Reconfigurable Pin-Type Tooling: A Survey of Prior Art and Reduction to Practice

[+] Author and Article Information
Chris Munro, Daniel Walczyk

Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Nuclear Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York 12180-3590

Metrics R1–R9 in Table 2 correspond to Characteristics 1–9 in Table 1, respectively.

J. Manuf. Sci. Eng 129(3), 551-565 (Jan 04, 2007) (15 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2714577 History: Received October 05, 2005; Revised January 04, 2007

The idea of using a bed-of-pins as a completely reconfigurable discrete tool surface (referred to as a reconfigurable pin-type tool) for forming or molding of mechanical components has been around for at least 140years. Interestingly, the state-of-the-art today differs little from early patents except for the introduction of powered actuation and computer control. To help explain why this promising manufacturing technology is not used more extensively in industry, this paper attempts to tell a complete story about reconfigurable pin-type tooling through analysis of the state-of-the-art academic and industrial research, and commercialization of the concept from the original patented concept in 1863. The authors begin by defining what a reconfigurable tool is and by describing what characteristics an ideal reconfigurable tool should have. Next, the history of reconfigurable tooling patents from 1863 to 2003 and related research from the late 1960s to the present is recounted. One major research effort that eventually led to the development of a commercial project was the U.S. government-sponsored Reconfigurable Tooling for Flexible Fabrication project. A critical analysis shows that the state-of-the-art in reconfigurable pin-type tooling meets all specifications of the defined “ideal tool” with the exception of spatial resolution and weight. Finally, the reserved response by industry to adopt reconfigurable pin-type tooling and future of reconfigurable tooling is discussed.

Copyright © 2007 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

3-D pin art tool patented by Fleming (1)

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Figure 2

Schematics of reconfigurable pin-type tools consisting of a (a) uniformly spaced and (b) close-packed matrix of pins

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Figure 3

Schematic representation of an ideal reconfigurable tool

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Figure 4

First known patent for reconfigurable tooling by Cochrane (11)

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Figure 5

Reconfigurable leaf spring forming tool patent by Williams (14)

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Figure 6

CNC forming tool patented by Pinson (19)

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Figure 7

Tool patented by Humphrey (27) consisting of close-packed, free-floating pins

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Figure 8

(a) First concept for reconfigurable sheet metal forming die developed for RTFF project (31) and (b) multiple pin module used for the final prototype tool (32)

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Figure 9

Reconfigurable tooling concept consisting of a matrix of interlocking threaded pins Berteau (39)

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Figure 10

Reconfigurable casting mold by Hong (46)

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Figure 11

Various pin tip concepts showing compression spring, air cavity, and gas-charged pin tip configurations Papazian (35)

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Figure 12

Schematic of Nakajima’s reconfigurable pin-type tool

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Figure 13

A unique pin positioning concept used by the MIT group (51)

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Figure 14

Schematic of the flexible forming system developed at MIT for demonstrating closed-loop shape control of 3-D matched die sheet metal forming.

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Figure 15

RTFF reconfigurable pin-type tool manufactured by Cyril Bath

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Figure 16

Technology trend in reconfigurable tooling based on weighted scores from Tables  23



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