A Drill That Can Think As It Makes A Hole

Attendees at September's Machine Tool Show in Chicago may find themselves excited about boring technology. Unova Inc.'s Lamb Technicon Machining Systems in Warren, Mich., will introduce a new drilling system with exceptional versatility and accuracy, thanks to new computer controls that are built into the boring tool itself.

Traditional precision drilling machines require complicated and expensive fixtures, or braces, to clamp the part being drilled in place and guide the drill. But Lamb's new control system doesn't need fixtures. Instead, it uses piezoelectric sensors and a laser-guidance system to keep the drill aligned with the part. The controls can make 1,000 adjustments every second, which the company boasts is 10 times faster than a hummingbird's wings as it "drills" for nectar in a flower.

However, the controls can no longer sit beside the machine. It takes too long for signals to travel from the sensors to an "outboard" controller and back. During the interim, the drill could veer off-path. So Lamb had to develop a computer that doesn't get dizzy even when spinning at 5,000 rpm.

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