Mechanical engineering professor and ICICS member Yusuf Altintas is Scientific Director of a recently announced NSERC Strategic Network that will develop the world’s most advanced virtual machining technology for macro- and micro-machining operations. With funding over 5 years of $5 million from NSERC and $350,000 from industry, the Canadian Network for Research and Innovation in Machining Technology (CANRIMT) comprises 20 academic researchers from 7 universities across Canada, as well as researchers from the National Research Council’s Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Centre and industrial partners Pratt & Whitney Canada, Bombardier Aerospace, ASCO Aerospace Canada Ltd., Automation Tooling Systems Inc., Memex Automation Inc., Origin International Inc., and Promation Engineering Ltd.
Computer-aided design, manufacturing, and engineering analysis tools are widely used in industry. However, integrated, science-based modelling of the range of machining processes from material behaviour to the dynamics of machine tools has not been realized. As a result, machining operations are optimized based on shop-floor trials, which are costly and cause significant production delays.
“Machining operations play a key role in the Canadian automotive, aerospace, machinery, energy, biomedical, and die-mold industries,” Altintas points out. “Our virtual machining technology will be crucial to maintaining Canada’s competitiveness in these sectors.”
Developing such a comprehensive technology requires a network approach; it is simply too enormous an undertaking for one centre alone. Altintas and his team, guided by the project’s industrial partners, have organized the project into five modules, with the appropriate expertise assigned to each:
1. Material behaviour modelling and analysis
2. Machine-tool modelling and analysis
3. Process planning and validation
4. Reconfigurable modular machine tools
5. Virtual machining system integration.
Altintas will lead Theme 5, integrating the modules into a unified system. He has extensive experience in collaborative development projects grounded in industrial applications. Advanced machining process and CNC simulation technology developed in his Manufacturing Automation Laboratory at UBC, for example, has been licensed by over 130 companies and universities worldwide. As the NSERC-Pratt & Whitney Canada Industrial Research Chair in Virtual High-Performance Machining, Altintas is currently developing a package of simulation algorithms for the milling of jet-engine impellers. Associate chair and ICICS member Steve Feng (MECH) leads Theme 3, aimed at automating machining process planning and validation through physics-based simulations.
Altintas and colleagues involved their industrial partners from the beginning, so that the network’s deliverables will be readily commercialized. The various software tools to be developed, for example, will be easily integrated into existing CAD/CAM systems, and the 70 graduate students to receive training in the different labs over 5 years will take their knowledge of this breakthrough technology with them into the workplace. The Canadian manufacturing sector will be better off for Altintas’ efforts.