An automated solution for fixtureless sheet metal forming

Manual forming of sheet metal parts through traditional panel beating is a highly skilled profession used in many industries, particularly for sample manufacturing or repair and maintenance. However, this skill is becoming gradually isolated mainly due to the high cost and lack of expertise. Nonetheless, a cost-effective and flexible approach to forming sheet metal parts could significantly assist various industries by providing a method for fast prototyping sheet metal parts. The development of a new fixtureless sheet metal forming approach is discussed in this article. The proposed approach, named Mechatroforming®, consists of integrated mechanisms to manipulate sheet metal parts by a robotic arm under a controlled hammering tool. The method includes mechatronics-based monitoring and control systems for (near) real-time prediction and control of incremental deformations of parts. This article includes description of the proposed approach, the theoretical and modelling backgrounds used to predict the forming, skills learned from manual operations, and proposed automation system being built.