Research Projects

Current Projects

    STEP-NC Related Projects

  • A Database Driven, Collaborative CAPP System makes use of a STEP-NC compliant machine tool data model that is being developed, to support a collaborative manufacturing environment. (PhD student: Albert Yang)
  • Virtual CNC Based on STEP-NC   is designed to produce a virtual environment of performing machine tool  simulation in compliant with STEP-NC.(PhD student: Aini Abdul Kadir)
  • Machine Condition Monitoring via STEP-NC is to develop a closed-loop control system based on the STEP-NC data model. The system can optimize the machining process as well as support a bi-directional, higher-level information flow.(PhD student: Firman Ridwan)
  • Distributed Interoperable Manufacturing Platform based on STEP-NC is a collaborative environment  integrating the existing  CAD/CAM/CNC solutions  found in manufacturing environment. In the platform, STEP/STEP-NC data model is  utilized to facilitate the data exchange among heterogeneous software systems (PhD student: Vincent Xi Wang)
  • STEP-based Total Simulation for CNC machining Processes aims at developing  a task-oriented and web-based virtual machining environment which can  realize real machining processes in computer based on STEP-NC anywhere so that  NC program errors can be decrease or eliminated and machining parameters can be  optimized, further time, cost, quality and service of the product will be  better (PhD student: Yu Zhang)
  • STEP-NC compliance controller based on real-time Ethernet   This research puts forward a new real-time Ethernet, and applies it to STEP-NC compliance controller. The architecture of this networked controller and how to collaborate with CAD/CAPP/CAM with STEP data model are studied.
  • Development of an Energy-informed Machining System This research aims for comprehensive energy consumption analysis of the entire machining system
  • Product knowledge modelling and system for One-of-a-Kind Production
  • Plug and Play” STEP-NC interpreter for feature based EMCO Mill This project is to develop a “plug and play” STEP-NC interpreter that automatically uses Part 21 files as input and extract the necessary information to perform the feature machining.
  • Other Projects

  • Adaptive Production Scheduling System  looks into the development of an integrated dual resource management and  production planning system providing more efficient and reliable resource  scheduling solutions due to the increased accuracy in system and resource  descriptions. (PhD student: Jenny Xu)
  • Design and Development of Novel Hearing Technology Devices is an extension of earlier research conducted at the University of Auckland into  a new class of materials known as Hybrid Polymers, which will be utilized to  develop new, high value noise cancelling earphone products and hearing aid  technologies.(PhD student:  Daniel Stevenson)
  • Cognitive Environment for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems  aims to provide new techniques to empower robots with self-learning capabilities  and cognitive functions, such as identifying and formulating interactions  between robots and humans, modelling the interactions, and intelligent planning  of manufacturing sequences.  (PhD student: Mick Ou)
  • CAM Data Exchange This research aims to find a mechanism to exchange CAM data in different currently-used CAD/CAPP/CAM integrated systems.

 

Past Projects

    STEP-NC Related Projects
  • A STEP-NC System for On-machine Inspections intends to develop a unified data model for machining and online inspection applications. The goal is to realize a real-time feedback control and machining environment so as to achieve “first-part-correct” paradigm. (PhD student: Fiona Zhao)
  • Development of a STEP-NC Controller is about investigating into a future model of CNC controller that operates directly on the STEP-NC input. (PhD student: Mohamad Minhat)
  • New Control Strategy for CNC Machines via STEP-NC looks to use STEP-NC to develop a universal “adapter” for a pool of CNC machine tools so that input to these CNCs is consolidated and the NC programs can be made portable. (PhD student: Derek Wang)
  • A G-code Free CNC has been developed to enable a retrofitted lathe (with Parker’s 6K motion controller) to process the STEP-NC data for turning operations. (ME student: Salah Habeeb)
  • A STEP-NC Plug-in for GibbsCAM is a software solution for porting STEP-NC data into GibbsCAM so that generation of machine control data for an intended CNC machine can be automated. (ME student: Lankesh Patabandige)
  • A STEP-NC Enabled Intelligent CAM-NC Platform  (Internship student Iñigo Lazcanotegui Larrarte - Home institutes:  Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW), Universität Stuttgart, Germany - 2007)
  • Development of a software application for STEP-NC (ISO 14649-10 & -11) data editing (Internship student Christian Mose - Home institutes: Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering, WZL-RWTH Aachen, Germany - 2007)
  • Development of a GUI for STEP-NC EDITOR.  (Internship student Adrien Mollier - Home institutes: Institut Français De Mécanique Avancée (IFMA), France - 2006)
  • Other Projects

  • Machining Process Planning Considering Feature Interactions and Tolerances. (Internship student: Frederik Hertler - Home institutes:  Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW), Universität Stuttgart, Germany - 2009)
  • Automatic Process Planning for Machining Parts Based on Non-orthogonal and Interacting Feature Extraction.  (Internship student: Alireza. R. Mokhta - Home institutes: Sharif University of  Technology. IRAN.- 2008)

 


Extended Summaries

New Control Strategy for CNC Machines via STEP-NC

In this research, the STEP-NC program has been created so that it separates the “generic” manufacturing information (what-to-do) from the manufacturing information that is native to a specific machine tool (how-to-do). Hence, the former STEP-NC program is machine-independent and has an advantage over the conventional G-code based NC program that is always prepared for a specific CNC machine.

The key to this research is the transition from a generic STEP-NC program to a native STEP-NC program. In doing this, the native manufacturing information has to be incorporated. Because of different dialects of G-codes for different controllers, there is a need to build a generic plug-in interface for various controllers. To this end, this research focuses on building a new Mapping System for CNC Machines to work with STEP-NC data. This system acts like a “front-end” for the current CNC controllers, giving these machine tools a “Plug-and-Play” feature. The core of the system has two parts: STEP-NC adaptor and STEP compliant “Plug-and-Play” mapping system.

STEP-NC Adaptor - The Adaptor tries to “interpret” the STEP-NC entities in terms of the native machining functions present in a STEP-NC program. In this adaptor, the specific machine tool information which is contained in the “Native Machine Tools Database” will be edited, calculated and mapped into Generic STEP-NC program. Finally, the “generic STEP-NC program” is mapped into a “specific STEP-NC program”. Through the STEP-NC adaptor, whether or not a complete interpretation is possible or the given process plan is achievable, also gives rise to the suitability of a specific machine tool.

“Plug-and-Play” Mapping System – this mapping system is the method of clustering native CNC G-codes according to the STEP-NC data structure. It accepts STEP-NC data and translates it into the type of G-code that a specific controller can understand. The key to the mapping mechanism is the use of function blocks (IEC 61499) technology. This gives the system robustness and modularity. The system is separated into five parts (1) STEP-NC “pre-processor”, (2) CNC controller database, (3) tool path engines, (4) Plug-and-Play mapping system and (5) execution system

 

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A Database Driven Collaborative CAPP System

STEP-NC is a new model of data transfer between CAD/CAM systems and CNC machines, which replace ISO 6983 (i.e. G/M code). It intends to describe machine tool independent “Task Level Information” (i.e. manufacturing features, processes, etc) instead of machine tool dependent “Method Level Information” (i.e. axis’s motions as defined in G/M codes program). Thus, STEP-NC is capable of supporting an intelligent and interoperable digital manufacturing scenario, making integration and standardization of the entire manufacturing chain a reality.

In this research, STEP-NC is used as a fundamental data model to develop a resource driven process planning system for collaborative manufacturing, e.g. in a distributed manufacturing environment. The proposed system utilizes AI technologies to work on the input from a CAD system to make manufacturing decisions. In a collaborative manufacturing environment, the entire process planning process will be driven by “intelligent” machine tools whose data models have also been developed using EXPRESS language as an integral part of this research. In working with a server, these machine tool data basis can autonomously communicate with each other through Internet to perform optimal resource and job allocations. After process planning, the system can generate STEP-NC programs to drive the STEP-NC compliant CNC machine tools to cut the part. This STEP-NC compliant process planning and manufacturing system is capable of realizing the next generation manufacturing scenario “design anywhere – build anywhere – support anywhere”.

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STEP-NC Plug-in for GibbsCAM

STEP-NC is a new data modal introduced by International Standered Organization that intends to define a machine independent bi-directional data standard for Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) systems. ISO 14649 and ISO 10303 AP238 are the two data formats. In this research, ISO 14649 data were read into GibbsCAM. The ISO 14649 interpreter is a locket in GibbsCAM being treated as a plug-in for GibbsCAM. The physical file is of STEP Part 21 file format. The entire process has no human intervention.

GibbsCAM is being used as a “customization” tool for a specific machine tool in that the output is a G-code program that is suited for a particular machine tool. The STEP-NC plug-in showcase one of the benefits of STEP-NC, that is the input data can now be consolidated. It also illustrates how an existing CAM can be utilized to do micro process planning and provide a desired GUI. The current STEP-NC plug-in can only interpret 2.5D milled components.

 

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A STEP-NC System for On-machine Inspections

Inspection is an essential part of the machining process for quality control. CMMs have been widely used as a way of obtaining the measured data from a machined part, but tend to increase the machining cycle time. On-machine inspection is an attractive alternative solution. It enables prompt measurement taking, data collection and feedback, and automatic process adjustment.

The object-oriented STEP-NC data model provides a seamless and integrated programming interface for on-machine inspections as well as interoperable manufacturing. It enables the realization of a closed STEP-NC based machining process chain with data feedback and consistent data structure on every level. This research intents to develop a STEP-NC enabled closed-loop machining system with on-machine inspection. This will realize a standardized measuring and inspection system across the total CAx chain.

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Development of STEP-NC controller

In this research, a STEP-NC controller is defined as an advanced manufacturing technology and method using STEP/STEP-NC standards to automatically generate a part program. It is of a modular, reconfigurable and adaptive nature. Function Block technology will be used in developing a testbed for the perceived controller. The STEP-NC controller will consist of four main modules, (i) Data Input module; (ii) Interpreter; (iii) Tool Path Generator (TPG) and (iv) Motion Controller (MC) Board. The controller will also handle feedback and perform simulations.

      Basic architecture of the STEP-NC

STEP-NC controller research scope

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G-code Free CNC Lathe

The research demonstrates the development of a CNC system that can interpret STEP-NC information into machining instructions without the need of G-code. This is done through a software package that can process STEP-NC data and interface with a retrofitted 6K-CNC controller. Tool path information is also generated and executed “on-fly”. Real time feedback is also handled in the system. This G-code free CNC system illustrated the benefits of the new generation CNC system that includes, programming in terms of manufacturing features, bi-directional communication and data flow in real-time

 

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Virtual CNC based on STEP-NC

The notion of creating virtual machine tools is to provide one with an essential experience of near-real machining environment before actual cutting is performed on CNC machines. Alongside, the implementation of the STEP-NC technology is rising with lots of benefits withheld. In this research, realizing the potential of this new approach, a simulation system based on STEP-NC standard is being developed. The architecture will use STEP-NC part programs as inputs and should be able to produce the prediction of the geometrical and physical behaviour of any given attributes. The simulation results comprises of the tool path generation, machined surface error, tolerances, collision detections, surface quality, sudden disturbance etc.

 

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Machine Condition Monitoring via STEP-NC

Optimization of cutting parameter is an action which has to be done for machining process in order to maintain machine precision from machine overloading and constrains such as cutting force and chatter. Necessity toward enhancement of machine tool stiffness has encouraged the researchers to discover great ideas of understanding metal cutting constraints behavior. However, most of the research work in the areas of metal cutting condition monitoring and control is based on G-codes. In this research, STEP-NC data model will be integrated with machine condition monitoring. STEP-NC data model containing optimized cutting parameter information such feed rate and spindle speed based on cutting force and chatter condition provides proper cutting parameter in any machining situation and realized to the CNC machine with getting some feedback from actual speed. Any each proper speed will be recorded as machine know-how. Then, it will be used for updating STEP-NC data model for further machining process.

The system is broken down into three parts corresponding to three stages in which the data are transformed and updated starting from (i) a STEP-NC file, (ii) Machine condition monitoring (MCM) process, and (iii) STEP-NC data update.

I. STEP-NC data
In this stage, the STEP-NC schema will be used to develop a software tool to interpret the STEP-NC data to machine control commands. This stage has two tasks: (i) generation of machining commands from a STEP-NC file and (ii) development of a real-time interpreter machining process execution.

II. MCM process
In this agent, specific machine tool information such as cutting force and chatter behavior is modeled into STEP-NC file. This data structure generates proper spindle speed and feed rate for each machining features.

At low level stage, a feedback control of actual speed of on-going machining is done. There are three main tasks in this level. The first one is to acquire vibration and cutting force signals for the ongoing machining process using various sensors. These signals represent the metal-cutting constraints that probably occur during the machining process such as tool wear, tool breakage, machine performance, surface condition, heavy burr, dimensional error and tool temperature. The second task is to process these signals in order to understand the machine conditions. Some methods of signal processing will be utilised such as FFT, STFT and wavelet transform for analyzing the onset of chatter, tool wear, cutting force and torque. The third task is to determine and update parameters such as feed and speed, and cutting strategy as defined in a Workingstep of the ISO 14649-11 standard.

III. STEP-NC updating/modification
In this stage, Workingsteps and other related parameters in a STEP-NC file will be updated, based on the information of machining condition at hand. The modification can be divided into four sub-tasks. First task is to inspect tolerances. This is done by a tolerance inspection agent that so that extract machine inspection information from the STEP-NC file. One of the benefits of this process is to make sure that execution of each Workingstep is accurately completed with the acceptable tolerance-level at shop-floor. The second task is to acquire and reuse the know-how at the shop-floor level, and it is done through a shop-floor supervision agent. The third task is to optimize the feed and speed using the optimization agent, which works with the shop-floor supervision agent to modify the STEP-NC file. Tool selection is the fourth task. Tool selection data are coded to map the usage of tools on each machining feature of the operation.

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Distributed Interoperable Manufacturing Platform based on STEP-NC

Today CNC technology is a major contributor to the production capacity of industrial companies.Despite the development and improvement in the last decades, fully integration of CAD/CAM/CNC system is still not a reality. In this research , STEP-NC data model is used to facilitate data-exchanges among heterogeneous CAD/CAM/CNC systems. The goal of the project is to use STEP-NC, a high-level data model, to integrate the existing software solutions found in manufacturing environment. Such a collaborative environment will be achieved based on the platform called Distributed Interoperable Manufacturing Platform..

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STEP-based Total Simulation for CNC

STEP-based Total Simulation for CNC machining Processes aims at developing a task-oriented NC machining simulation system with bidirectional information flow based on STEP/STEP-NC data model. The system can mimic total machining processes in the virtual environment with high-level data input before the real machining so that the time will be saved, the cost will be reduced and the quality and service for product will be improved more efficiently.

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Adaptive Production Scheduling System


The increasingly flexible and customized manufacturing approach taken on by industry in recent years is often characterized by the rapid introduction of new products that are high value-added and customized. In such an environment, manufacturing processes are steadily becoming more worker reliant, especially in the case of small to medium sized companies which cannot afford to invest in expensive high-tech automation equipments. Resource planning must then optimize production schedules based on both human and machine type resources. It is necessary to accurately assess the characteristic presented by each type of resource in order to produce reliable and efficient schedules. This research project looks into the development of an integrated dual resource management and production planning system which is able to evaluate additional resource related factors and utilise the obtained information during the scheduling process. Such a system is able to provide more efficient and reliable resource scheduling solutions due to the increased accuracy in system and resource descriptions.

 

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Design and Development of Novel Hearing Technology Devices

Daniel is working on a project to design and develop novel hearing technology devices. This research is an extension of earlier research conducted at the University of Auckland into a new class of materials known as Hybrid Polymers.  These new polymers are created by blending combinations of traditional polymer, with more recently discovered organic conductive polymers such as polypyrrole and polyaniline, and other nanostructured materials. Daniel's research will concentrate on the use of these new materials for the development of new, high value noise cancelling earphone products and hearing aid technologies. This research is supported by New Zealand companies in the hearing technologies sector.
 

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Cognitive Environment for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems

Human workers have the ability to solve problems, to manipulate their hands and to use their cognitive capabilities. This allows the workers to be flexible and adapt to individual situations. With the increase in customisation of products, the ability to adapt in a manufacturing system is critical. Robots have the ability to be fully automated and to perform tasks at greater speed and accuracy. However, the automated production lines lack the ability to adapt to changes; therefore combining the ability of a human worker with a robot can increase the flexibility of a production process.
 
The aim of cognitive environment for intelligent manufacturing system is to develop new techniques to empower robots with self-learning capabilities and cognitive functions. This entails tasks such as identifying and formulating interactions between robots and humans, modelling the interactions, and intelligent planning of manufacturing sequences.

 

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STEP-NC compliance controller based on real-time Ethernet

This research puts forward a new real-time Ethernet, and applies it to STEP-NC compliance controller. The architecture of this networked controller and how to collaborate with CAD/CAPP/CAM with STEP data model are studied.

The structure of STEP-NC compliance controller based on real-time Ethernet:

 

The controller can generate tool paths through the Work Plan, Tool Compensation and Feature information if no tool path information in the step file

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Development of an Energy-informed Machining System

Today more than 70% of manufacturing businesses rely on CNC machines. Machining process as the key material removal process, typically involves use of difference resources to fabricate high-quality products. It is widely used because of its high accuracy and flexibility. As the global needs towards achieving sustainable manufacturing, we endeavour to develop an Energy-informed Machining System that aims for comprehensive energy consumption analysis.

Energy consumption or energy efficiency of a manufacturing system is one of the key sustainable performance indicators. Monitoring of a manufacturing system requires inclusion of energy information, e.g. total consumption recording and detailed energy-flow tracking in the entire system. Analysis of the gathered energy information in connection with other applications, such as machining parameter optimization, process planning, is a necessary step towards energy-informed manufacturing.

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Product knowledge modelling and system for One-of-a-Kind Production

In recent years, product knowledge has played increasingly significant roles in product development (PD) processes, especially in the development of One-of-a-Kind Production (OKP).  The characteristics of OKPPD should be analysed comprehensively, and the issues involved in the development of OKP products should be solved to meet customer needs and expectations in a dynamic market. Based on this, a computer-aided integrated knowledge system is proposed to assist the development of OKP by solving these issues. Four new modules and a product modelling approach are developed in the system. Case-Based Reasoning (CBR) methodology and Quality Function Deployment (QFD) technique are used to build the four modules in the application layer. By employing STEP product data modelling approach, exchangeable and standardized OKP products information is represented. The implementation of maintaining, recalling, reusing, and sharing product information enables OKP companies to cut down their PD life cycle and improve productivity

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Plug and Play” STEP-NC interpreter for feature based EMCO Mill.

Computer numerical controlled machine tools have been increasingly involved in the manufacturing sectors since the 1950s. Where, the data model stipulated by ISO 6983, otherwise known as G-code that was developed to program and control such machine tools by pass location commands to the machine tools’ controllers has been remained largely unchanged. This standard has led to a bottle neck situation of total CAD/CAM integration and data exchange between different parties. 

The developments of STEP and STEP-NC standards have provide a formal standardized data format that enables bidirectional information flow across different systems among the CAx chain. In previous research project, a “plug and play” controller was developed for EMCO Concept Mill 105 which takes STEP-NC data information as input and generates CNC control signals to perform feature based machining for planar_face, closed_pocket and round_hole. The project is then extended and a “plug and play” STEP-NC interpreter that automatically uses Part 21 files as input and extract the necessary information to perform the feature machining is defined. The developed system is also capable of scheduling workingsteps based on cutting tool information which proves STEP-NC’s adoptability and the ability for intelligent control. 

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CAM Data Exchange

Academia has been continuously studying on CAx data exchange and has succeeded in many sub-areas. However, most of these researches concentrate on the CAD data exchange or data exchange between CAD system and CAPP/CAM system. The value of research on another area, which is the exchange of CAM data, is neglected for a long period. Research in IIMS team is being implemented to fill this gap now.

This research aims to find a mechanism to exchange CAM data in different currently-used CAD/CAPP/CAM integrated systems. In the research, STEP& STEP-NC data models are adopted to be the neutral media for data exchange. More exactly, the machining-related-elements in a model, e.g. machining features, shall be collected and recorded in files in STEP P21 format. After being loaded by a specific CAD/CAPP/CAM integrated system, such as Creo, data in the STEP P21 files are analyzed and translated into proprietary data of the system to recreate these machining-related-elements using API functions.

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