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ANDRISANO Angelo O., LEALI Francesco, PELLICCIARI Marcello University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena (Italy) DIMeC - Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering andrisano.angelo@unimore.it, leali.francesco@unimore.it, pellicciari.marcello@unimore.it

The design of last generation anthropomorphous robots manufacturing cells is a challenging activity, to be developed accurately in a fast and effective way due to the strong requirements to satisfy in terms of time-to-market, overall performances and the total costs of the final application. During the design stages, different types of graphical and technical representations are needed to exalt and communicate the design intent and to evaluate the effects of every design variant on the final operating performances. Working together, DIMeC University researchers and SIR S.p.A., an important system integrator enterprise, engineers have been developed an original design method created for an effective integrated use, in the design and development of iron casts deburring anthropomorphous robots manufacturing cells. The procedure is deeply based on the systemic assumption of parametric CAD modeling, behavioural simulation and offline programming solutions as new standard for graphic representation within industrial design projects. This innovative approach satisfies the need to enrich classical mechanical design representation, static and fixed for single configurations, with animations where robot movements and the motion control can be effectively communicated and evaluated. The significant results obtained, borne by many experimental tests, allow to solve and give an important feedback to the design engineers, who acquired more consciousness on the real performances achievable. Actually, state of the art 3D parametric CAD and behavioural simulation design tools confirmed to be powerful but the adoption of anthropomorphous robot simulation and offline programming tools proved to be fundamental for the final validation of every design variant. Furthermore, the availability of multimedia movies, was finally appreciated even to interact with the final user for training purposes. Key words: CAD modeling, simulation, offline programming, anthropomorphous robots, manufacturing cells Thematic group: Virtual reality: modeling, animation, simulation and multimedia

1. 1.1

Introduction New robotic product development

The last generation robotic cells design process is a very complex and exacting challenge for industrial engineers. In fact, new products are progressively going to be more and more rich in functional requirements and high performance oriented in technical specifications. Last products generation is actually characterised by complexity in shapes, refinement in materials, accuracy in dimensioning and tolerancing and richness in technological contents, transmitting to the market an idea of innovation and success. Furthermore it is well known from specific scientific literature analysis and funded by the events that short time-to-market and process cost reduction are some of the most important targets in order to obtain industrial competitiveness on the present market [1 - 4]. A manufacturing process robotic cell, in particular, needs to be designed to achieve great performances in terms of cycle-time reduction, finishing quality and flexibility in quick product format exchange and robot re-programmability [5]. At the present, especially when it is based on anthropomorphic robots use, the robotic cell design chain demands large team of developers: technicians, widely and deeply skilled and qualified about heterogeneous and complementary branches of the industrial engineering, such as mechanics, electronics and programming, and marketing operators need to work side by side, exchanging competences and ideas. According to the industrial experience, to satisfy these demanding tasks, in designing and developing new robotic successful products, its necessary to centre the following objectives: creating a wide and clear flow of information inside the developers team, to achieve a deep and complete integration of competences, funded on a concurrent engineering approach [6]. bearing a continuous interaction between engineers, suppliers and final users since the first steps of the design process, according to a co-engineering method [7]; obtaining a well-organized work flow planning, to avoid wasting and delays during the design and production processes [8]. enriching and adding value to the final robotic product through the creation of important services, oriented to the end user training and satisfaction, and finalised to obtain company loyalty [5]. communicating to the market, leaded by media and facilities demand, the product importance in pleasing new needs and standards [9].


Traditional manufacturing robotic cell design process

At the present the manufacturing robotic cell design process is based on the following steps: 1) A team of engineers skilled in marketing, general manufacturing and common technical problems solution (marketing engineers) draws a general layout, often through bidimensional CAD instruments. The team has to transform the requirements expressed by the final user into technical specifications, concurrently estimating time and cost of the final product. This step need to be quick and quite general, but it is evident that more is the accuracy achieved during this initial phase more is the gain for both the company and the user, while the final results are better in terms of cycle-time saving and finishing quality. 2) Mechanical design and drafting division develop a progressive detailed project by the coarse definition of the manufacturing strategy, the choice of commercial cell components (following a off-the-shelf logic), the dimensioning and design of custom parts and the definition of original solutions for both the mechanical and the pneumatic/hydraulic aspects. 3) A team of electronic and programming engineers designs the electronic configuration of the cell, to achieve the synchronisation of several mechanisms and machines. Then the

managing strategy of the I/O signals between the robot and the other components of the cell (i.e. feed tables or conveyors, artificial vision systems, tool machines, exchanging tools mechanisms, sensors, plc, etc) is carried out. Besides, the general structure of the robot programs is prepared, analysing the workpiece geometry and the series of manufacturing operation to be performed inside the cell. During this step some customised interfaces could be developed in order to increase the end value of the cell and to simplify, on demanding, the cell reconfiguration. 4) When the mechanical and electronic structure of the robotic cell is finally ready, the programming operators conclude the cell set up. This step can last from two to three or more weeks, depending on the number of robots used, on the complexity of the manufacturing path in terms of number of points and robot axis configurations and according to the cycle-time and finishing quality to be achieved. During this phase the best manufacturing strategy has to be pointed and set up. It is important to underline, for a good comprehension of the present work results, that this step has to be performed each time the workpiece or his format is exchanged. This operation is generally leaded through a point-to-point teaching: the programming operator, who has to remain inside the cell for much time, manually moves the robot along the manufacturing path. The accuracy on the path definition heavily depends on the operator skill and experience and on his ability in integrating his manufacturing and robot programming knowledge.


Importance of graphic representation

Since products and processes have been characterised by growing complexity while engineers and technicians have become more and more specialised within wide and heterogeneous design teams, ideas and results communication is one of the most important aspects in design [10 - 12]. Considering that technical drawing is the fundamental language into the industrial environment, visual and graphic representations become the main instruments in order to achieve a good transmission of information and data at each step of the design sequence. As shown in the rough scheme of Figure 1 the first important task concerns the creation of a bidirectional information flow between the members of the cell design and the development team. Since they have different cultural environment and having different targets, mechanical and electronic engineers need to compare their experiences and ideas to find the right arrangement for the project optimization. Such initial comparison of different needs allows avoiding problems and delays during the last part of the cell generation, when modifications and corrections are more expensive and dangerous [13]. After that the engineering group needs to communicate with: final users (purchasers), to fix on requirements, technical specification, general layout, constraints about time, cost and final quality achieving by robot manufacturing on workpieces; suppliers, to buy commercial common components and to solve possible technical problems or simply optimizing the cell, following a co-engineering approach; workers, to assembly the cell following the correct procedure both for mechanical and electronic components. Robot programmers to optimize the manufacturing path in order to respect the constrains about cycle-time and final finishing; final users (utilizers), to illustrate the cell structure and the working characteristics, and to give adding instruments and services for the quick configuration of the manufacturing cell after the workpiece exchange. The present paper describes an innovative approach dealing with the enriching of traditional mechanical design representation. Common single static and fixed configurations description have been completed with animations where robot movements and the motion control can be effectively communicated and evaluated. Three-dimensional parametric CAD and behavioural simulation design tools have been performed to represent and solve the robot inverse kinematics, obtaining an important feedback

about the robot real work volume, the manufacturing strategy, the cycle-time evaluation and collisions detection, since the first steps of the design process. Layout and mechanical components parametric representation have been developed, besides, to achieve the quick final validation of every design variant. Furthermore, thanks to the state of the art three-dimensional CAD and simulation instruments, generation of multimedia movies allows to interact with the final user for negotiation, technical comparison or training purposes.

Figure 1: the design process communication


The DIMeC - SIR experience at Modena University

The present work comes from a close partnership between the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and SIR S.p.A., an important robotic system integrator enterprise in Modena, that has been leaded to the institution of an innovative laboratory: LaPIS (Robotic Systems Integrated Design and Simulation Lab). The lab is composed by two different structures dedicated to numerical simulation and experimentation. The first one is sited inside the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia labs while the second one is placed inside the SIR plant, by the Research&Development division office. This innovative arrangement leads University researchers and enterprise engineers to work together, comparing and integrating different experience and skills, to realize an important mutual technological and methodological transfer.


Work development

The whole structure of the proposed iron cast deburring robotic cell design methodology is based on a traditional systemic approach [14]. The following conventional steps: clarification of the tasks (requirements and technical specification analysis); design (conceptual design, embodiment design and detailed design); final optimization; have been arranged and developed in a original way. The systematic use of three-dimensional graphic representation, enriched by offline programming and virtual simulation application, has been leaded to a design for robofacturing method, where drawing parameterization and robot movement analysis and evaluation cover the main roles.


Tasks analysis

Design of robotic cells to manufacture iron cast deburring its a challenging aim. Many economic aspects and industrial problems need to be considered in order to have a good pay-

back and a motivating Return On Investment Index, according to a still quite poor and introuble market sector, such as iron casting [15]. Considering the robotic cell as a sum of a technological product and a final service, the main requirements are: Perform short cycle-time and good finishing quality. Easily upgrade and modify the tool position and approach, to compensate the dimensional and geometric variability on cast formats, due to the general casting process low repeatability [16]. Separate the cell work space from the surrounding environment to avoid people contamination, to enclose chips and reduce noise and disturbs in general. Integrate the manufacturing cell within the customer plant, considering other possible functional constrains such as machines and devices general envelops and positions. Handle casts of different dimensions and shapes with a short robot re-programming and cell re-configuration time, minimizing the no-production time. Arrange user-friendly instruments to train the final user for cell managing, programming and re-configuration, reducing their presence inside the cell environment, potentially dangerous. The technical specifications are different for each cell, depending on the robot size, the cast geometry and the initial workpiece quality, in terms of burrs and fleshing dimension and position. Nevertheless some guidelines may be focused: The deburring cycle-time could be quite the half of the time used for a manual operation. The surface quality has to be at least the same that comes out from the correspondent manual deburring. Simple and cheap compliance systems (i.e. pneumatic spring based mechanisms) could be designed to obtain the tools compliance. Soundproof panels could enclose the cell, exhaust fan could intake dust and smallest iron particles while removable trucks could gather chip, to physically separate the manufacturing zone from the surrounding environment. Depending on size, weight and layout area, robots, tools and other mechanical and electronic devices could be arranged on an iron base, simplifying the cell assembly and transport. Different strategies in iron casts handling could be developed according to their sizes and shapes. In many applications the deburring tools are fixed while the robot moves the workpiece. On the other side, when casts are too heavy or too bulky to be moved the robot simply shifts the deburring tool around the casts. Actually, various grippers or tools may be set within the cell space so the operator can choose different deburring solutions or change worn-out tools with new ones. A systematic introduction of 3D graphical representation, behavioral simulation and offline programming from the design process first steps could give a fundamental contribution to the set-up of services and solutions related to the product optimization and final user training.

2.1 Layout design

Bi-dimensional representation plays again an important rule within the layout definition process, in spite of the growing performances offered by three-dimensional CAD tools in terms of rendering quality and easiness and intuitiveness of use. Actually engineering team, at the beginning of a new project, mainly works to clarify each manufacturing cell function and needs all its creativity, skill and experience to find the best solution for the technical and economical problems dealing with the deburring process. The efforts needed for the bi-dimensional drawing and sketches interpretation drive the designers creativity in finding original solutions while drawers can modify completely layout schemes moving only few lines, in a very short time and with great freedom in action.

The method developed doesnt want to renounce to this important aim but admits the intrinsic power of three-dimensional CAD tools in scenes representation and in communicating also with people outside the technical group. The different layouts shown in Figure 2 (SolidWorks 2004 SolidWorks Corp. virtual environment) deal, for example, with the design of a manufacturing process cell for the deburring operation on large (about 6000mm long, 900mm width and 500mm height) iron-cast basements for tool machines. The workpieces are very big and heavy so that are moved on rails until the work zone. The anthropomorphous robot used for the manufacturing operation has been equipped with mobile deburring tools and linearly moves thanks to a seventh controlled axe. Because of the high burrs dimension, coming from the casting process, many tools are requested to complete each planned process. Because of the high cutting tools wear, extra tools are disposed near the robot, to confer it more autonomy. Some different movement solutions have been developed in order to orient the cast on the trucks and to reduce the cycle-time.

Figure 2: different movement solution for large casts deburring.

All the developed configurations have been based on different concepts and not technical details have been specified in this initial step. According to a co-design approach the engineering team presents its works to the customer in order to achieve his complete satisfaction and to fix the last technical specifications. The concurrently use of 3D graphic coarse representation and 2D drawings permits to compare the mechanical cell behaviour from a functional point of view and to roughly evaluate, for the first time, the deburring approach. Each robot configuration inside the work volume has been tested while the broad disposition of each module discussed. Figure 3 illustrates the same layout figured out for the basements deburring tested for different workpieces. Each truck has been filled with two casts, differently oriented, to optimize the process, minimising the number of robot linear movements. Applying a first behavioural simulation to this rough cell model it is possible to evaluate the layout from a dynamic point of view. Even if the models are not completely defined, a first evaluation of the robot work volume and configurations allows to reduce errors and delays and to anticipate the criticalities analysis, which would be discovered only at the end of the development process, when the errors cost is very high and dangerous for the final quality of the industrial product.

Figure 3: deburring cell layout to casts disposition analysis.

2.2 3D modeling
Three-dimensional modeling is the first step into the developed procedure. Conceptual design, embodiment design and detailed design have been performed starting from the layout representation. Each component has been modelled in a coarse way, then, progressively, disassembled into its detailed components. Finally, industrial drawings have been created. Figure 4 shows the complete 3D model of a deburring cell for automotive iron cast components.

Figure 4: 3D deburring cell final modeling.

Due to the complex shape of the workpieces, the tools are fixed into the cell space while the robot moves the workpieces. The tools set is composed by four pneumatic singular direction compliance systems. Two grind machines and one milling device are characterised by axial direction compliance while the last mill has an axial transversal compensation. The most important aspect in this manufacturing operation is the relative position between the grinding wheels and the milling tools respect to the external surfaces of the casts. Deburring finishing, in facts, strictly depends on feed approach to the tools, according to their compliance direction. In the following picture (Figure 5) design process is represented for a simple apparatus, supporting some of the end-effectors needed to complete the deburring process. A gradual approach to the final design gives the designers the possibility to deeply evaluate each adopted solution and to optimize the cell in all its mechanical aspects. Moreover the threedimensional graphic representation helps mechanical engineers to present and easily discuss the results with the electronic division and with suppliers or project managers, in order to realize, finally, an effective concurrent engineering method.

Figure 5: detailed design of the support for different and-effectors.

This represents the first step toward a mechatronic design methodology, which brings to hybrid solution satisfying both the mechanical and the electronic needs. Through a combined approach it is possible, ad example, to determine the best position for cables or electronic devices and modifying the cell components mechanical structure to embed sensors, pc, etc. Furthermore, the parametric representation of components details obtained through state of the art CAD tools gives the project the flexibility needed by last generation cells design. Besides parametric knowledge-based systems, or simply database structures, give enterprise technical division the advantage to refine their know-how and quickly develop new products.

2.3 Behavioural simulation, off-line programming and multimedia generation

The most important aspect in behavioural simulation and offline programming is the possibility to evaluate dynamic situation, controlling and modifying manufacturing strategies, and measure cycle-time. State of the art offline programming tools are going to be mature to be effectively used for industrial applications. Commercial software offers different approaches to the deburring path definition: CAD approach, based on the virtual modeling. Mathematical constraints are defined to apply the exact relationship between tools and workpieces, in order to obtain a good finishing. Directly referring to the workpiece features, manufacturing paths are generated on the models surfaces and each point can be modified and independently controlled. A virtual point-to-point programming is also possible while collision detection and robot configuration singularities checking can be performed. Since the procedure is based on the mathematical aspect of the virtual representation, the robot controllers have a general structure and the procedure can be performed on a large number of robot producers. Virtual controller approach. CAD models of each part are needed and the deburring path is created referring to particular lines or single points on the workpieces. A pointto-point virtual approach is allowed. Also collision detection and the robot configuration can be performed. The robot controller used in virtual motion control is exactly the same commanding the real robot. A good synchronisation between the physic and virtual environments is guaranteed while good robot programming language knowledge is needed. Since each robot controller configuration and structure depends on robot procedures choose, this approach is limited to a specific robot model and format. CAM approach. Just a basic graphic representation is required. Five-axis Computer Aided Manufacturing software generates and manages the deburring path. Robot movements and process strategies are defined with external tools and just imported

within the behavioural simulation virtual environment. Paths can be modified adding or removing points while a robot program can be generated though a general postprocessor so that many robot models can be used. Digitizing approach. No workpiece CAD models requested. Represents the borderline between point-to-point and offline programming approaches. Deburring paths are directly generated on the physic workpiece through a digitizer while the robot dynamic behaviour is analysed referring to specific modules based on commercial offline tools. During the simulation multimedia .avi or .mpeg documents are created, to obtain easy to use and exporting movies describing the deburring process. Experts and manufacturing engineers have the possibility to evaluate robot movements to optimize take in and leaving points.



The design for robofacturing developed method is deeply based on graphical representation. Three-dimensional parametric modeling is enriched using behavioural simulation and offline programming tools, giving designer an important feedback about dynamic performances. Robot motion control is performed through specific tools while a deep optimisation of the deburring paths has been set up. The developed design tools have been focused to point out all the multidisciplinary effects involved, especially those concerning the strong interrelation of the mechanical apparatus solutions with the electrical and electronics systems, which have to be absolutely integrated and easy to use. Introducing the method since the first steps of iron cast deburring robotic cell design process a better integration between different skills and competences, at different levels, has been obtained. Robotic products time-to-market has been reduced while user-friendly graphical offline programming tools have been tested and set right to obtain a final user oriented service. Thank to the close partnership between University of Modena and SIR S.p.A. the design methodology experimental tests have been leaded on real case studies and a systemic industrial approach to the deburring process has been followed.


Future works

First of all alternative compliance solutions such as force/torque sensor based systems are going to be developed, applied and compared, to increase the final finishing. For this purpose, a specific analysis on robotic arm vibration during deburring operation is going to be realized, applying wireless sensors to the robot. Furthermore different simulation and offline programming tools are going to be compared on specific benchmarks, to analyse and find out the real application fields concerning deburring operation. Artificial systems tools and solutions are going to be integrated within the deburring cells and applied for paths generation and offline programming. Finally, since the core activities of the DIMeC LaPIS (Robotic Systems Integrated Design and Simulation Lab) deal with seeking new industrial application fields for robotics, according to the growing rule of that important engineering branch, other case studies are going to be pointed up.

The authors want to sincerely acknowledge Mr. Luciano Passoni, Mr. Lino Ferrari, Dr. Davide Passoni and Mr. Stefano Micheli from SIR S.p.A. - Modena for their important role in the development of the present work, especially for their competence, experience and support.

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