Due to their flexibility, low cost and large working volume, 6-axis articulated industrial robots are increasingly being used for drilling, trimming and machining operations, especially in aerospace manufacturing. However, producing high quality components has demonstrated to be difficult, as a result of the inherent problems of robots, including low structural stiffness and low positional accuracy. These limit robotic machining to non-critical components and parts with low accuracy and surface finish requirements. Studies have been carried out to improve robotic machine capability, specifically positioning accuracy and vibration reduction. This study includes the description of the hardware, software and methodologies developed to compensate robot path errors in real time using a single three-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) laser tracker, as well as the experimental results with and without compensation. Performance tests conducted include ballbar dynamic path accuracy test, a series of drilling case studies and a machining test. The results demonstrate major improvements in path accuracy, hole position accuracy and hole quality, as well as increases in accuracy of a machined aluminum part.
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