Self-Configuring Systems

Following are Page 5's rules for developing a flexible, self-reconfigurable manufacturing technology (of which Cedric is a part) that is exponentially scalable:

  1. Cedric, to the extent possible, should be assembled from commonly available hardware and subsystems.
  2. The manufacturing equipment used to produce Cedric, to the extent possible, should be assembled from commonly available hardware and subsystems.
  3. Structural parts that cannot be readily obtained through stores or catalogs should, to the extent possible, be producible using only the manufacturing equipment.
  4. Both Cedric and the manufacturing equipment should be electrically powered.
  5. The product design approach should be, to the extent possible, executable using 2.5 D.

System Overview

The manufacturing technology under development at Page 5, Inc. will allow operators to seamlessly interact through telemanipulation with production processes that are remotely located. An important objective of this technology is to create an integrated machinery/architectural system capable of self-configuration.

Page 5, Inc. factories will accept inputs of raw material, commercially-available components and subassemblies, electricity and telepresence guidance by qualified personnel. The outputs will be a wide range of products (which notably can include copies of each piece of equipment contained within the facility and architectural components) and recyclable waste streams. The facility will be able to self-assemble and self-disassemble, allowing it to optimize itself to the scale of the current manufacturing needs.

At the core of Page 5's self-configuring system design is a "seed" manufacturing work cell. The seed cell consists of a milling machine equipped with a tool changer, a sheet feeder/clamping system, two 6 DOF (degree of freedom) telerobotic manipulators, a computer control system, a wearable exoskeletal master control unit and a number of pallets to store and/or fixture commercially-available components and work-in-process. The seed cell is connected to electrical power and a telecommunications link to the remote operator(s).

Components and materials will initially be fed into the seed cell on pallets that are manually loaded by operators. This process can be automated using vibratory feeders or by arrangement with parts suppliers to provide pre-oriented parts (preferably in reusable shipping containers).

Development Status

The development of self-configuring systems at Page 5, Inc. is planned in three phases, briefly outlined as follows:

Phase I

  • The current phase of development; complex machine design with minimal types of materials, processes and tools.
  • Parts manufacturing without loss of orientation (self-fixturing of work-in-progress).
  • Cataloguing of mechanism design and assembly techniques.

Phase II

  • Self-configuring parts manufacturing infrastructure (milling machine, material feed/fixturing, tool changer, etc.).
  • Telerobotic assembly peripherals and control software.
  • Environment structuring devices for service and industrial telerobotics.
  • Assembly techniques.

Phase III

  • Automation of design and synthesis of mechanisms.

Design Example

Page 5 developed a machine to semi-automate the cutting of diagnostic strips for a medical company following the rules outlined above for development of self-configuring systems. A single structural material was used and all parts not ordered through a catalog were fabricated using a milling machine.

The cost to manufacture this machine and make design changes was approximately one-fifth of what a comparable prototyping effort using aluminum would run.

Design Example Photos
Click thumbnails for larger view
Photo  1ABS plastic material blanks in 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2-inch thicknesses.
Photo  2Initial design called for foot pedal operation.
Photo  3Initial design cutting table used polyurethane belting as cutting pad material.
Photo  4Initial design called for high-force AC solenoid actuation.
Photo  5Foot pedal operation requires use of fully-enclosed blade guards; blade and cutting pad change-out is performed without use of tools.
Photo  6Cutting table shown removed for blade change-out. Table removal automatically activates a power cut-out safety switch to prevent accidental cycling if machine is left on.
Photo  7Detail of cord grips.
Photo  8Changes to machine include pushbutton operation.
Photo  9Additional change to DC solenoid actuation.
Photo 10Heavy duty cover and safety interlock microswitch shown here.
Photo 11Revised cutting pad for easier sample insertion & removal.
Photo 12Fixture added for ease in preparing cutting pads added to machine.