The aim of the IDE(al) FIX(turin) project is to develop tools and methods to improve the fixturing of non-rotational workpieces on machine tables (e.g. of machining centres).
The IDEFIX project has developed a methodology for the determination of modular fixtures for prismatic workpieces. This methodology has been implemented in a software tool, namely the IDEFIX system.
Given the workpiece description in the form of features, the IDEFIX system determines the minimum number of set ups needed to machine the workpiece. For each set up, it determines the positioning, supporting and clamping locations in contact with the workpiece (the so called virtual fixture) and finally it designs the physical fixture based on modular fixturing elements.
Within the IDEFIX project another methodology and the corresponding software tool have been developed for the technical economical justification of the use of the modular fixturing system for a given enterprise.
Some further developments are necessary to produce a fully operational system in industrial environments. Efficient interfaces should be developed to retrieve the workpiece information from a computer assisted design (CAD) system.
The T9 module which takes care of the determination of the physical fixture once the virtual fixture has been determineed by the previous modules, is the closest to commercialization.
The use of modular systems can result in a quicker responsiveness to the market demands and in a reduction of the inventory cost of fixturing equipment. In spite of these intangible benefits many companies hesitate to invest in modular systems due to a lack of a generalised method to compare the economical benefits of modular systems with regard to dedicated systems. In the project a methodology was developed and implemented in a spreadsheet that will assist the user in the economical justification of an investment in modular systems.
The relevant information needed for the design and building of the fixtures was determined.
A methodology to determine the needed number of set ups and the distribution of the manufacturing features over these set ups was developed.
A methodology to design a functional fixture (so called virtual fixture) was developed. This meant determining the necessary features which can be used for positioning, clamping and supporting.
A methodology to define the final physical fixture corresponding to the designed functional fixture (so called virtual fixture) were developed. Fixturing features are used to represent modular fixturing systems. The result is validated by industrial experience.
The economical benefits of investing in modular fixtures were analysed. This meant convincing a potential user of the advantages of using modular systems in fixturing, and justifying the investment in modular fixtures.
The major tasks, which represent significant advances on current fixturing and planning methods, will be :
- the development of methods for the selection of workpiece setups and the design of fixtures, based on modular fixturing systems;
- the introduction of these methods in a computer programme, totally integrated with the existing CAD and CAM software of the industrial partners;
- the development of methods for the technical-economic justification of the use of modular fixturing systems in the metalworking industry and especially in SMEs.