Computer aided process planning (CAPP) for flat rolling of copper alloys
The manufacture of copper alloy flat rolled metals involves hot and cold rolling operations, together with annealing and other secondary processes, to transform castings (mainly slabs and cakes) into such shapes as strip, plate, sheet, etc. Production is mainly to customer orders in a wide range of specifications for dimensions and properties. However, order quantities are often small and so process planning plays an important role in this industry. Much research work has been done in the past in relation to the technology of flat rolling and the details of the operations, however, there is little or no evidence of any research in the planning of processes for this type of manufacture. Practical observation in a number of rolling mills has established the type of manual process planning traditionally used in this industry. This manual approach, however, has inherent drawbacks, being particularly dependent on the individual planners who gain their knowledge over a long span of practical experience. The introduction of the retrieval CAPP approach to this industry was a first step to reduce these problems. But this could not provide a long-term answer because of the need for an experienced planner to supervise generation of any plan. It also fails to take account of the dynamic nature of the parameters involved in the planning, such as the availability of resources, operation conditions and variations in the costs. The other alternative is the use of a generative approach to planning in the rolling mill context. In this thesis, generative methods are developed for the selection of optimal routes for single orders and then for batches of orders, bearing in mind equipment restrictions, production costs and material yield. The batch order process planning involves the use of a special cluster analysis algorithm for optimal grouping of the orders. This research concentrates on cold-rolling operations. A prototype model of the proposed CAPP system, including both single order and batch order planning options, has been developed and tested on real order data in the industry. The results were satisfactory and compared very favourably with the existing manual and retrieval methods.