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Improving Energy Efficiency in CNC Machining


We present our work on analyzing and improving the energy efficiency of multi-axis CNC milling process.

Due to the differences in energy consumption behavior, we treat 3- and 5-axis CNC machines separately in our work. For 3-axis CNC machines, we first propose an energy model that estimates the energy requirement for machining a component on a specified 3-axis CNC milling machine. Our model makes machine-specific predictions of energy requirements while also considering the geometric aspects of the machining toolpath. Our model - and the associated software tool - facilitate direct comparison of various alternative toolpath strategies based on their energy-consumption performance.

Further, we identify key factors in toolpath planning that affect energy consumption in CNC machining. We then use this knowledge to propose and demonstrate a novel toolpath planning strategy that may be used to generate new toolpaths that are inherently energy-efficient, inspired by research on digital micrography -a form of computational art.

For 5-axis CNC machines, the process planning problem consists of several sub-problems that researchers have traditionally solved separately to obtain an approximate solution. After illustrating the need to solve all sub-problems simultaneously for a truly optimal solution, we propose a unified formulation based on configuration space theory. We apply our formulation to solve a problem variant that retains key characteristics of the full problem but has lower dimensionality, allowing visualization in 2D. Given the complexity of the full 5-axis toolpath planning problem, our unified formulation represents an important step towards obtaining a truly optimal solution.

With this work on the two types of CNC machines, we demonstrate that without changing the current infrastructure or business practices, machine-specific, geometry-based, customized toolpath planning can save energy in CNC machining.

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