This research is aimed at advancing machine design through specifying and implementing
(in "proof of concept" form) a set of tools which graphically model modular machines.
The tools allow mechanical building elements (or machine modules) to be selected and
configured together in a highly flexible manner so that operation of the chosen configuration
can be simulated and performance properties evaluated. Implementation of the tools
has involved an extension in capability of a proprietary robot simulation system. This research has resulted in a general approach to graphically modelling manufacturing machines
built from modular elements.
A focus of study has been on a decomposition of machine functionality leading to the establishment
of a library of modular machine primitives. This provides a useful source of
commonly required machine building elements for use by machine designers. Study has
also focussed on the generation of machine configuration tools which facilitate the construction
of a simulation model and ultimately the physical machine itself. Simulation aspects
of machine control are also considered which depict methods of manipulating a
machine model in the simulation phase. In addition methods of achieving machine programming
have been considered which specify the machine and its operational tasks.
Means of adopting common information data structures are also considered which can facilitate
interfacing with other systems, including the physical machine system constructed
as an issue of the simulation phase. Each of these study areas is addressed in its own context,
but collectively they provide a means of creating a complete modular machine design
environment which can provide significant assistance to machine designers.
Part of the methodology employed in the study is based on the use of the discrete event
simulation technique. To easily and effectively describe a modular machine and its activity
in a simulation model, a hierarchical ring and tree data structure has been designed and
implemented. The modularity and reconfigurability are accommodated by the data structure,
and homogeneous transformations are adopted to determine the spatial location and
orientation of each of the machine elements.
A three-level machine task programming approach is used to describe the machine's activities.
A common data format method is used to interface the machine design environment
with the physical machine and other building blocks of manufacturing systems (such as
CAD systems) where systems integration approaches can lead to enhanced product realisation.
The study concludes that a modular machine design environment can be created by employing
the graphical simulation approach together with a set of comprehensive configuration.
tools. A generic framework has been derived which outlines the way in which
machine design environments can be constructed and suggestions are made as to how the
proof of concept design environment implemented in this study can be advanced.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.