Advanced manufacturing research in the Department of Mechanical and Production Engineering targets at ultra precision machining, with emphasis towards micro-machine and micro-device fabrication, and rapid product and tooling development. These can be categorised into four major areas which are described in the following articles:
Ultra Precision Machining. Advancements in fiber optics, optical storage systems and portable information devices have led to demands for ultra-precision fabrication of micro-components. Technologies such as high-speed machining, micro-grinding and micro-EDM are gaining importance due to their ability in making micro-devices. High-speed machining is increasingly used for quick fabrication of precision molds with ultra-fine surface quality.
Reverse Engineering for Rapid Product Development. In the intensely competitive global market, manufacturers are constantly seeking new ways to shorten the lead-time to market a new product. Rapid product development (RPD) refers to recently developed technologies and techniques that assist manufacturers and designers in meeting the demands of reduced product development time. For example, injection-molding companies nowadays must be equipped to compete in niche markets where product volumes are small and lead times are short. The time available to transform a product model into injection mold and die tooling is diminishing significantly. By using reverse engineering (RE) techniques, a three-dimensional (3D) product or model can be very quickly captured in digital form, re-modeled and rapidly manufactured by high-speed machining or rapid prototyping/tooling.
Rapid Fabrication of 3D Prototypes and Injection Molds. The emerging rapid prototyping (RP) technology has been successfully used to provide various kinds of three-dimensional prototypes in a process akin to "printing" free-form solids in that minimal or no tooling or fixturing is required in the fabrication of the product. However, RP techniques have limited impacts if used just for product verification only. The advantages of RP, such as flexibility in free-form fabrication without geometric constraints, fast material processing times, and innovative joining
techniques, have great potential in reducing time to manufacture complex tooling. Hence, current R&D efforts have been primarily directed to the development of appropriate RP materials, processes and techniques for rapid tooling (RT).
Intelligent Virtual Design and Manufacturing. Current trend is towards agile, and distributed manufacturing with the goal of developing customised products in small batches. The explosive growth of information technology resources, such as the Internet and the world wide web, are expected to facilitate and accelerate agile and distributed manufacturing. With these trends in mind, the Manufacturing Division is currently pursuing several research directions that aim to exploit the Internet to enable agile and distributed manufacturing These are in the areas of intelligent virtual design and manufacturing.
These areas are inter-related. The following slide illustrates how these major functions and processes pertaining to the aforementioned four areas can be integrated via a local area network (LAN) or the Internet to expedite product design, development and prototyping.
Figure 1: Integrated Prototyping System
Contact Person: Assoc Prof YS Wong
Tel: 874 2221, Fax: 779 1459