Design of hybrid-kinematic mechanisms for machine tools

The machine tool industry is a well established, old and extremely important branch of today's manufacturing industry. With the ongoing globalization and the resulting increase of competition in this industry, the manufacturers have to push their technology to the limits in order to stay competitive. The architecture (kinematics) of most machine tools is based on a serial arrangement of joints and segments, like a human arm. The requirements regarding dynamics, stiffness and precision of these machines brought the scientists and industries to evaluate parallel kinematics for this type of application. Parallel kinematics possess a much higher potential to fulfill these demands, and they would therefore allow the access to a next level of machine performance. Whereas the success of parallel kinematics in domains like packaging is incontestable, it proved to be less evident in machine tools. The low rotation amplitudes and the complexity of the mechanism, the main weak points of parallel kinematics, slow down the development and integration of this kind of machines. In the last few years however, we could observe an increase in development, and more important, in the sales (1)(37)(54) of hybrid kinematic machines. Hybrid kinematics can, by appropriate combination of parallel and serial axes, present a well performing compromise, especially in the machine tool domain where 5 axes/mobilities and high rotation amplitudes are common. The present document is concerned with the mechanical, industrialized design of hybrid-kinematic machine tools and their mechanical elements, and will show that "Hybrid-kinematic mechanisms can outperform fully-parallel mechanisms considering all attributes for a successful and industrialized machine design." The work will point out the limits of fully-parallel mechanisms and justify the use of hybrid solutions. The most important elements of the mechanisms, thereof particularly the spherical and universal joints, will be treated in a detailed manner. Industrialization aspects will be analyzed, the difficulty for their integration will be shown, and solutions provided in order to increase the accessibility of hybrid and parallel mechanisms. A design methodology will be synthesized from all these elements and applied to three case studies. The methodology will point out important and often neglected steps and provide elements and tools to support the designer in the whole process of creation. Furthermore, by providing a broad catalogue of both new and existing hybrid and parallel kinematics, this work is intended to stimulate and inspire the creativity of the designer. The three final cases studies, each differing in their application domain and representing each an unpublished concept, will illustrate and validate the methodology. The work took place around multiple industrial projects and therefore always keeps in mind the practical feasibility, with respect to an industrial environment, and the economic aspects and risks.

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