(19)
(11)EP 3 099 434 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
24.06.2020 Bulletin 2020/26

(21)Application number: 15701357.4

(22)Date of filing:  27.01.2015
(51)Int. Cl.: 
B21D 25/02  (2006.01)
B21D 25/04  (2006.01)
B21D 37/02  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2015/051565
(87)International publication number:
WO 2015/113954 (06.08.2015 Gazette  2015/31)

(54)

RECONFIGURABLE METAL FORMING APPARATUS

REKONFIGURIERBARE METALLFORMUNGSVORRICHTUNG

APPAREIL DE FORMAGE DE MÉTAL RECONFIGURABLE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 29.01.2014 GB 201401474

(43)Date of publication of application:
07.12.2016 Bulletin 2016/49

(73)Proprietor: University Of Ulster
County Londonderry BT52 1SA (GB)

(72)Inventor:
  • LEACOCK, Alan
    County Antrim BT38 7PY (GB)

(74)Representative: FRKelly 
27 Clyde Road
Dublin D04 F838
Dublin D04 F838 (IE)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A2-2009/145538
DE-C- 607 377
CN-A- 102 205 366
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION



    [0001] This invention relates to a reconfigurable stretch forming apparatus according to the features of the preamble of claim 1. Such an apparatus is for example disclosed in WO-A-2009/145538.

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



    [0002] The production of low volume sheet metal components is a difficult balancing act of non-recurrent equipment cost and final component sale value. Industry sectors in which low volume components are commonplace include aerospace, marine and architecture. Each of these industry sectors presents unique challenges that are a combination of the component material, tolerances required and number of repeat components. While Aerospace utilises high strength metals that must meet stringent dimensional tolerances manufactured in reasonable batch numbers, architecture typically employs comparatively lower strength metals with wider dimensional tolerances and often single component manufacture.

    [0003] Traditional manufacturing methods employed in the production of components for these industry sectors often utilise fixed tools and large complex machines that require substantial foundations. Tooling costs can be reduced through the use of processes such as stretch forming where, depending upon the component shape, only a single male tool is required. Costs can be further reduced through the reuse of tooling by machining the tool multiple times. Nevertheless, such innovations are limited in the achievable cost savings.

    [0004] One possible alternative is reconfigurable pin tool technology, where a forming surface is defined by an array of height adjustable pins, typically having a flexible interpolator sheet located between the pins and the work piece, wherein the heights of the pins can be adjusted to vary the shape of the forming surface. The use of reconfigurable pin tool technology in stretch forming has been the subject of much research over the past 20 years. However, most prior art attempts to exploit this technology have resulted in complex and expensive incarnations that, while technically brilliant, have been commercially flawed. In addition, the use of complex stretch forming machines to stretch a sheet metal blank over the forming surface have further increased the overall production cost and have therefore limited the adoption of reconfigurable pin tool technology. WO 2009/145538 discloses a known reconfigurable metal forming apparatus utilising an array of height adjustable pins. An object of the present invention is to provide a relatively low cost and highly adaptable reconfigurable metal forming apparatus that overcomes the problems of the prior art.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



    [0005] According to the present invention there is provided a reconfigurable stretch forming apparatus as defined in claim 1.

    [0006] Preferably the arcuate support surface of each gripping device is located between a respective pair of end plates, the respective clamp member being mounted between the end plates for rotation between its first and second positions. The direction of rotation of the clamp member of each gripping device between its first and second positions may be arranged such that the respective clamp member is biased towards its second position under the action of the workpiece during a stretch forming operation.

    [0007] The clamp member of each gripping device may be provided with an operating lever extending substantially radially therefrom for rotating the respective clamp member between its first and second positions. A portion of the operating lever of each clamp member may be adapted to abut the respective arcuate support surface when the clamp member is in its second position.

    [0008] Preferably said array of pins defines an arcuate forming surface extending between the gripping devices.

    [0009] Preferably an end cap is mounted on an upper end of each pin. Each end cap may be articulated with respect to the pin upon which the end cap is mounted to permit tilting of the end cap with respect to the pin. The diameter of each end cap may be smaller than the diameter of the pin upon which it is mounted. Preferably each end cap is mounted on a respective pin via a ball and socket coupling.

    [0010] The gripping devices may be linked via one or more linkage means, such as gears and/or rigid or flexible linkages, such as chains, to ensure that they both rotate by equal amounts when the drive means is operated to ensure even stretching of the blank over the forming surface. In one embodiment said linkage means may comprise one or more chains extending between and around said counter-rotating gripping devices to constrain said gripping devices to rotate in opposite directions and by equal amounts.

    [0011] Preferably said drive means comprises one or more linear actuators acting between the gripping devices to urge the gripping devices to rotate in opposite direction when the one or more actuators are extended. The gripping devices may be supported between a pair of side plates of a base, the actuators extending substantially parallel to the side plates.

    [0012] In one embodiment each pin may comprise an upper part and a base part, said upper and base parts being threadedly engaged with one another such the height of the pin can be adjusted by rotation of the upper part with respect to the base part. The base part of each pin may comprise a threaded rod or stud upon which the upper part is threadedly engaged.

    [0013] The underside of the end cap of each pin may be adapted to engage a portion of the upper part of the respective pin to prevent rotation of the end cap with respect to the pin when the end cap is tilted to an adjustment position with respect to the pin, such that a turning torque can be applied to the pin via the end cap by means of a suitable tool adapted to engage the end cap when in said adjustment position. In one embodiment the underside of the end cap may be shaped to engage a face of a nut located on the upper part of the pin beneath the end cap when the cap is in said adjustment position.

    [0014] The array of pins may be mounted on a common support, the support and/or the rollers being displaceable vertically with respect to a common base, whereby the forming surface and the roller can be vertically displaced with respect to one another during a stretch forming process.

    [0015] An interpolator sheet may be mounted on top of the array of pins to define said reconfigurable forming surface.

    [0016] According to a further aspect it is possible that each pin comprises an upper part and a base part, said upper and base parts being threadedly engaged with one another such the height of each pin can be adjusted by rotation of the upper part with respect to the base part thereof, an end cap being mounted on an upper end of each pin, wherein each end cap is articulated with respect to the pin upon which the end cap is mounted to permit tilting of the end cap with respect to the pin, wherein the underside of the end cap of each pin is adapted to engage a portion of the upper part of the respective pin to prevent rotation of the cap with respect to the pin when the cap is tilted to an adjustment position with respect to the pin, such that a turning torque can be applied to the pin via the cap by means of a suitable tool adapted to engage the cap when in said adjustment position.

    [0017] Each end cap may be mounted on a respective pin via a ball and socket coupling.

    [0018] In one embodiment the base part of each pin comprises a threaded rod or stud upon which the upper part is threadedly engaged.

    [0019] In one embodiment the underside of the end cap of each pin shaped to engage a face of a nut located on the upper part of the pin beneath the end cap when the end cap is in said adjustment position.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0020] A reconfigurable metal forming apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which :-

    Figure 1 is a perspective view of a metal forming apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

    Figure 2 is a partially exploded view of the apparatus of Figure 1;

    Figure 3 is a plan view of the apparatus of Figure 1;

    Figure 4 is an end view of the apparatus of Figure 1;

    Figure 5 is a detailed view of a gripping device of the apparatus of Figure 1;

    Figure 6 is a plan view of a pin array of the apparatus of Figure 1;

    Figure 7 is an end view of the pin array of Figure 6;

    Figure 8 is a sectional view of the pin array on line A-A of Figure 7;

    Figure 9 is a perspective view of the support roller assembly of a metal forming apparatus in accordance with a further embodiment of the present invention;

    Figure 10 is a sectional view through a pin of a stretch forming apparatus in accordance with a further embodiment of the present invention;

    Figure 11 is a detailed perspective view of the head of the pin of Figure 10;

    Figure 12 is a sectional view through the pin of Figure 10;

    Figure 13 is a sectional view of the head of the pin of Figure 10 and a tool for adjusting the height of the pin;

    Figure 14 is an exploded view of the head of the pin of Figure 10;

    Figure 15 perspective view showing the interaction of the tool with the head of the pin of Figure 10;

    Figure 16 is a longitudinal sectional view showing the interaction of the tool with the head of the pin of Figure 10; and

    Figure 17 is a perspective view of an assembly for adjusting the height of the pins to alter the shape of the forming surface.


    DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT



    [0021] As illustrated in the drawings, a reconfigurable stretch forming apparatus 2 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention comprises an arcuate reconfigurable forming surface 4 defined by a flexible interpolator (flexible covering sheet) 6 located on top of a pin array 8, each pin 10 of the array 8 being individually adjustable in height to alter the shape of the forming surface 4.

    [0022] As best shown in shown Figures 6 to 8, the pins 10 of the pin array 8 are arranged in a hexagonal close packed pattern. Each pin 10 has a circular end cap 12 mounted on an upper end thereof via a ball and socket articulated joint 14, wherein the end cap 12 can tilt with respect to the pin 10 upon which it is mounted. The articulated end caps 12 are define a substantially continuous and stepless surface, minimising the surface indentation from the discrete nature of the tool. As a result, the interpolator 6 between the pins 10 and the formed sheet (workpiece) can be significantly thinner than prior art interpolators and can possibly be omitted.

    [0023] The pin array 8 is mounted on a base frame 16 between a pair of workpiece gripping devices, each comprising a workpiece support roller 18,20 having an outer surface defining an arcuate workpiece support surface, against which a respective end of the workpiece is clamped by means of an eccentrically mounted clamping roller 22,24 mounted parallel to the respective support roller 18,20 between a pair of mounting plates 26,28 provided at either end of each support roller 18,20.

    [0024] The support rollers 18,20 are mounted between opposing side plates 30,32 of the base frame 16 of the apparatus, as best seen from Figures 1 and 2.

    [0025] As best shown from Figure 5, each clamping roller 22,24 is mounted eccentrically between the mounting plates 26,28 of the respective support roller 18,20 such that the clamping roller 22,24 can be rotated between a first position, wherein the outer surface of the clamping roller 22,24 is spaced from the outer surface of the support roller 18,20, and a second position (shown in Figure 5), wherein the outer surface of the clamping roller 22,24 engages the outer surface of the support roller 18,20.

    [0026] An operating lever 34 extends substantially radially from each clamping roller 22,24 for moving the respective clamping roller between its first and second positions. As shown in Figure 5, each operating lever 34 is shaped to abut the outer surface of the adjacent support roller 18,20 when the respective clamping roller 22,24 is in its second position. The direction of rotation of each clamping roller 22,24 between its respective first and second positions is arranged such that a biasing force acting against the clamping roller 18,20 by means of a workpiece clamped between the clamping roller and the adjacent support roller during a stretch forming operation urges the clamping roller towards its second position, increasing the clamping force applied to the workpiece by the clamping roller. The operating levers 34 may be manipulated manually or may be connected to suitable actuators, such as double acting hydraulic rams or suitable electric motors.

    [0027] While clamping rollers 22,24 are described as being provided for clamping a workpiece against the support rollers 18,20, it is envisaged that other clamping means may be used for clamping the blank against the support rollers, such as eccentrically mounted cams or curved surfaces instead of cylindrical clamping rollers.

    [0028] A pair of linear actuators 36,38, preferably rams, typically hydraulic or pneumatic double acting rams, are mounted on either side of the pin array 8, to rotate the support rollers 18,20, the actuators 36,38 engaging the mounting plates 26,28 of the support rollers 18,20 such that extension of the actuators 36,38 causes the support rollers 18,20 to rotate in opposite directions, stretching a workpiece over the forming surface 4, as will be described in more detail below.

    [0029] As best illustrated in Figure 2, pivotally mounted rigid link arms 40 extend between the mounting plates 26,28 of the support rollers 18,20, extending between an upper side of one support roller 18 and a lower extension arm 42 of the mounting plates 28 of the other support roller 20, such that the support rollers 18,20 are constrained to rotate by equal amounts as the actuators 36,38 are extended and retracted. It is envisaged that the support rollers 18,20 may be inter-linked by other means, such as chains or gearing, to ensure that the support rollers rotate by equal amounts and in opposite direction to one another. For example, in the embodiment shown in Figure 9, the support rollers 18,20 are linked by chains 140A,140B that are attached to each support roller 18,20 at either end and are arranged to wind around and unwind from the support rollers 18,20 as they rotate to ensure that the support rollers are constrained for counter rotation by equal amounts. The counter rotating support rollers 18,20 are adapted to wind a workpiece around the arcuate forming surface 4, and hence stretch the material.

    [0030] In one embodiment, the pin array 8 may be mounted upon the base frame 16 via suitable actuators (not shown) so that the pin array 8 may be raised with respect to the base during a stretch forming operation.

    [0031] In use, a workpiece, typically a sheet of metal, such as aluminium or steel, is mounted on the apparatus, with opposite ends of the sheet passing between the support rollers 18,20 and clamping rollers 22,24 of the workpiece gripping devices, with the workpiece lying over the forming surface.

    [0032] Before, or after locating the workpiece onto the apparatus, each pin 10 of the pin array 8 may be adjusted in height such that the forming surface has the desired three dimensional shape. The position of the pins 10 may be manually adjusted, for example via threaded adjusters (44, Figure 8), or may be adjusted by drive means, such as stepper motors or hydraulic actuators. The required position of the pins 10 may be determined by computer software.

    [0033] In the embodiment shown in Figures 10 to 17 the height of each pin 10 (or of groups of pins) in said array of pins may be adjusted by means of an adjusting tool adapted to engage with the end cap 12 of each pin 10, as will be described in more detail below.

    [0034] In such embodiment, each pin 10 of the array comprises a lower part 102 defined by a vertically extending threaded rod, and an upper part 104 threadedly engaged onto the lower part 102 such that rotation of the upper part 104 with respect to the lower part 102 of the pin 10 varies the height of the pin 10. As with the first embodiment, an end cap 12 is mounted on an upper end of the upper part 104 of the pin 10 via a ball and socket articulated joint 14, wherein the end cap 12 can tilt with respect to the pin 10 upon which it is mounted such that the upper faces of the end caps 12 can define a substantially smooth continuous surface, thus minimising the surface indentation from the discrete nature of the tool.

    [0035] In the embodiment shown in Figures 10 to 17, the underside of the end cap 12 incorporates a "V" shaped circumferential ridge 106 having an inner face 108 adapted to engage a portion of the upper part 104 of the pin 10 when the end cap 12 is tilted beyond a normal operating angle to a pin adjustment position, in which position the engagement of the face 108 of the end cap 10 with the upper part 104 of the pin 10 prevents rotation of the end cap 12 with respect to the pin 10 and enables the end cap 12 to be engaged by an adjustment tool, whereby the end cap 12 and upper part 104 of the pin 10 can be rotated by the tool to facilitate adjustment of the height of the pin 10.

    [0036] In the embodiment shown in Figures 10 to 17, as best seen from Figures 11 and 12, a nut 110 is mounted beneath the ball and socket joint 14 of the end cap 12, said engagement face 108 of the end cap 12 being arranged to abut a face of said nut 110 when the end cap 12 is tilted to said adjustment position. However, it is envisaged that other cooperating formations could formed on the pin 10 and the end cap 12 adapted to engage on another when the end cap 12 is tilted to said adjustment position.

    [0037] An adjustment tool, not belonging to the present invention, for adjusting the height of each pin 10 includes an adjustment head 112 adapted to engage the end cap 12 of a respective pin 10 when the end cap is in its adjustment position. As best shown in Figures 13 and 14, the adjustment head 112 includes a first angled face 114 adapted to engage an upper face of the end cap 12, a curved side face 116 adapted to engage an outer side of the end cap 12 and a lip 118 adapted to engage an outer face 120 of the ridge 106 defined on the underside of the end cap 12. As illustrated in Figures 15 and 16, the shape of the adjustment head 12 of the adjustment tool is adapted to fit closely against and engage the end cap 12 of a respective pin such that the adjustment head 112 can drive the end cap 12 to rotate about the longitudinal axis of the respective pin 10, the end cap 12 in turn transmitting this rotation to the upper part 104 of the respective pin 10 such that the upper part 104 of the pin 10 can be rotated with respect to the lower part 102 thereof to adjust the height of the pin 10.

    [0038] Figure 17 illustrates an adjustment tool 130 in accordance with an embodiment not belonging to the present invention, wherein the adjustment head 112 is mounted on a gantry 132 mounted over the pin array 8, wherein the adjustment head 112 can be positioned over each pin 10 and raised and lowered to engage the end cap 12 of a respective pin 10, the adjustment head 112 being rotatably driven to enable the height of each pin 10 to be adjusted to a desired height.

    [0039] In an alternative embodiment (not shown) it is envisaged that the adjustment tool may be provided with an array of adjustment heads, for example seven heads arranged in a hexagonal formation, to facilitate simultaneous adjustment of respective groups of pins to facilitate faster adjustment of the forming surface. Once a workpiece has been located onto the apparatus. the operating levers 34 are manipulated to move the clamping rollers 22,24 towards their second positions, clamping the workpiece between the clamping rollers 22,24 and the respective support rollers 18,20.

    [0040] The actuators 36,38 are then extended to cause the support rollers 18,20 to rotate in opposite directions, stretching the workpiece over the forming surface 4 to stretch the material into the desired shape. At the same time the pin array 8 may be raised with respect to the base frame 16. It is also envisaged that individual pins 10 may be raised or lowered during a stretch forming operation.

    [0041] The mounting of the support rollers 18,20 and the actuators 36,38 between the side plates 30,32 of the base frame 16 enables all loads to be reacted through the base frame 16 and actuators 36,38, eliminating the need for expensive and time consuming installation of the apparatus. The increased flexibility from this design increases the number of possible customers who can adopt the new system.

    [0042] The dimensions of the apparatus may be selected depending upon the desired maximum size of article to be produced. It is envisaged that the dimensions of the apparatus may be selected such that the apparatus can be fitted into a standard shipping container, with no or limited disassembly.

    [0043] The apparatus may include a controller which may be linked to a computer. Data may be transferred between the computer and controller wirelessly or via a wired connection. The computer may be at a location remote from the controller and data may be transferred between the computer and the controller via the Internet. Hence the user of the forming apparatus may not require any knowledge of the metal forming process, making it possible for the apparatus to be used to manufacture articles by those unskilled in the art, with the forming process being programmed and/or controlled remotely.

    [0044] The invention is not limited to the embodiment(s) described herein but can be amended or modified without departing from the scope of the appended claims.


    Claims

    1. A reconfigurable stretch forming apparatus comprising an array of pins (10) adapted to be individually adjustable in height to define a reconfigurable forming surface (4), a pair of workpiece gripping devices being provided on opposite sides of the array of pins, characterised in that the gripping devices are counter-rotating and that each gripping device has an arcuate support surface (18,20) comprising an outer surface of a roller (18,20) for supporting a workpiece and a clamp member (22,24) for clamping a work piece against said arcuate support surface (18,20), drive means (36,38) being provided for rotating the counter-rotating gripping devices in opposing directions to stretch the work piece over the forming surface (4), the clamp member of each gripping device comprises an eccentrically mounted cam or roller (22,24) mounted adjacent the arcuate support surface (18,20) of the respective gripping device, an outer surface of each clamp member (22,24) defining a clamping surface acting against the respective arcuate support surface (18,20) to clamp a workpiece thereagainst, wherein the clamp member (22,24) is rotatable between a first position, wherein the clamping surface of the clamp member is spaced from the arcuate support surface, and a second position, wherein the clamping surface of the clamp member engages the arcuate support surface and wherein the clamp member (22,24) of each gripping device is eccentrically rotatable about an axis extending parallel to a rotation axis of the respective gripping device.
     
    2. An apparatus as claimed in claim 1, wherein the arcuate support surface (18,20) of each gripping device is located between a respective pair of end plates (30,32), the respective clamp member (22,24) being mounted between the end plates (30,32) for rotation between its first and second positions.
     
    3. An apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the direction of rotation of the clamp member (22,24) of each gripping device between its first and second positions is such that the respective clamp member (22,24) is biased towards its second position under the action of the workpiece during a stretch forming operation.
     
    4. An apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the clamp member (22,24) of each gripping device is provided with a respective operating lever (34) extending substantially radially therefrom for rotating the respective clamp member (22,24) between its first and second positions.
     
    5. An apparatus as claimed in claim 4, wherein a portion of the operating lever (34) of each clamp member is adapted to abut the respective arcuate support surface (18,20) when the clamp member (34) is in its second position.
     
    6. An apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein an end cap (12) is mounted on an upper end of each pin (10).
     
    7. An apparatus as claimed in claim 6, wherein each end cap (12) is articulated with respect to the pin (10) upon which the end cap is mounted to permit tilting of the end cap (12) with respect to the pin.
     
    8. An apparatus as claimed in claim 7, wherein the diameter of each end cap (12) is smaller than the diameter of the pin (10) upon which it is mounted
     
    9. An apparatus as claimed in claim 7 or claim 8, wherein each end cap (12) is mounted on a respective pin via a ball and socket coupling (14).
     
    10. An apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein each pin (10) comprises an upper part (104) and a base part (102), said upper and base parts being threadedly engaged with one another such the height of the pin (10) can be adjusted by rotation of the upper part (104) with respect to the base part (102), wherein the base part (102) of each pin (10) comprises a threaded rod or stud upon which the upper part (104) is threadedly engaged.
     
    11. An apparatus as claimed in claim 10, when dependent upon any of claims 7 to 9, wherein the underside of the end cap (12) of each pin (10) is adapted to engage a portion of the upper part (104) of the respective pin (10) to prevent rotation of the end cap (12) with respect to the pin (10) when the end cap (12) is tilted to an adjustment position with respect to the pin (10), such that a turning torque can be applied to the pin via the end cap (12) by means of a suitable tool (112) adapted to engage the end cap when in said adjustment position.
     
    12. An apparatus as claimed in claim 11, wherein the underside (106) of the end cap (12) is shaped to engage a face of a nut (110) located on the upper part of the pin (10) beneath the end cap (12) when the end cap (12) is in said adjustment position.
     
    13. An apparatus as claimed any preceding claim, wherein the gripping devices are linked via one or more linkage means to ensure that they both rotate by equal amounts when the drive means (36,38) is operated to ensure even stretching of the blank over the forming surface, wherein said linkage means comprise one or more gears and/or one or more rigid or flexible linkages.
     
    14. An apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the array of pins (10) are mounted on a support, the support and/or the workpiece gripping devices being displaceable vertically with respect to a common base, whereby the forming surface and the roller can be vertically displaced with respect to one another during a stretch forming process.
     
    15. An apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein an interpolator sheet (6) is mounted on top of the array of pins to define said reconfigurable forming surface.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Umkonfigurierbare Streckformvorrichtung, umfassend eine Anordnung von Stiften (10), die dazu angepasst sind, einzeln höhenverstellbar zu sein, um eine umkonfigurierbare Formgebungsfläche (4) zu definieren, wobei ein Paar Werkstück-Greifeinrichtungen auf gegenüberliegenden Seiten der Anordnung von Stiften bereitgestellt ist, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Greifeinichtungen gegenläufig drehen und dass die Greifeinichtungen jeweils eine bogenförmige Stützfläche (18, 20) aufweist, die eine äußere Oberfläche einer Walze (18, 20) zum Stützen eines Werkstücks und ein Klemmelement (22, 24) zum Klemmen eines Werkstücks an der bogenförmigen Stützfläche (18, 20) umfasst, wobei Antriebsmittel (36, 38) bereitgestellt sind, um die gegenläufig drehenden Greifeinichtungen in entgegengesetzten Richtungen zu drehen, um das Werkstück über die Formgebungsfläche (4) zu strecken, wobei das Klemmelement jeder Greifeinrichtung einen exzentrisch montierten Nocken oder eine exzentrisch montierte Walze (22, 24) umfasst, der bzw. die der bogenförmigen Stützfläche (18, 20) der entsprechenden Greifeinrichtung benachbart montiert ist, wobei eine äußere Oberfläche jedes Klemmelements (22, 24) eine Klemmfläche definiert, die auf die entsprechende bogenförmige Stützfläche (18, 20) wirkt, um ein Werkstück daran zu klemmen, wobei das Klemmelement (22, 24) zwischen einer ersten Stellung, in der die Klemmfläche des Klemmelements von der bogenförmigen Stützfläche beabstandet ist, und einer zweiten Stellung, in der sich die Klemmfläche des Klemmelements mit der bogenförmigen Stützfläche im Eingriff befindet und in der das Klemmelement (22, 24) jeder Greifeinrichtung um eine sich parallel zu einer Drehachse der entsprechenden Greifeinrichtung erstreckende Achse exzentrisch drehbar ist.
     
    2. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die bogenförmige Stützfläche (18, 20) jeder Greifeinrichtung zwischen einem entsprechenden Paar Endplatten (30, 32) liegt, wobei das entsprechende Klemmelement (22, 24) zur Drehung zwischen seiner ersten und seiner zweiten Stellung zwischen den Endplatten (30, 32) montiert ist.
     
    3. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Drehrichtung des Klemmelements (22, 24) jeder Greifeinrichtung zwischen seiner ersten und seiner zweiten Stellung derart ist, dass das entsprechende Klemmelement (22, 24) unter der Wirkung des Werkstücks während eines Streckformvorgangs in Richtung seiner zweiten Stellung gespannt wird.
     
    4. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Klemmelement (22, 24) jeder Greifvorrichtung mit einem entsprechenden Betätigungshebel (34) versehen ist, der sich im Wesentlichen radial davon erstreckt, um das entsprechende Klemmelement (22, 24) zwischen seiner ersten und seiner zweiten Stellung zu drehen.
     
    5. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 4, wobei ein Abschnitt des Betätigungshebels (34) jedes Klemmelements dazu angepasst ist, an der entsprechenden bogenförmigen Stützfläche (18, 20) anzuliegen, wenn sich das Klemmelement (34) in seiner zweiten Stellung befindet.
     
    6. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, wobei auf einem oberen Ende jedes Stifts (10) eine Endkappe (12) montiert ist.
     
    7. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 6, wobei die Endkappen (12) jeweils in Bezug auf den Stift (10), auf dem die Endkappe montiert ist, gelenkig angebracht sind, um das Kippen der Endkappe (12) in Bezug auf den Stift zu ermöglichen.
     
    8. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 7, wobei der Durchmesser jeder Endkappe (12) kleiner ist als der Durchmesser des Stifts (10), auf dem sie montiert ist.
     
    9. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 7 oder Anspruch 8, wobei die Endkappen (12) jeweils mittels einer Kugelgelenkkupplung (14) auf einem entsprechenden Stift montiert sind.
     
    10. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Stifte (10) jeweils einen oberen Teil (104) und einen Basisteil (102) umfassen, wobei der obere und der Basisteil sich mittels Gewinden miteinander im Eingriff befinden, sodass die Höhe des Stifts (10) durch Drehung des oberen Teils (104) in Bezug auf den Basisteil (102) verstellt werden kann, wobei der Basisteil (102) jedes Stifts (10) eine Gewindestange oder einen Gewindezapfen umfasst, auf dem sich der obere Teil (104) mittels Gewinden im Eingriff befindet.
     
    11. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 10, wenn abhängig von einem der Ansprüche 7 bis 9, wobei die Unterseite der Endkappe (12) jedes Stifts (10) für den Eingriff mit einem Abschnitt des oberen Teils (104) des entsprechenden Stifts (10) angepasst ist, um die Drehung der Endkappe (12) in Bezug auf den Stift (10) zu verhindern, wenn die Endkappe (12) in eine Verstellstellung in Bezug auf den Stift (10) gekippt wird, sodass mittels eines für den Eingriff mit der Endkappe geeigneten Werkzeugs (112) ein Drehmoment über die Endkappe (12) auf den Stift aufgebracht werden kann, wenn sie sich in der Verstellstellung befindet.
     
    12. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 11, wobei die Unterseite (106) der Endkappe (12) für den Eingriff mit einer Stirnfläche einer Mutter (110) geformt ist, die sich an dem oberen Teil des Stifts (10) unter der Endkappe (12) befindet, wenn sich die Endkappe (12) in der Verstellstellung befindet.
     
    13. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Greifeinrichtungen über ein oder mehrere Kopplungsmittel gekoppelt sind, um sicherzustellen, dass sie sich beide um einen gleichen Betrag drehen, wenn das Antriebsmittel (36, 38) betätigt wird, um das gleichmäßige Strecken des Rohlings über die Formgebungsfläche sicherzustellen, wobei die Kopplungsmittel ein oder mehrere Zahnräder und/oder ein oder mehrere starre oder biegsame Kopplungsglieder umfassen.
     
    14. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Anordnung von Stiften (10) auf einer Halterung montiert ist, wobei die Halterung und/oder die Werkstück-Greifeinrichtungen in Bezug auf eine gemeinsame Basis vertikal verschiebbar sind, wodurch die Formgebungsfläche und die Walze während eines Streckformprozesses in Bezug aufeinander vertikal verschoben werden können.
     
    15. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, wobei auf der Anordnung von Stiften ein Interpolatorblech (6) montiert ist, um die umkonfigurierbare Formgebungsfläche zu definieren.
     


    Revendications

    1. Appareil de formage par étirage reconfigurable comprenant un ensemble de broches (10) adaptées pour être réglables individuellement en hauteur afin de définir une surface de formage reconfigurable (4), une paire de dispositifs de préhension de pièce à usiner étant prévue sur des côtés opposés de l'ensemble de broches,
    caractérisé en ce que les dispositifs de préhension sont contrarotatifs et que chaque dispositif de préhension a une surface de support arquée (18, 20) comprenant une surface externe d'un rouleau (18, 20) pour supporter une pièce à usiner et un élément de serrage (22, 24) pour serrer une pièce à usiner contre ladite surface de support arquée (18, 20), des moyens d'entraînement (36, 38) étant prévus pour faire tourner les dispositifs de préhension contrarotatifs dans des sens opposés afin d'étirer la pièce à usiner sur la surface de formage (4), l'élément de serrage de chaque dispositif de préhension comprend une came ou un rouleau (22, 24) monté de manière excentrique adjacent à la surface de support arquée (18, 20) du dispositif de préhension respectif, une surface externe de chaque élément de serrage (22, 24) définissant une surface de serrage agissant contre la surface de support arquée respective (18, 20) afin de serrer une pièce à usiner contre celle-ci, dans lequel l'élément de serrage (22, 24) peut tourner entre une première position, dans laquelle la surface de serrage de l'élément de serrage est espacée de la surface de support arquée, et une deuxième position, dans laquelle la surface de serrage de l'élément de serrage vient en prise avec la surface de support arquée et dans laquelle l'élément de serrage (22, 24) de chaque dispositif de préhension peut tourner de manière excentrique autour d'un axe s'étendant parallèlement à un axe de rotation du dispositif de préhension respectif.
     
    2. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel la surface de support arquée (18, 20) de chaque dispositif de préhension est située entre une paire respective de plaques d'extrémité (30, 32), l'élément de serrage respectif (22, 24) étant monté entre les plaques d'extrémité (30, 32) pour une rotation entre ses première et deuxième positions.
     
    3. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel le sens de rotation de l'élément de serrage (22, 24) de chaque dispositif de préhension entre ses première et deuxième positions est tel que l'élément de serrage respectif (22, 24) est sollicité vers sa deuxième position sous l'action de la pièce à usiner pendant une opération de formage par étirage.
     
    4. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel l'élément de serrage (22, 24) de chaque dispositif de préhension est muni d'un levier d'actionnement respectif (34) s'étendant sensiblement radialement à partir de celui-ci pour faire tourner l'élément de serrage respectif (22, 24) entre ses première et deuxième positions.
     
    5. Appareil selon la revendication 4, dans lequel une partie du levier d'actionnement (34) de chaque élément de serrage est adaptée pour venir en butée contre la surface de support arquée respective (18, 20) lorsque l'élément de serrage (34) se trouve dans sa deuxième position.
     
    6. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel un embout (12) est monté sur une extrémité supérieure de chaque broche (10).
     
    7. Appareil selon la revendication 6, dans lequel chaque embout (12) est articulé par rapport à la broche (10) sur laquelle l'embout est monté afin de permettre l'inclinaison de l'embout (12) par rapport à la broche.
     
    8. Appareil selon la revendication 7, dans lequel le diamètre de chaque embout (12) est plus petit que le diamètre de la broche (10) sur laquelle il est monté.
     
    9. Appareil selon la revendication 7 ou la revendication 8, dans lequel chaque embout (12) est monté sur une broche respective par l'intermédiaire d'un accouplement à rotule (14).
     
    10. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel chaque broche (10) comprend une partie supérieure (104) et une partie de base (102), lesdites parties supérieure et de base étant en prise par filetage l'une avec l'autre de telle sorte que la hauteur de la broche (10) peut être réglée par rotation de la partie supérieure (104) par rapport à la partie de base (102), dans lequel la partie de base (102) de chaque broche (10) comprend une tige filetée ou un goujon fileté sur laquelle ou sur lequel la partie supérieure (104) est en prise par filetage.
     
    11. Appareil selon la revendication 10, lorsqu'elle dépend de l'une quelconque des revendications 7 à 9, dans lequel la face inférieure de l'embout (12) de chaque broche (10) est adaptée pour venir en prise avec une partie de la partie supérieure (104) de la broche respective (10) afin d'empêcher la rotation de l'embout (12) par rapport à la broche (10) lorsque l'embout (12) est incliné vers une position de réglage par rapport à la broche (10), de telle sorte qu'un couple de rotation peut être appliqué à la broche par l'intermédiaire de l'embout (12) au moyen d'un outil approprié (112) adapté pour venir en prise avec l'embout lorsqu'il se trouve dans ladite position de réglage.
     
    12. Appareil selon la revendication 11, dans lequel la face inférieure (106) de l'embout (12) est façonnée pour venir en prise avec une face d'un écrou (110) situé sur la partie supérieure de la broche (10) en dessous de l'embout (12) lorsque l'embout (12) se trouve dans ladite position de réglage.
     
    13. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel les dispositifs de préhension sont reliés par l'intermédiaire d'un ou de plusieurs moyens de liaison afin d'assurer qu'ils tournent tous les deux de quantités égales lorsque le moyen d'entraînement (36, 38) est actionné afin d'assurer un étirage uniforme de l'ébauche sur la surface de formage, dans lequel lesdits moyens de liaison comprennent un ou plusieurs engrenages et/ou une ou plusieurs liaisons rigides ou flexibles.
     
    14. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel l'ensemble de broches (10) est monté sur un support, le support et/ou les dispositifs de préhension de la pièce à usiner pouvant être déplacés verticalement par rapport à une base commune, ce par quoi la surface de formage et le rouleau peuvent être déplacés verticalement l'un par rapport à l'autre pendant un processus de formage par étirage.
     
    15. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel une feuille d'interpolateur (6) est montée au-dessus de l'ensemble de broches afin de définir ladite surface de formage reconfigurable.
     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description