This paper will describe our initial operational experience using a reconfigurable-tooling-based stretch-forming work cell for production of sheet metal parts. This facility was created in response to the need to rapidly reverse engineer and manufacture sheet metal components in an overhaul and repair environment. The system is expected to dramatically reduce part lead time and cost, and reduce the need for fixed dies. This is an integrated hardware/software system comprised of a reconfigurable computer-controlled die with 1120 discrete elements, a laser moire´ interferometry shape measurement system, an automated finite element forming process simulation system, and an overall Manufacturing Design Software System/Shape Control Loop. These capabilities are integrated with a modern stretch-forming press. This system is particularly useful where part data may not exist other than the physical part to be duplicated, and where short lead times and low production quantities are prevalent. The typically iterative tasks of designing and methodizing the manufacturing process are significantly reduced by the software system which allows for rapid capture of part geometric data, its subsequent use in simulating the forming process, and for setting the surface shape on the reconfigurable tool. Results will be shown indicating that part shape fidelity can be maintained within required tolerance, and often improved upon, while providing reduced lead time and cost.

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