Loughborough University
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Fixtureless automated incremental sheet metal forming

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posted on 2016-05-25, 10:05 authored by Balaji Ilangovan
Die-based forming is a technology used by many industries to form metal panels. However, this method of forming lacks flexibility and cost effectiveness. In such cases, manual panel beating is typically undertaken for incremental forming of metal panels. Manual panel forming is a highly skilled operation with very little documentation and is disappearing due to non-observance and a lack of interest. Confederation of British Metal forming (CBM) and Institution of Sheet Metal Engineering (ISME) have realised the need for capturing and understanding manual skills used by panel beaters to preserve the knowledge. At the same time, industries seek for alternative panel forming solutions to produce high quality and cost-effective parts at low volume and reduce the repetitive, yet adaptive parts of the panel forming process to free up skilled workers to concentrate on the forming activities that are more difficult to automate. Incremental forming technologies, currently in practice, lack adaptability as they require substantial fixtures and dedicated tools. In this research a new proof-of-concept fixtureless automated sheet metal forming approach was developed on the basis of human skills captured from panel beaters. The proposed novel approach, named Mechatroforming®, consists of integrated mechanisms to form simple sheet metal parts by manipulating the workpiece using a robotic arm under a repetitive hammering tool. Predictive motion planning based on FEA was analysed and the manual forming skills were captured using a motion capture system. This facilitated the coordinated hammering and motion of the part to produce the intended shape accurately. A 3D measurement system with a vertical resolution of 50μm was also deployed to monitor the formation of the parts and make corrections to the forming path if needed. Therefore, the developed mechatronic system is highly adjustable by robotic motion and was closed loop via the 3D measurement system. The developed automated system has been tested rigorously, initially for bowl shape parts to prove the principle. The developed system which is 98% repeatable for depth and diameter, is able to produce targeted bowl shape parts with ±1% dimensional accuracy, high surface quality, and uniform material thickness of 0.95mm when tested with aluminium. It is envisaged that by further research, the proposed approach can be extended to form irregular and more complicated shapes that are highly in demand in various industries.


EPSRC - Grant Reference: EP/IO33467/1



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Balaji Ilangovan

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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