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5-Axis Robot Carves Metal Like Butter

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the measure-your-head-very-carefully dept.

Robotics 277

kkleiner sends along an amazing video of what robot-controlled machining is coming to. "Industrial robots are getting precise enough that they're less like dumb machines and more like automated sculptors producing artwork. Case in point: Daishin's Seki 5-axis mill. The Japanese company celebrated its 50th anniversary last year by using this machine to carve ... a full-scale motorcycle helmet out of one piece of aluminum. No breaks, no joints, the 5-Axis mill simply pivots and rotates to carve metal at some absurd angles. Every cut is guided by sophisticated 3-D design software (Openmind’s HyperMill)."

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Craves Metal (5, Funny)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791580)

I read that as "Craves Metal" and was scared as hell.

Re:Craves Metal (1, Informative)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791604)

I, for one, welcome our new metal sculpting overlords?

Seriously though, the video was kind of mesmerizing. And now I want a new aluminum motorcycle helmet.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

eexaa (1252378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791704)

I, for one, put this on the list of things I definitely wanna play with.

Also, how much does it cost?

Re:Craves Metal (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31791862)

Decent CNC machines tend to run anywhere from $250K to $1Million USD in new condition. Consider this is a 5-axis so going into the millions wouldn't be too surprising and also consider unless you are a master of G-Code programming you will need a software program to write the codes for you so you can tack on another $10K-$25K over a few years for the CAD/CAM Software package.

Also yes I realize there are probably "Free" programs that write G-Codes and I realize that Blender will do modeling but if I am running a machine like this I want software with real support and a reputation which means I would probably go with an AutoCAD/MasterCAM, Solidworks/MasterCAM, Solidworks/SolidCAM or CATIA package.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792458)

They cost a lot, but can you imagine the ROI you can pull with these sorts of tools at your disposal?

Re:Craves Metal (1)

dsavi (1540343) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791864)

While I don't even have an educated guess, you can pretty safely assume that it's more money than you have in your metal-craving machine budget.

Re:Craves Metal (2, Insightful)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791910)

Double what it will cost in 2 years, four times what it will cost in 4 years, and ten times what it will cost in a decade.

How long you willing to wait?

Re:Craves Metal (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792216)

Not true at all, unless you royally fark up the machine, these machines tend to hold their value for quite a while, especially the 5-axis machines.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792334)

Not true at all, unless you royally fark up the machine, these machines tend to hold their value for quite a while, especially the 5-axis machines.

I think what the OP was getting at is that the prices of these machines is going to drop precipitously over the next ten years. History would tend to suggest he's correct.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792486)

Not really, the construction of these machines is pretty automated as is and 3D printing won't get to the quality point where you can make these absurdly priced machines at a reasonable cost anytime soon.

Not to mention they're expensive because the volume is pretty low but they produce a lot of work. Too many machines and you just have wasted machinery not doing anything. Not to mention a lack of resources to truly run a significantly higher amount of machines than are already run today.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792290)

This isn't a computer, it doesn't work like that. A good mill, especially a loaded 5 axis CNC model, is not some cheap ass Taiwanese motherboard, it's an extremely expensive TOOL that one purchases (i.e. invests in) with the intent of keeping and putting to work for many years.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791990)

A 5 axis machine like that would run you north of $300,000.

And it's not very easy to play around with, and can get very dangerous if you mess up.

You also definetly don't want to do it for a living.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792262)

5 axis CNC milling is old news. You can pick up a good used 5 year old machine for 20-40k depending on size and capabilities. Don't forget the cost of tooling as well.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

Andypcguy (1052300) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792572)

They're about 120K for a 5 axis and start about 55K for a 3 axis. Then you have all the tooling required which can add up fast. Then you have the software needed to program these like mastercam at 5K per seat and delmia/catia at about 16K per seat.

Re:Craves Metal (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791852)

The robot was extremely impressive.

The idea of wearing a helmet made of a material hard enough to efficiently transmit blows directly to your skull, soft enough to deform under impact, ductile enough to stay deformed, and a sufficiently good conductor of heat to making cutting its deformed remains off of your head without burning you; but before you bleed out, a specialized operation makes me very nervous.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791936)

Pretty certain that's only a showpiece helmet.

Re:Craves Metal (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792108)

Oh certainly. Clearly just a tech demo. I was responding to:

And now I want a new aluminum motorcycle helmet.

Re:Craves Metal (5, Funny)

McNally (105243) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792012)

The idea of wearing a helmet made of a material hard enough to efficiently transmit blows directly to your skull, soft enough to deform under impact, ductile enough to stay deformed, and a sufficiently good conductor of heat to making cutting its deformed remains off of your head without burning you; but before you bleed out, a specialized operation makes me very nervous.

That's exactly what They want you to think.

This represents a tremendous step forward in aluminum hat technology.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

elfprince13 (1521333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792254)

You're missing the point. It's not for motorcycle riders. It's for conspiracists who want something a little more stylish than aluminum foil.

Re:Craves Metal (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791930)

Are you made of metal?

Re:Craves Metal (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791980)

As niftily as it was carving it up, it almost seems to crave it... That trophy was damned cool watching the video
doing it up like that.

Re:Craves Metal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792166)

I read that as "Craves Metal" and was scared as hell.

Everyone knows that robots may be made of metal, but the crave old peoples' medicine. Which they eat for fuel.

Luckily, I'm insured against them.

Bender (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791586)

I will only be really impressed when it can smoke cigars, swear and run on booze.

Re:Bender (1)

wavemancali (998656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792056)

I will only be really impressed when it can smoke cigars, swear and run on booze.

I made one of these but surprisingly not a big market for them.

Lacking in the story... (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791654)

...there is no spoon

Re:Lacking in the story... (1)

dougmwne (958276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792338)

Why? Do you need one? I can have one carved for you.

Not to sound overly nationalist (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791676)

I don't mean to take anything away from the Japanese who are clearly leading in the robotics industry. Especially with technologies like this, humanoid robots like Asimo, and even those creepy robots that have the bad latex skin, these are all really impressive displays of Japan's prowess in this field. More importantly, the control mechanisms are being refined at both the software and hardware interconnects, so this isn't just "robotics", but rather the whole field covers a much broader scope than merely software or just hardware.

Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area? Why have we decided that we're happy enough building Facebook applications? It's sad to see that we aren't as focused on building real systems that will have an actual physical impact on our surroundings. We took Laertes' ridiculous admonition "to thine own self be true" and turned ourselves and our energies into the very worst of what we are as a nation. We have become exactly what the Japanese saw 20 years ago: a nation of lazy, overpaid workers. And, I hate to say it, we are paying the price for that with our jobs.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (3, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791696)

By what set of criteria do you judge software to be less valuable than hardware?

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (5, Funny)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791820)

By what set of criteria do you judge software to be less valuable than hardware?

BitTorrent.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31791854)

He's a hardware guy. Duh.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791942)

What is more valuable, a 5-axis CNC machine, or the Mafia Wars FB app?

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792042)

I see your mafia wars straw man, and raise you with: that cutting machine would be worthless without the software running it.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (3, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792198)

False. The 5-axis system would still carve metal like butter if it were manually controlled. Just more clumsily and slowly.

Whereas, frankly, Mafia Wars can never be allowed to be present on the winning side of any argument. If it means abjuring the entire history and future of accomplishments in software, it's still a small price to pay.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1, Insightful)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791948)

I think it's not that the software's less valuable, per se- it's that we're worrying about things like Facebook, MySpace, etc. which aren't
really in the same category of software. The software to make the CNC multi-axis machines go is rather valuable- without the machine
it's useless, but without the software, the machine's equally worthless. I just wouldn't be putting investment effort into things like
Facebook. In fact, if Facebook went bye-bye, little of value would actually be lost. Seriously.

And, I think that's what the GP poster is on about.

We've gotten where the sort of stuff like Facebook is more important than producing things of value. We should be #1 or #2 in things
like the CNC space. We should be producing as many chips as the Asia market produces and we consume. But...that's not the case,
now is it?

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

tbcpp (797625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791700)

+1 I'd mod it up if I had points

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (5, Interesting)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791776)

It's the Germans and the Japanese that are currently at the top of the heap when it comes to CNC Machinery... However there are a lot of good American companies up there too, one of the most popular brands in the USA is HAAS, although their 5/4 Axis machines aren't very special.

It's mostly because they focused on that market and become very good at what they did. You'll see in about 20-30 years China leading that area of industry since they have such a huge focus on manufacturing.

Anyways, it's the people ultimately programming the machines and the software used to program the machines that are the real driving force behind this industry, without the software these machines would just be dumb lumps of metal.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791888)

Indeed. However, without the hardware, the software's not much use either.

I think the point the GP poster's trying to get at is that there's much less of this stuff being showed, funded, etc. by US business and more things like Facebook which provides NOTHING of any real tangible value and has loads of money to do that nothing with.

To be sure, there's some innovation, building, etc. going on in the US- there's a renaissance about to hopefully start here (the beginnings are showing- whether it takes off, on the other hand...) in the States along those lines.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792390)

I guarantee you that Haas and Bridgeport are not showing off Facebook. They do show off their machines to people who actually have the money to buy them, they dont give a shit about the Youtube crowd. But most of them don't have to show off a damn thing, because anyone who is thinking of starting a machine shop in the U.S. is already familiar with most of the options out there.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (0)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792524)

The point is that these things actually DO something.

Facebook wastes time and "helps" people "socialize"

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791972)

Without the hardware, the software would just be a bunch of interesting ideas on a monitor.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792090)

Without the ideas there would be no software or hardware, so ultimately the value is in the people who design/run these machines.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792244)

Without a decent meal those ideas would never take shape and the designers would eventually starve to death, so ultimately the value is in the farmers who grow things to eat.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792316)

obligatory XKCD:

http://xkcd.com/722/ [xkcd.com]

The pattern of lights is all wrong!

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31791780)

No, it's more that we're mired in worrying about maximizing profits instead of the big picture.

But, don't you worry... There's a trend beginning to happen that might reverse some of this going on right now.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31791796)

Robots look cool and so you think they're technologically advanced. Have you heard of Organovo? That's the company that made Slashdot a few times with their organ-printing technology. They're a US company. How's that for hardware? Or leading the way in a f?

What do you want to bet that this robot uses software from Microsoft? That the people who built the robot used tools from Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, etc.? That they used Google software in their daily job throughout the development process? Etc, etc.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791872)

They most likely used windows to run the design software, but they could easily run UNIX with their own set of CAD/CAE software.

I doubt they needed any APPLE/ADOBE tools, the guys who make these machines are engineers.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31791836)

Jeez, that was a bad analogy!

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791894)

I've often seen the development of advanced robotics technology in Japan attributed to the desire of the Japanese to overcome their falling birthrates without allowing massive immigration. (The current demographics of Japan are wacky beyond anything in the US or the EU, see for example Coulmas' Population Decline and Ageing in Japan [amazon.com] ). If there aren't enough Japanese entering the workforce to sweep floors, assemble parts and care for the elderly, then they feel the need to develop machines that can do it instead. Different social pressures could understandably lead to different technological developments. After all, didn't the Romans treat potential new technologies as mere toys because they had endless slave labor?

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792342)

While that is partly true, the Japanese have had a robot fetish for a long time. I mean how old are Mazinger Z and Astro Boy?

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792552)

Not as old as the population trends.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (2, Insightful)

Dunx (23729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791950)

It's the startup cost.

Software product companies are expensive to start, but they're nothing to companies making innovative physical objects. I used to work for a silicon startup - it was a cheap start for silicon company and it still burned through a phenomenal amount of money before it had a product. Software is just cheaper (and often quicker) to get to market.

So really blame the VCs and the addiction to short term returns in the US stock market.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791962)

Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area?

The problem of an aging population (increasing ratio of retirees to working-age people) as been a more urgent problem for the Japanese than for the US. Robotics are of a higher interest there because they free up workers from "mundane" jobs to work in other fields. Also, many of these robots were developed to directly assist in elder care.

We have become exactly what the Japanese saw 20 years ago: a nation of lazy, overpaid workers.

That's also another piece of the puzzle. It's hard to stay competitive internationally, when [your employees demand higher/their employees are okay with lower] wages. This issue rose its head when GM & Chrysler started going under, comparing them to companies such as Toyota or Honda.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

nnnnnnn (1611817) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792008)

It's because it takes much less funding to write a Facebook application and the return on investment a lot higher. And the funding required to develop a mill is much harder to come by than say funding for an iPhone app. For example, there a $200 million fund for iPhone app developers http://www.kpcb.com/initiatives/ifund/ [kpcb.com]

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792030)

> Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area?

What do Americans need this sort of kit for? They don't make anything any more - it's too expensive. Software comes from the US, for now at least. Also, Japanese companies don't just look at how they can manipulate the shareprice over the next 2-3 years to make shareholders happy - there's some sense of planning now to dominate and profit in the future.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792150)

> Software comes from the US, for now at least.

I gather you're not in the software development field.
Software is spec'ed in the US and farmed out to low-cost programmers overseas. There is no new generation of programmers getting entry level software development jobs in the US. In one generation we will no longer have the ability to develop software on a large scale; Just as we no longer have the engineering infrastructure and ability to go back the Moon.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (4, Informative)

shiftless (410350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792436)

What do you mean "they dont make anything any more"? Shows that you know NOTHING about America. Mills are one of the cornerstone tools of our *very large* manufacturing industry here in the U.S.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (4, Interesting)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792574)

Yes, this is rather silly since America still has the largest manufacturing industry in the world by a significant margin.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792036)

Asians build and manufacture, while Americans run the marketing machine/ PR and sales.

It depends on what's valued in a culture (1)

jet_silver (27654) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792040)

"Leadership" might not translate fast enough to cash in the US to look as though it's worth having. The US metric up to the last year or so, which I hope is beginning to fade, is "can we make our money back on this in a short time?" and the closure of labs like Bell and Xerox PARC reflect this bottom-line thinking. Germans and Japanese alike see nothing "better" in the challenges of design than in those of manufacturing so they have good engineers doing both, and they think longer-term. It's less difficult to sell the leadership argument to their management. The French don't even appear in the contest and that's because all their bright people - who are legion - are theoreticians, they see something not quite nice, or grubby, or something in manufacturing and manufacturing engineers are seen as lower life-forms. If the French could get over that they might place.

The Chinese won't lead, ever, with stolen IP and that's how they do business. They have advanced recipes but when they break, there is no theoretical backing for it. They'll manufacture things a couple lamellae behind the cutting edge until they get over that. Once the ROW catch on you will see the Chinese doing truly wacky things because they will be stealing poisoned IP.

Re:It depends on what's valued in a culture (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792346)

Explain what you mean by ROW and the idea of poisoned IP please.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792046)

US: leading in "Andriod", a mobile OS.
Japan: leading in actual android robotic research.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (-1, Flamebait)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792070)

Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area?

It might be the high taxes, high labor costs, invasive government regulations. It could be the chance that Obama might suddenly decide to either take over your company, or send his minions around to destroy it because you made a profit one year out of the last ten. Anyone who makes a profit is evil, and must be destroyed.

If you make the envionnment bad for a large employer, they are likely to prefer creating jobs in a country that doesn't go out of it's way to destroy you. Higher and higher taxes, regulations based on bad science (more taxes), required limits on who you can hire, ...

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792088)

Imagine how it feels to live in Europe... This being said, the Japanese government is strongly supporting research in the field of robotics with the hope of having sci-fi like robots in the next 20-30 years, meaning intelligent humanoid-like robots. The reason is relatively simple, they are anticipating the collapse of their population which is aging really fast with a fertility rate per woman of about 1.3 (not sure about that one). It's the only industrialized country in which the fertility rate did not stabilize at around 2.1 after declining in the 20th century (there was a good paper about it in The Economist recently but I cannot find it online). So they hope to replace workers by robots, including caretakers for the elderly, cooks and so on. It seems that the most obvious solution would be to allow more immigrants or change something to the way the society is organized but according to the Japanese I know, this seems unlikely to ever happen so they go the way of technological progress.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (3, Informative)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792146)

I don't mean to take anything away from the Japanese who are clearly leading in the robotics industry. Especially with technologies like this, humanoid robots like Asimo, and even those creepy robots that have the bad latex skin, these are all really impressive displays of Japan's prowess in this field. More importantly, the control mechanisms are being refined at both the software and hardware interconnects, so this isn't just "robotics", but rather the whole field covers a much broader scope than merely software or just hardware.

Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area? Why have we decided that we're happy enough building Facebook applications? It's sad to see that we aren't as focused on building real systems that will have an actual physical impact on our surroundings. We took Laertes' ridiculous admonition "to thine own self be true" and turned ourselves and our energies into the very worst of what we are as a nation. We have become exactly what the Japanese saw 20 years ago: a nation of lazy, overpaid workers. And, I hate to say it, we are paying the price for that with our jobs.

I always thought that one of the goals of innovation and technology is to make life easier (physically). Just because fewer folks in the US have their own gardens for food, or chop their own wood for heat in the winter, doesn't make us more or less lazy then those in the past. Some would see it as better time management. Assuming that the person utilizing these technologies is working towards something other then gaining 1000 friends on facebook. Regardless of where it originates.

However, as tech grows, and you logically look to the future of mankind, robots and software will be able to accomplish all that mankind "works" at. Manual labor will be a thing of the past at some point. Albeit long into the future. As soon as it is cheaper to pay for a robot to do manual labor, human manual labor (brick laying, welding, construction, farming, etc..) will no longer be required. So does that mean mankind will be judged in society for only their creativity at that point or leisure skills? I don't know. But I will probably be long gone by the time that happens.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792294)

The "people" aren't lazy, and your assesment is incorrect. Hondas made in the US are just as good as the Hondas made in Japan. So why is it that "lazy American worker" gets laid off from the Ford plant, then gets a job at the Honda plant and becomes "productive American worker?". Its not the people. Banks, corporations and economics mix to remove jobs from the American economy. Want a job in IT in the US? Good luck with that! If you have one, you can train your replacement before he (and your job) go back to Bangalore. So to sum up: American IT jobs are being shipped to Bangalore. In the 70's it was US steel companies that were being shipped to Japan, Germany and Poland/Czekoslovakia. (Although now a lot of those jobs are in India and China). The garment industry went to Taiwan, Singapore and South American from the '60's to the 80's. Car manufacturing is being lost to overseas competitors who are competing (locals are being squeezed by unions, wages, suppliers, etc). Pharmaceutical companies, the entertainment industry, and a few semiconductor manufacturing plants are still in the US. There are reasons why foreign students do better in school than American students (In the US, the school year is 180 days, in South Korea its 220 days long, in Japan its 243 days long...basically 1 trimester, then 1 week off, then 1 trimester, then 1 week off, then 1 trimester, then 1 week off, then the next school year first trimester...). Its not so much 'lazy' or 'stupid', a lot of it is structural. A lot of it is cultural.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792302)

Why isn't the U.S. leading in this area? Why have we decided that we're happy enough building Facebook applications?

We're not? We have? Where's your evidence?

I work at a US defense contractor. Five years ago, we contracted a shop to machine us a very complicated housing out of a single slug of titanium. Not aluminum, which is far easier to machine. Slots, threaded hardpoints, reinforcing ribs, detents for O-rings, and it had to mate up with a piece they weren't even allowed to see. It had to be made out of a single piece so it would be strong enough to withstand pressures at significant depths. Over 90% of that titanium wound up on the cutting floor when they were done, they had to machine so much out (the source material is only available in solid slugs).

Nobody acted like it was some big thing. The machine shop wasn't some special secret DoD-only thing. They were a commercial company like any other with a 5-axis CNC mill. It took forever to go through the entire process from material specification and purchase to finished, machined part, and FedEx made plenty of dough off us hauling these heavy things around, but seriously, it was par for the course.

Also, back while the Cold War was going (late 1980's), Toshiba Heavy Industries got into a lot of trouble with the US because they sold a 5-axis mill to the Russians by way of front companies, so the Russians could make quieter propulsors for their submarines. So the existence of these things isn't even news.

Modern mills with electromagnetic bearings can run fast enough to cut through all kinds of metals like butter. That's not even getting into laser, water jet, or hot wire cutting.

Guys, this article is just another slashvertisement. Computer techie with incidental relationship to thermodynamics, much less materials science, sees what modern mechanical engineering could do and gets starbursts in their eyes. Film at 11.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (3, Informative)

shiftless (410350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792354)

The U.S. *IS* leading in this area. Japan is not the only country that manufacturers CNC machines. Bridgeport has been *THE* name in milling machines for decades. Haas is another big name based out of California.

Re:Not to sound overly nationalist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792400)

I'm asking this question in all honesty: why do you think it's really needed for US (or any other country for that matter) to lead in anything ?

Nice enough demo (3, Informative)

HEbGb (6544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791752)

It's a nice enough demo for a five-axis mill, but these are hardly new nor revolutionary in any way. These have been around for at least a decade, probably much longer.

Re:Nice enough demo (1)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791876)

Down the block from my apartment their is a machine shop with about three of them. It's a prototyping shop that also makes parts for other manufactures. Watching the lathes go can be an amazing thing.

Re:Nice enough demo (1)

FauxReal (653820) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791882)

Yeah, robots need to get to Bicentennial Man [wikipedia.org] skill levels.

Re:Nice enough demo (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792000)

Indeed- but it's a very nice one, from the looks of it. I wouldn't mind having access to one of them.

Re:Nice enough demo (3, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792520)

6 axis, yep count 'em six, CNC mills have been around for over 25 years, my father's company sold one with over 10 meter table that was used to cut out propellers for submarines. they had another multi-axis one (don't remember how many) that had 40 meter long bed.

Re:Nice enough demo (1)

Shagg (99693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792548)

Exactly. Making fairly intricate stuff out of billet aluminum for the automotive industry has been going on for a long time.

Most of this stuff is made the same way as this demo. http://www.billetspecialties.com/subcategory.asp?cid=16 [billetspecialties.com]

Suit of Armor (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791762)

You could create one awesome looking suit of armor with that.

Re:Suit of Armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792024)

Well, if it were aluminum then I don't know how well it would actually work.

When they say "carves metal like butter" they're usually referring to soft metals like aluminum. Meh, let me know when they get a machine that form steel like butter.

Re:Suit of Armor (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792402)

Aluminum makes for crappy armor. Just ask the people inside of a Bradley AFV. Presumably you could retool this for working with harder metals, but armor tends to have very specific requirements that would likely make it impossible to machine like this. Unless you just want some replica medieval style armor for SCA events or something.

Re:Suit of Armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792522)

True, but what use would it be? When these machines inevitably achieve sentience and turn on us in a war of oily extermination, would you want to be using armour they can carve through like butter? I didn't think so. Be Safe: wear ceramic.

So what? (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791766)

The Japanese company celebrated its 50th anniversary last year by using this machine to carve ... a full-scale motorcycle helmet out of one piece of aluminum. No breaks, no joints, the 5-Axis mill simply pivots and rotates to carve metal at some absurd angles.

This has been possible for a very long time. I've seen 5, 6 and even virtual axis mills decades ago that could do this. The software is easier now and the machines have improved tolerances and speeds but the basic technology has been widely used for ages. Multi-axis CNC mills are absurdly useful but not even remotely new.

In other words, nothing to see here. Moving on...

Aluminium Motorcycle Helmet, Not Impressed. (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791880)

I would be more impressed if it couls take a chunk of Aluminium and carve out a tinfoil hat with the same thickness as one made out of Reynoulds Aluminium foil. Then I would be impressed.

Re:Aluminium Motorcycle Helmet, Not Impressed. (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792446)

Did you see how it carved a logo into it that had a different appearance but looked flush?

That's it carving only a tiny, tiny bit in, probably in some crosshatch pattern to get the logo to stand out.

Re:Aluminium Motorcycle Helmet, Not Impressed. (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792502)

Entirely possible for most milling machines. The problem would stem from supporting the foil whilst milling. If you milled out the hollow centre, filled the cavity with resin, then milled away the rest, you could probably do it just fine, as long as the resin bonded the the remaining material well enough.

automated sculptors (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791900)

Industrial robots are getting precise enough that they're less like dumb machines and more like automated sculptors producing artwork

No, the engineers who built them and the programmers who programmed them are the sculptors, the robots are simply sophisticated knives. They're tools that humans use to create the sculpture.

It isn't artificial intelligence, it's real. It's the programmer's intelligence.

Re:automated sculptors (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792562)

It depends. If you're hacking out G-code by hand, then yes, every tool path is controlled by the sculptor. If you create a 3d model, then hand over all tooling control to a bit of software, you're a designer. The robot is essentially a sculptor then, deciding how to use the tool it's given to achieve a certain shape. You could argue that the machine isn't imagining the original design, but sculptors replicate existing designs all the time.

Really need open source CAM (4, Informative)

dbc (135354) | more than 4 years ago | (#31791974)

I'm starting to get involved in CNC machining (hobbyist level). One of the things that is quite clear is that there are really no good open source CAM packages. For that matter, open source 3D CAD has a long way to go, although I have great hopes for FreeCAD (not ready yet, but huge progress in the past year). If someone out there is looking for a challenge, take a look at 3D CAM, starting with 3-axis milling. Toolpath planning is *hard*. Your problem: Here is an arbitrary chunk of arbitrary metal. Here is a list of arbitrarily shaped tools. Here is the work envelop of your machine. Here is a table of chiploads that won't break the tools. Here is a 3D CAD file. Produce gcode. gcode that will not break the tools, not crash into fixtures, not crash the machine, and can start with roughing cuts to carve the initial block to something close, and plan finishing cuts that give you the desired surface finish at the end. A do your debugging where a "crash" can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in broken tools and machinery.

Re:Really need open source CAM (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792376)

I've used a little bit of CAM software, and it was never *that* automated. You told it what tooling you wanted to use to create which features and it would calculate the path. So you gave the computer insight into the feeds/speed, cutter dimension, length, etc. And, the software didn't know about fixtures. That was up to the job of the machinist to make sure the fixtures weren't in the way (though, that wouldn't be *that* hard to tell a computer where the fixturing will be)

Re:Really need open source CAM (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792448)

As you're well aware, even with good software, nothing can replace an experienced operator. I used to work in manufacturing with a CNC machine, and there were lots of idiosyncracies of the machine and shop practices that I had to account for.

This particular machine used a vacuum pump to hold the material down for cutting, which was usually fine, but the suction would be weaker around the edges and strongest in the center. The practical result was that I very quickly learned never to place small parts near the edges of the material, since they'd potentially move and either be damaged, or more dangerously, be thrown off the machine. Automatic nesting algorithms, at least the ones in the software I was using, were only so useful.

Even though I no longer work there, I still occasionally send them a personal job, then come by a few days later to pick up the parts at material cost.

Re:Really need open source CAM (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792592)

How about EMC2 [linuxcnc.org] ?

Obligatory (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792010)

Well I, for one, welcome our robot metal-sculpting overlords.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792438)

Is it really obligatory when it was said 23 minutes ago?

http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1613058&cid=31791604

great way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792096)

...how to make 10kg product with only 190kg of waste metal !

useful for the avout (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792134)

Can it create clock spare-parts ?

Impressive but not new (3, Informative)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792136)

There are scads of youtube videos of multi-axis machining, from impellers [youtube.com] to V8 engine blocks [youtube.com] , that are several years old. But, way before youtube, in the 1970's, Japanese nine-axis milling machines helped Soviet designers make submarine propellers vastly quieter, meaning subs like the Soviet Typhoon-class were roughly as quiet as American subs had been for a while. The military and export implications of multi-axis milling machine technology was mentioned in US Congress debates at the time: In 1983-1984 the Japanese firm Toshiba sold sophisticated, nine axis milling equipment to the Soviets along with the computer control systems, which were developed by Norwegian firm Kongsberg Vaapenfabrik. U.S Navy officials and Congressmen announced that this technology enabled the Soviet submarine builders to produce more accurate and quieter propellers. [wikipedia.org] So this is by no means new, but it sure is pretty.

Transparent aluminum for the visor (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792170)

Did they glue the transparent aluminum to the regular stuff before carving, or can they treat it to make it transparent later?

That's all well and good... (3, Funny)

nadamucho (1063238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792188)

but will it blend?

Very nice. But not that unusual. (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792194)

Very nice. But not that unusual for a modern machine tool. Here's a Matsura mill doing much the same thing. [youtube.com] It's the software that's interesting.

The current generation of machining software finally has constructive solid geometry that really works. The software can predict where the surface of the work is, as material is removed from it, and can reliably calculate clearances to the tools. I'm very impressed. This really works for arbitrary convex objects now. I've worked on collision detection enough to understand how hard that is.

Coordinating the multiple axes isn't the hard part. That's just relative transformation matrices, which has been done in computer graphics for many years. (Although the newer robot and machining systems understand some of the machine dynamics, and consider inertia. That's new.) It's the modeling of the surface as it changes that's hard.

This is very expensive software, but it's worth it. You need both HyperMill and either SolidWorks or Inventor. You design the part in SolidWorks or Inventor, then use HyperMill to generate the commands for the CNC machine. Total cost is upwards of $10,000. The CNC machine tool itself is relatively dumb; it's just running previously computed moves. The newer machine tools have software to display the 3D model and the tool, so you can check the planned moves against the actual ones when setting up.

Nobody machines consumer products out of solid blocks of metal except as a demo, of course. It takes hours to machine something that can be made in seconds by stamping or molding. Machine tools are used mostly to make stamping and molding dies, and one-off parts. Also, even in modest volumes, you don't start with plain blocks of metal. You cast or forge a blank and machine off the excess.

We're safe for now. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31792268)

I thought it was making a T-800 skull.

And I almost bought a one-way ticket to Japan to save man kind.

Carves metal like butter? (1)

p1ckk (1786702) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792274)

Steel on toast for breakfast, yum!

Motorcycle helmet? Pah! (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792292)

Its would've been a much cooler (and scarier) demo if they'd carved out a Cylon head instead of a motorcycle helmet.

I just got a hardon for hardware! (1)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31792556)

This has never happened to me before (for a machine ore piece of hardware).
That helmet is beautiful, but the machine that made it is sexy. I want two. NOW! one on each side of me.

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