and Diagnosability (US patent, No. 6,349,237). These characteristics provide a RMS with exactly the functionality and production capacity needed, and also the system can be economically adjusted exactly when needed .
The components of RMS are: CNC machines , Reconfigurable Machine Tools , Reconfigurable Inspection Machines (US patent No. 6,567,162), and material transport systems (such as gantries and conveyors) that connect the machines to form the system. As the main component of reconfigurable manufacturing systems, the reconfigurable machine tools are machine tools that are built from machine modules . Therefore, research and development in reconfigurable robots can generally be divided into two categories. One studies the most suitable modular architecture for robots. This includes the development of independent joint modules with various specifications and link modules as well as rapid interfaces between joints and links. The other is aimed at providing a CAD system for rapid formulation of a suitable configuration through a combination of those modular joints and links – a modular robot in its best conformity to a given task. In this chapter, first, we give some general idea about design procedures of reconfigurable parallel robotic machine tools, and then focus on the design of reconfigurable machine tools.
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