While fabricating the hot wire cutter end-effector we knew we would need a suitable work surface to shape our material. Research into industrial standards for work surfaces only revealed options that cost thousands. With little time and money to work with we set out to design and fabricate our own custom work surface.
Using Ball State’s Thermwood mill, the finished work surface was able to be constructed entirely of laminated and pressure fitted MDF pieces. A box raises the work surface 14″ above what the robot recognizes as the world plane. Here, material rests on a perforated surface that is itself above a vacuum chamber located inside the box. After a ShopVac is connected to the vacuum chamber material is held in place for the robot to begin work manipulating its shape.
Assembly and testing of the work surface has taught us a lot about where we could improve the design for the future. We hope to do so, but until then this inexpensive and efficient design should do just fine for some projects to come.