ALPHA_I, Remote Manufacturing, and Solid Freeform Fabrication
Alpha_l is a nonuniform rational B-spline (NURBs) based solid modeling system that has been developed at the University of Utah over the past 10 years. In addition to being useful in modeling objects that are described by simple rotation and extrusion operations, the real power of Alpha_l is demonstrated in the modeling of complex parts with sculptured surfaces. For the past several years, a major research thrust has been to use Alpha_l to semi-automatically generate process plan information and numerical control code to manufacture mechanical parts directly from the models. A long term goal is to support an on-line remote manufacturing facility for producing prototype parts. Recently, a 3D Systems stereo lithography machine has been added to the advanced manufacturing laboratory. The stereo lithography process and other SFF techniques are of particular interest for supporting a remote manufacturing facility in that these processes are inherently much safer than numerically controlled machining. Special Alpha_l interfaces including a new slicing algorithm are being developed for the SFF machine use. By generating a SFF part directly from its NURBs description, Alpha_l should facilitate the manufacture of complex parts while providing smoother surfaces.