Feb 9, 2011

Delcam to show robot machining and inspection developments at JEC

Delcam will demonstrate the latest developments in its PowerMILL software for the programming of machining by robot at the JEC exhibition to be held in Paris from 29th to 31st March. The latest version of the company’s PowerINSPECT inspection software will also be on show, with demonstrations on a FARO Fusion inspection arm and a Creaform HandyScan.

The robot machining demonstration will use a KUKA robot, the combination that has proved successful for Delcam customers such as marine manufacturer Southern Spars. This is one of many applications where a robot has provided a lower-cost alternative to machine tools for the manufacture of larger composite components.

The new robot machining interface in Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software has made it far easier to program robots for a much wider range of applications. The ability to program the robot offline from 3D CAD data is both faster and more efficient than the "teach and learn” approach that is often used to create instructions for the equipment.

This easier programming method is allowing composite manufacturers to take advantage of the many potential benefits of using robots. Firstly, the cost of installing a robot is far less than the price of a large machine tool with a similar working envelope. In addition, the flexibility of the robot means that complex operations can be carried out in a single set-up, so cutting production times and reducing the number of fixtures needed.

Robots do have their disadvantages since they struggle to machine harder materials and cannot match the tolerances possible with modern machine tools. However, they can be used successfully in any area where softer materials need to be machined to accuracies of tenths of a millimetre. This can be more than adequate for components that might be several metres in length, as is often the case for composite tooling and parts for marine, aerospace, autosport and rail applications.

Delcam’s PowerINSPECT is firmly established as the world’s leading hardware-independent inspection software. It combines the ability to work with all types of inspection device with a comprehensive range of inspection routines for taking simple measurements, for inspection of geometric features and for analysing complex 3D surfaces. The resulting reports present detailed information in an easy-to-read format that can be understood by all engineers not just inspection specialists.

Reporting in PowerINSPECT is now even more flexible with the "Quick Report" option. This allows users to add headers and footers to any image taken from the full report in order to create a single page graphical representation of the inspection. Faster interpretation of the data allows for errors to be identified and rectified more quickly, so reducing costs.

Improvements to the handling and alignment of point clouds make it easier to deal with the large data sets generated when using laser-line probes. Emphasis on critical areas of the part alignment can now be carried out by selecting the desired region of the point cloud and associating it to the CAD. This allows priority to be given to the selected regions of the point cloud rather than treating every point equally, thus giving more control over the alignment.

Increased capabilities in CAD formats mean that more and more data is becoming available to the inspector in these files. GD&T is the most common Model-Based Definition format and PowerINSPECT now supports GD&T in Unigraphics as well as the previous support for GD&T in CATIA. This lets the user create GD&T items directly from CAD. Improved handling of the tree structure in CATIA files has also been implemented, allowing for easier navigation of the CAD data within assemblies.