Achievable tolerances in robotic feature machining operations using a low-cost hexapod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Authors:
  • J.D. Barnfather
  • M.J. Goodfellow
  • T.J. Abram


Portable robotic machine tools potentially allow feature machining processes to be brought to large parts in various industries, creating an opportunity for capital expenditure and operating cost reduction. However, robots lack the machining capability of conventional equipment, which ultimately results in dimensional errors in parts. This work showcases a low-cost hexapod-based robotic machine tool and presents experimental research conducted to investigate how the widely researched robotic machining challenges, e.g. structural dynamics and kinematics, translate to achievable tolerance ranges in real-world production to highlight currently feasible applications and provide a context for considering technology improvements. Machining trials assess the total dimensional errors in the final part over multiple geometries. A key finding is error variation which is in the sub-millimetre range, although, in some cases, upper tolerance limits < 100 μm are achieved. Practical challenges are also noted. Most significantly, it is demonstrated that dimensional machining error is mainly systematic in nature and therefore that the total error can be dramatically reduced with in situ measurement and compensation. Potential is therefore found to achieve a flexible, high-performance robotic machining capability despite complex and diverse underlying scientific challenges. Overall, the work presented highlights achievable tolerances in low-cost robotic machining and opportunities for improvement, also providing a practical benchmark useful for process selection.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1421–1436
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology
Early online date10 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017