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The Tribology Surface Engineering industry is a worldwide multi billion euro industry with significant health and safety risks. The thermal spraying sector of this industry employs the technique of applying molten surface coating material to a substrate via a thermal spray process which is implemented either by manual spraying or pre-programmed robotic systems. The development of autonomous robotic systems for thermal spraying surface coating would significantly improve production and profitability over pre-programmed systems and improve health and safety over manual spraying. The aim of this research was to investigate and develop through software simulation, physical modelling and testing the development of robotic subsystems that are required to provide autonomous robotic control for the thermal spraying process. Computer based modelling programs were developed to investigate the control strategy identified for the thermal spaying process. The algorithms included fifth order polynomial trajectories and the complete dynamic model where gravitational, inertia, centrifugal and coriolis torques are considered. Tests provide detail of the load torques that must be driven by the robot electric actuator for various structural changes to the thermal spraying robot and for variations in trajectory boundary conditions during thermal spraying. The non-linear and coupled forward and inverse kinematic equations of a five axis articulated robot with continuous rotation joints were developed and tested via computer based modelling and miniature physical robot modelling. Both the computer based modelling and physical model confirmed the closed form kinematic solutions. A solution to running cables through the continuous rotation joints for power and data is present which uses polytetrafloraethylene (PTFE) electroless nickel. This material was identified during the literature review of surface coating materials. It has excellent wear, friction and conductivity properties. Physical tests on a slip ring and brushes test rig using electroless nickel are presented which confirm the viability of using PTFE electroless nickel as a slip ring. Measurement of the substrate during thermal spraying so as to autonomously control the thermal spaying robot is a significant challenge. This research presents solutions for the measurement of the substrate using a low cost camera system and lasers in a single wavelength environment. Tests were carried out which resulted in the removal of a butane flame obscuring a test piece requiring measurement from the camera image so that substrate measurements can be made using image processing and analysis techniques such as canny edge detection and centroid measurements. Test results for the low cost vision system provide depth measure errors of ±0.6 % and structural measurements such as area and perimeter in the range -5% to -7.5%. These results confirm the efficacy of this novel flame removal technique.
Breen, D. (2010) Thermal Robotic Arm Controlled Spraying via Robotic Arm and Vision System. Doctoral Thesis. Technological University Dublin. doi:10.21427/D7N605