Development of an intelligent automated polishing system

In high-value manufacturing sectors, many manufacturing processes are still performed manually, such as polishing operations for small metallic parts. Increasing volume, the need for consistency in quality, and health and safety issues are some of the reasons for industry to search urgently for alternative solutions for manual polishing processes. This article reports the development of an intelligent automated polishing system to achieve consistent surface quality and removal of superficial defects from high-value components, such as those used in aerospace industry. The article reports an innovative method to capture manual polishing processes by skilled operators. The captured polishing parameters are then used to develop and control a robotic polishing system that can adopt various polishing patterns. A brief summary of existing fully and semi-automated polishing systems and their inadequacy for industrial applications are discussed. The need for building automation system based on manual operations are explained and a systematic data capturing process for a specific aerospace-based component is defined. The development of the process capturing device is explained, the data analysis and interpretations are discussed and the migration from manual operation to an automated polishing system is reported. Further detailed information is given in relation with combining data from various sensors and building of an automated system based on learning from manual operations. The research results are also briefly discussed and conclusions are drawn regarding applicability of automated systems for highly skilled manual operations.