Investigation of the electrical and mechanical requirements for the automation of a process in flexible material manufacture
This thesis describes a successful attempt to automate a manual process in footwear industry. The process is called skiving of leather components and it is one of the early processes necessary for the assembly of shoe uppers. Skiving is the localised thinning of leather components, mainly at some of their edge regions. The purpose of skiving is to produce quality decorative edges or more importantly to enable attaching and joining components without forming thick, discomforting and weak joints. Although other processes in footwear manufacturing have been subject to partial or full automation, skiving has been performed for decades now with a standard mechanism that requires 3-dimensional manipulation of the components by a human operator. This research work was directed towards two main aims. One was to establish a novel method on the basis of which skiving may be performed without the need of human assistance. The developed method is called dynamic matrix skiving and it is capable of performing skiving on leather components by generating and actuating skive patterns as sets of finite elements of skived area to a given resolution. Following derivation and study of the method for skiving, the second phase was aimed at implementing a fully automatic skiving system. The main requirement from the system was to be an intelligent, component oriented, flow through, processing device. This required the capability to receive input components at any orientation and position along its transport mechanism, to recognise them as to their identity and relative position, and to perform skiving upon them without moving them or disturb their continuous flow throughout the entire operation. Individual chapters in this thesis describe the study and experimentation with regards to dynamic matrix skiving, and all logical steps taken to identify the necessary elements and implement their integration to produce the automated skiving system. The concluding part of this work includes presentation of the results obtained from the automated system, and it identifies the areas where further research and development is needed in order to improve the quality of its output.