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Title:
REVERSIBLE FASTENERS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/002406
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present disclosure relates to a device that reversibly joins to parts or portions of parts. The device may be used in any joining function where it is useful to have a precise and reversible connection. In certain aspects, the device comprises an expansion piece (711) that can be compressed either inside a channel such as a screw hole or around an external portion of a part, by the action of applying tension on a part of the device.

Inventors:
AERTS JORIS (BE)
KHASELEV PETRO (BE)
RASKO IVAN (BE)
WILCKE LEANDER (BE)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2018/067321
Publication Date:
January 03, 2019
Filing Date:
June 27, 2018
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
RAPIDFIT NV (BE)
International Classes:
F16B2/04; F16B2/10; F16B2/12; F16B19/10
Foreign References:
DE102005007208A12006-08-24
US20080127684A12008-06-05
US2146575A1939-02-07
US20100310304A12010-12-09
US9157465B22015-10-13
DE7309586U
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ABEL & IMRAY (GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A device for reversibly fastening to an internal or external channel of a part, comprising: a housing comprising a case, the housing further comprising a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof;

an expansion piece comprising a second hollow channel; and

a cable comprising a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channel and the second hollow channel, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece,

wherein the cable stopper is configured to move between at least two different positions comprising:

(i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area; and

(ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

2. The device of claim 1, wherein the housing further comprises an adaptor.

3. The device of claim 2, wherein the adaptor comprises a surface that forms an interface with the part.

4. The device of claim 2 or claim 3, wherein the adaptor comprises a third hollow channel in which the at least portion of the expansion piece is located.

5. The device of any one of claims 1-4, further comprising a cable housing that surrounds a portion of the cable that is not located in the hollow channel.

6. The device of claim 5, wherein the cable is connected to a cable hub.

7. The device of any one of claims 1-6, wherein the expansion piece is configured to expand in response to pressure from the cable stopper when the cable is pulled.

8. The device of claim 7, wherein the expansion piece expands until a portion of the expansion piece has a cross-sectional area that is approximately equal to the cross-sectional area of the hollow channel extending through the housing.

9. The device of any one of claims 1-8, wherein the expansion piece comprises an elongated hollow and optionally a base, wherein the base fits into the adaptor.

10. The device of any one of claims 1-9, wherein in the first position the cable stopper exerts limited or no pressure on the expansion piece, and wherein in the second position the cable stopper exerts greater pressure on the expansion piece than in the first position.

11. A method for reversibly fastening a device to a part from an internal side of the part, comprising the steps of:

identifying an open lumen on the internal side of the part;

inserting into the open lumen a portion of a device comprising:

a housing comprising a case, the housing further comprising a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof;

an expansion piece comprising a second hollow channel; and

a cable comprising a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channel and the second hollow channel, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece; and

pulling the cable to move the cable stopper between at least two different positions, comprising:

(i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross- sectional area; and

(ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross- sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

12. A device for reversibly fastening to an external portion of a part, comprising:

a fixed portion comprising an expansion piece at its distal end, wherein the expansion piece is configured to receive the external portion of the part;

a slider comprising a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof and an opening at its distal end, wherein the opening is configured to receive the external portion of the part, and wherein the slider is configured to fit over the expansion piece and the fixed portion; and

a cable fixedly connected to the slider, wherein the cable is configured to pull the slider into at least two different positions comprising: (i) a first position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area; and

(ii) a second position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

A method for reversibly fastening a device to an external portion of a part, comprising the identifying an external portion on the part;

inserting the external portion of the part into a device comprising:

a fixed portion comprising an expansion piece at its distal end, wherein the expansion piece is configured to receive the external portion of the part;

a slider comprising a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof and an opening at its distal end, wherein the opening is configured to receive the external portion of the part, and wherein the slider is configured to fit over the expansion piece and the fixed portion; and

a cable fixedly connected to the slider; and

pulling the cable to bring the slider into one of at least two different positions comprising:

(i) a first position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area; and

(ii) a second position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

A method for reversibly fastening a device to an external portion of a part, comprising the identifying an external portion on the part;

inserting the external portion of the part into a device comprising:

a housing comprising a case, the housing further comprising a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof;

an expansion piece comprising a second hollow channel; and a cable comprising a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channel and the second hollow channel, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece; and

pulling the cable to move the cable stopper between at least two different positions, comprising:

(i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross- sectional area; and

(ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross- sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

Description:
REVERSIBLE FASTENERS

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. US 62/525,593 filed on 27 June 2017. The content of the provisional application is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Technical Field

[0002] The present disclosure relates to a device that reversibly joins to parts or portions of parts. The device may be used in any joining function where it is useful to have a precise and reversible connection. In certain aspects, the device comprises an expansion piece that can be compressed either inside a channel such as a screw hole or around an external portion of a part, by the action of applying tension on a part of the device.

Description of the Related Technology

[0003] A secure and precise connection between mechanical parts may be useful for any system or apparatus comprising more than one part. In some systems, particularly those with parts that will be permanently joined, a connection made with standard fasteners may be sufficient. For example, screws such as self-tapping screws that create their threads as they drive into a material may be used to attach a first part with a second part. Other suitable options for joining parts include gluing or welding, for example, by ultrasonic welding or friction welding. These solutions are inexpensive and easy to use, but are not suitable when the parts must be reversibly joined. Removing screws can damage the interior of the parts, while welding is not reversible, and gluing may be irreversible or simply impractical to reverse. Thus, when parts must be connected in a reversible manner, they cannot be joined by standard fasteners.

[0004] The need for reversible and highly-accurate connections arises often in the field of fixturing, where automotive or aerospace parts are held or fixated in place for performing functional or quality measurements. Parts are typically held in place on measurement fixtures (also called fixtures) which secure a part or a portion of a part in a specific position. Fixtures may be equipped with locators, which attach to the fixture and ensure contact with the part or the portion of the part in a configuration that establishes and maintains the position of the part, for example, by constraining the movement of the part. A locator may be built for each and every attachment point on a part so that the part can be accurately mounted and measured. Although a given set of parts may be permanently joined at these attachment points via standard fasteners when they are assembled in a finished vehicle or aircraft, the parts may need to be initially subjected to highly-accurate tests on fixtures that mimic their final setting. The parts may then need to be removed from the fixture without damage.

[0005] Because standard fasteners are not suitable for fixturing applications, one common alternative is to use an external clamp to attach the part to the fixture. This type of clamp can be precisely positioned on the fixture, and will press the exterior face or side (the A side) of the part against the attachment points on the locator. However, the presence of the clamps can hinder measurements that are often made on the A side of the part, and can damage the A side.

[0006] There remains a need in the art for devices and methods for joining parts in a reversible, reproducible, and highly-accurate manner. These devices and methods may be used for fixturing or for any application requiring a connection or connections that are non-damaging.

SUMMARY

[0007] One aspect of the present disclosure relates to a device for reversibly fastening to an internal channel of a part, comprising: a housing comprising a case, the housing having a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof; an expansion piece with a hollow channel; and a cable having a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channels of the housing and the expansion piece, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece, wherein the cable stopper is configured to move between at least two different positions comprising: (i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

[0008] In some embodiments, the housing further comprises an adaptor. The adaptor may have a surface that forms an interface with the part. The adaptor may have a hollow channel in which at least a portion of the expansion piece is located.

[0009] The device may comprise a cable housing that surrounds a portion of the cable that is not located in the hollow channel. In some embodiments, the cable is connected to a cable hub.

[0010] In the device, the expansion piece may be configured to expand in response to pressure from the cable stopper when the cable is pulled. In some embodiments, the expansion piece expands until a portion of the expansion piece has a cross-sectional area that is approximately equal to the cross- sectional area of the hollow channel extending through the housing. The expansion piece may comprise an elongated hollow and optionally a base, wherein the base fits into the adaptor.

[0011] In some embodiments, in the device's first position the cable stopper exerts limited or no pressure on the expansion piece, and wherein in the device's second position the cable stopper exerts greater pressure on the expansion piece than in the first position.

[0012] A further aspect of the present disclosure relates to a method for reversibly fastening a device to a part from an internal side of the part, comprising the steps of: identifying an open lumen on the internal side of the part; inserting into the open lumen a portion of a device comprising a housing comprising a case, the housing having a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof; an expansion piece with a hollow channel; and a cable having a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channels of the housing and the expansion piece, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece; pulling the cable to move the cable stopper between at least two different positions, comprising (i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross- sectional area.

[0013] Another aspect of the present disclosure relates to a device for reversibly fastening to an external portion of a part, comprising: a fixed portion having an expansion piece at its distal end, wherein the expansion piece is configured to receive the external portion of the part; a slider comprising a hollow channel extending th rough at least a portion thereof and an opening at its distal end, wherein the opening is configured to receive the external portion of the part, and wherein the slider is configured to fit over the expansion piece and the fixed portion; and a cable fixedly connected to the slider, wherein the cable is configured to pull the slider into at least two different positions comprising: (i) a first position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

[0014] Still another aspect of the present disclosure relates to a method for reversibly fastening a device to an external portion of a part, comprising the steps of: identifying an external portion on the part; inserting the external portion of the part into a device comprising: a fixed portion having an expansion piece at its distal end, wherein the expansion piece is configured to receive the external portion of the part; a slider comprising a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof and an opening at its distal end, wherein the opening is configured to receive the external portion of the part, and wherein the slider is configured to fit over the an expansion piece and the fixed portion; and a cable fixedly connected to the slider; pulling the cable to bring the slider into one of at least two different positions comprising: (i) a first position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

[0015] Still another aspect of the present disclosure relates to a method for reversibly fastening a device to an external portion of a part, comprising the steps of: identifying an external portion on the part; inserting the external portion of the part into a device comprising: a housing comprising a case, the housing having a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof; an expansion piece with a hollow channel; and a cable having a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channels of the housing and the expansion piece, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece; pulling the cable to move the cable stopper between at least two different positions, comprising (i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross- sectional area

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] Figure 1 illustrates an example of a computer environment suitable for the implementation of 3D object design and manufacturing.

[0017] Figure 2 illustrates a functional block diagram of one example of a computer.

[0018] Figure 3 shows a high level process for manufacturing a 3D object using the methods and systems disclosed herein.

[0019] Figure 4 is an example of a scanning system which may be calibrated using the methods and systems disclosed herein.

[0020] Figure 5 shows a workflow for operating the devices disclosed herein. [0021] Figures 6A-6D show an example part and fastening device that uses external clamps.

[0022] Figures 7A-7C show an embodiment of a device used to grip or fasten an internal portion of a part.

[0023] Figure 8A-8C show three views of a part as it is engaged in the device of Figures 7A-7C.

[0024] Figures 9A-9B show additional views of the device of Figures 7A-7C engaged to a part, and an embodiment in which an alignment locator is used.

[0025] Figures 10A-10D show a further embodiment of a device which may be used for clamping an external portion of a part.

[0026] Figures 11A-11C show an embodiment of the mechanism whereby the device of Figures 10A-10D is engaged with the part.

[0027] Figures 12A-12D show another example part and another embodiment of a device for reversibly fastening to an external portion of the part.

[0028] Figures 13A-13C show a further embodiment of a device which may be used for clamping an external portion of a part.

[0029] Figures 14A-14C show an embodiment of the mechanism whereby the device of Figures 13A-13C is engaged with the part.

[0030] Figures 15A-15D show a further embodiment of a device which may be used for clamping an external portion of a part.

[0031] Figures 16A-16C show an embodiment of the mechanism whereby the device of Figures 15A-15D is engaged with the part.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN INVENTIVE EMBODIMENTS

[0032] The present disclosure relates to devices and methods for reversibly fastening to a part, for example, internally through a hollow channel or externally around an external portion of the part. In some embodiments, the device is joined to a part using an internal fastener mechanism that pulls the device and the part together from the interior side or face (the B side) of the part and is not visible from the exterior side or face (the A side). In certain embodiments, the device is joined to a part using an external fastener mechanism that pulls the device and the part together from an external portion on the A side of the part.

[0033] Figure 5 shows how an example device is operated to reversibly fasten a part. The device may be located on another object, or on a reference structure to which the part may be reversibly fastened. In a first step 501, a part may be selected. The part may be an entire object or may be a component of a larger object. The part may be fastened to another part for any purpose, such as measurements, quality checks, and/or examination for fit. In some embodiments, the part may be fastened for a purpose and then immediately unfastened using the device for reversible fastening as described herein. In steps 502 and 503, a portion of the part may be selected for fastening. In certain embodiments, only one of steps 502 (and corresponding step 504) or 503 (and corresponding step 505) may be performed. The portion that will be fastened may be on the B side of the part (see, for example, the A side 601 and the B side 602 in Figure 6A). In step 502, an internal portion of the part may be selected. Internal parts may comprise a hollow shape or open space on the part, such as a hollow channel configured to receive complementary shapes. The screw holes 603 in Figure 6C are examples of internal portions of a part. In step 503, an external portion of a part may be selected. External portions may comprise protrusions, contours, or surfaces on the part. The portion of the part may comprise a surface, such as a flat surface or a contoured surface, to which the device fits conformally. An example external part is illustrated in Figure 11A (external portion of part 1103). A portion of a part may have both internal and external portions, either of which may be selected for fastening. For example, the screw holes 603 in Figure 6C have an open channel which may be selected as an internal portion for internal fastening. The screw holes may also have an external surface which may be selected as an external portion for external fastening. A part may comprise numerous portions, either internal or external or both, which may be selected for fastening. In some embodiments, the portions may be selected because they are intended as sites for fasteners that are not reversible. For example, portions may be designated for permanent or semi-permanent fastening, and may not be configured for repeated fastening and unfastening that does not damage the part.

[0034] A device, as described herein and configured for reversible fastening may be placed inside an internal portion of a part 504, or around an external portion of a part 505. The device may comprise components such as an expansion device and a tension controlling device. In step 506, which is the same step regardless of whether the device fastens to the internal portion of the part or the external portion of the part, tension may be applied to the expansion piece, causing the expansion piece to change dimensions. Because the expansion piece changes dimensions, it contacts a portion of a part and creates a secure and/or conformal fit between the device and the portion of the part, thereby fastening the part. Subsequently, the part may be released by again applying tension against the expansion piece, causing it to change dimensions again (step 508). In this configuration, the expansion piece loses contact with the portion of the part, and the part may be unfastened from the device (step 509). [0035] Fixturing is one example field where parts may be connected often, reversibly, and preferably in a manner not visible from the A side. Many parts destined for vehicles or aircraft have multiple attachment points, and it is time consuming to connect and then disconnect a part at each attachment point for fixturing. Nonetheless, for accurate fixturing, parts may need be attached to fixtures or locators on fixtures in a manner that precisely mimics the connection that they will later have in the actual vehicle. As auto parts, especially interior parts such as car doors or arm rests, are often attached to the vehicle by screws, the fixtures may need to replicate the interfaces created by screw fasteners. However, connections made between the parts and the fixtures may need to be reversible and non- damaging.

[0036] Current solutions depend on external clamping, as shown in Fig. 6D. Here, a part is fastened to another object, in this case a locator 604 that is attached to a fixture 605. An external clamp 606 contacts the A side of the part and holds the part against the locator, creating an interface 607 between the part and the locator. Because the clamps contact the A side of the part, access to the A side is obstructed. Moreover, the clamps must be adjusted, opened, and closed manually, which is time- consuming.

Internal fastening

[0037] One aspect of the present disclosure relates to a device for reversibly fastening to an internal channel of a part, comprising: a housing comprising a case, the housing having a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof; an expansion piece with a hollow channel; and a tensioning control device comprising a component such as a cable having a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channels of the housing and the expansion piece, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece, wherein the cable stopper is configured to move between at least two different positions comprising: (i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

[0038] The features of an example part for internal fastening are illustrated in Figures 6A-8C. Figures 6A-6C show several views of an example part 600 and a state of the art solution for reversibly attaching the part to another object. In Fig. 6A, the A side of the part 601 is shown. The A side will be visible after the part is attached. Fig. 6B shows the B side of the part 602, having internal channels 603, such as screw holes that may be used to fasten the part to another object, such as a fixture. Fig. 6C is a close up view of the internal channels 603 with an opening 604.

[0039] Figures 7A-7C show an embodiment of the device. Fig. 7A is an exterior view of the device 710. Visible from this view is an end of the expansion piece 711, which is extending slightly outside of the edge of the adaptor 712, the case 713, and a cable housing 714. Fig. 7B shows an interior view of the device 710, illustrating the face of the adaptor 712 which will contact the B-side of the part at the desired location(s) on the B side. In some embodiments, the contact points on the B side are attachment points configured to align the part when it is attached to other parts. Fig. 7C shows the same interior view, with the adaptor 712 removed to show more details of the expansion piece 711.

[0040] Figures 8A-8C show an embodiment of the mechanism whereby the device 710 is engaged with the part 600. In each of Figs. 8A-8C, the upper panel shows an exterior view where the adaptor 712 is illustrated in shadow so that the action of the expansion piece is clear, while the lower panel is a cross- section showing the interior view. In Fig. 8A, the part 600 is not yet engaged with the device 710. The cable stop 716 and cable 717, and expansion piece 711 are visible in the lower panel. In Fig. 8B, the part 600 is partially engaged with the device 710. The distal end of the internal channel 603 of the part 600 is inserted into an opening in the adaptor 712 of the device 710, while the cable stop 716 and the distal end of the expansion piece 711 are inserted into the internal channel 603 of the part 600. A small gap 820 between the part 600 and the device 710 is visible. In Fig. 8C, the part 600 is fully engaged with the device 710. The cable 717 has been pulled in the direction of the arrow 821, causing the cable stop 716 to deform the expansion piece 711 and fixedly join the part 600 and the device 710 together.

[0041] In some embodiments, the device comprises a spring. The spring may be located behind the expansion piece, in order to provide extra movement in the axial direction, for example, allowing the expansion piece in its expanded configuration (i.e., compressed and fixedly attached to the internal channel of the part 600) to move further. This may be used in situations where a small gap 820 is present, even after the expansion piece has pulled to obtain its maximum expansion. Gaps may arise when a part is slightly deformed and an interface with the device is difficult to obtain. In addition, a part that has many connection points may form an interface with devices in a subset of connection points, while leaving a gap between devices at other connection points. The addition of the spring located behind the expansion piece allows extra movement to account for the gaps.

[0042] Figures 9A-9B show 2 additional views of the device 710 engaged to the part 600. In Fig. 9A, the A side 601 of the part 600 is shown. Fig. 9B shows a possible use of the adaptor 712 of the device 710 in combination with another locator, which is an alignment locator 940 attached to a fixture 930. In such a configuration, precise alignment between the device 710 and the part 600 may be achieved by the alignment locator 940 rather than by the adaptor. Thus, the precise alignment may be accomplished by the presence of the other locators that are separate from the device. For example, the adaptor of the device is solely used to house the cable and pull the part towards the other locator. Accordingly, clamping and referencing functions are performed separately. This configuration may be used when a select number of all available internal channels on the part (for example, 3 out of a possible 7 screw holes) are used for referencing or aligning, while other internal channels (for example, the remaining 4 out of 7 screw holes) are used to reinforce the connection between the part and the device rather than for precise alignment measurements. In some configurations, there are main mounting points on the part, which are distinct from mounting points that are support points. Notably, this configuration may mimic the actual, final mounting configuration of the part to the car.

External fastening

[0043] In addition to internal fastening at the hollow internal channels such as screw holes, parts may also be fastened externally. For example, parts may have protrusions such as arms, pins, convex shapes, or geometric extensions, wherein the protrusions either do not have a hollow channel, or it is desirable to fasten the part to a device around the external surface of the protrusion.

[0044] A further aspect of the present disclosure relates to a device for reversibly fastening to an external portion of a part, comprising a fixed portion having an expansion piece at its distal end, wherein the expansion piece is configured to receive the external portion of the part; a slider comprising a hollow channel extending th rough at least a portion thereof and an opening at its distal end, wherein the opening is configured to receive the external portion of the part, and wherein the slider is configured to fit over the expansion piece and the fixed portion; and a cable fixedly connected to the slider, wherein the cable is configured to pull the slider into at least two different positions comprising (i) a first position in which interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which the interaction between the slider and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross- sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area .

[0045] Figures 10A-10D & 11A-11C show a further embodiment of a device 1010, used for clamping an external portion of a part.

[0046] Figures 10A-10D show a further embodiment of the device 1010, used for clamping an external portion of a part (not shown). Figs. 10A and 10B show two views of the device 1010, showing a case 1013, cover 1014, and a slider 1016. In Fig. 10B, an opening 1017 in the slider is visible. The solid arrow 1020 indicates the direction that the slider will move relative to the device 1010, which will cause a deformation of an expansion piece (not visible) located on the interior of the slider 1016.

[0047] In Fig. IOC, the cover 1014 is removed to show the exterior of the slider 1016 and the fixed bushing 1015 along which the slider 1016 slides. Also visible is a metal lip 1012 at one end of the fixed bushing 1015. In Fig. 10D, the slider 1016 has been removed to show the exterior of the fixed bushing 1015 and an expansion piece 1011 which is deformable or compressible in the direction of the dashed arrow. The expansion piece 1011 is deformed or compressed by the slider 1016. The device may further comprise a spring (not shown) which helps to return the device to its original position, with the expansion piece in a relaxed (not deformed) configuration.

[0048] Figures 11A-11C show an embodiment of the mechanism whereby the device 1010 is engaged with the part 600. In each of Figs. 11A-11C, the upper panel shows an exterior view where the cover 1014 is illustrated in shadow so that the action of the expansion piece is clear, while the lower panel is a cross-section showing the interior view. In Fig. 11A, the part 600 is not yet engaged with the device 1010. In Fig. 11B, the part 600 is partially engaged with the device 1010. The distal end of a protruding portion 603 of the part 600 is inserted into the opening 1017 of the slider 1016 on the device 1010. The protruding portion 603 is also positioned inside of an opening in the expansion piece 1011. A small gap 1120 between the part 600 and the device 1010 is visible. In Fig. 11C, the part 600 is fully engaged with the device 1010. A cable or other tensioning element (not shown) pulls the slider 1016 in the direction of the solid arrow 1121, causing the slider 1016 to deform the expansion piece 1011 around the protruding portion 603 of the part. In the process, the expansion piece 1011 is expanded in cross-sectional area/circumference (and/or) surface area and fits tightly against the protruding portion 603 of the device, thereby drawing the part 600 and the device 1010 together.

[0049] In some embodiments, the slider is a cylinder, but any geometric shape may be used. For example, the slider may be conformal to the shape of the protruding portion.

[0050] Figures 12A-12D show another example part 1200 and another embodiment of a device 1210 for reversibly fastening to an external portion of the part 1200. Figures 13A-C and Figures 14A-C show further views of the device 1210.

[0051] Similar to Figure 6A, Figure 12A shows the A side of the part 1201. Further, similar to Figure 6B, Figure 12B shows the B side of the part 1202. The A side will be visible after the part is attached. Figs. 12B and 12C show the B side of the part 1202 including a protrusion 1203 extending from the B side of the part 1202. The protrusion 1203 is shown as a partially flat male coupling that may interface with a clip-like coupling device, but may be of any suitable shape and size.

[0052] Figure 12D illustrates an embodiment of a device 1210 for reversibly fastening to an external portion of a part. In particular, device 1210 is shown attached to a fixture 1205. The device 1210 clamps onto the protrusion 1203 of part 1200 to hold the part 1200 in position.

[0053] Figs. 13A and 13B show two views of the device 1210, showing an adaptor 1212, a case 1213, and a cable puller 1213. The adaptor 1212 includes an opening 1217 sized and shaped to conform to the protrusion 1203. In particular, the opening 1217 is sized and shaped so the protrusion 1203 can be inserted into the opening 1217 in a given orientation and position. An expansion piece 1201 is located internally in the device 1210 and visible and accessible through the opening 1217. In Fig. 13C a shadowed view of the device 1210 is shown to illustrate internal components of the device 1210. As shown, the device 1210 further includes the expansion piece 1201. As shown in device 1210, the expansion piece 1201 is formed as a clamp having two movable arms or jaws that can move about an axis or fulcrum to either a relaxed/not deformed/not compressed/open/not clamped configuration/position or to an engaged/deformed/compressed/closed/clamped configuration position. For example, in the relaxed position, the jaws of the expansion piece 1201 are moved away from each other (the expansion piece has a larger cross-section area) and can accept the protrusion 1203 when inserted into the expansion piece 1201. Further, when the jaws of the expansion piece 1201 are in the relaxed position the protrusion 1203 is free to move with respect to the expansion piece and is not held in place by the expansion piece. In the engaged position, the jaws of the expansion piece 1201 are moved toward each other (the expansion piece has a smaller cross-section area) and can clamp onto and engage the protrusion 1203 that is inserted into the expansion piece 1201. Further, when the jaws of the expansion piece 1201 are in the engaged position around the protrusion 1203, the protrusion 1203 is restricted from moving with respect to the expansion piece and is held in place by the expansion piece 1201.

[0054] Figures 14A-14C show an embodiment of the mechanism whereby the device 1210 is engaged with the part 1200. In each of Figs. 14A-14C, the upper panel shows an exterior view where the case 1213 is illustrated in shadow so that the action of the expansion piece is clear, while the lower panel is a cross-section showing the interior view. In Fig. 14A, the part 1200 is not yet engaged with the device 1210. A cable stop 1216, cable 1218, and expansion piece 1201 are visible in the lower panel. The cable 1218 is coupled at one end to the cable puller 1214, and at the other end to the cable stop 1216. The cable 1218 runs through a cable housing of the cable pu ller 1214 and through an internal channel or cable housing of the expansion piece 1214. The cable stop 1216 is configured to interact with expansion piece 1201 as further discussed herein. The cable stop 1216 may be sized larger than the internal channel of the expansion piece 1201 so that it abuts against a surface of the expansion piece 1201 around the internal channel. Accordingly, when the cable 1218 is pulled/tensioned, such as using the cable puller 1214, it causes the expansion piece 1201 to move in the same direction the cable 1218 is pulled and transition from the relaxed position to the engaged position. When the cable 1218 is released from tension, the expansion piece 1201 may return to a relaxed position. The device 1210 may further comprise a spring (not shown) which helps to return the device to its original position, with the expansion piece in a relaxed (not deformed) position.

[0055] In Fig. 14B, the part 1200 is partially engaged with the device 1210. The distal end of a protruding portion 1203 of the part 1200 is inserted into the opening 1217 of the adaptor 1212 on the device 1210. The protruding portion 1203 is also positioned inside of an opening in the expansion piece 1201. In Fig. 14C, the part 1200 is fully engaged with the device 1210. The cable 1218 or other tensioning element (not shown), such as using the cable puller 1214, pulls the expansion piece 1201 in the direction of the solid arrow 1221, causing the expansion piece 1201 to deform and clamp onto the protruding portion 1203 of the part 1200. For example, the cable stop 1218 creates a force near a center axis of the expansion piece 1201 that causes the jaws to rotate toward the direction the cable stop 1218 is pulled and move to the engaged position. As shown, the cable puller 1214 may be rotated and include an arm 1225 that in the rotated state interacts with the case 1213 to keep the expansion pieced in the engaged position.

[0056] Figures 15A-D and Figures 16A-C show views of another example device 1510 for reversibly fastening to an external portion of a part, such as part 1200.

[0057] Figures 15A-15D show a further embodiment of the device 1510, used for clamping an external portion of a part (not shown). Figs. 15A and 15B show two views of the device 1510, showing a case 1513, cover 1514, and a slider 1516 (e.g., sliding bushing). In Fig. 15B, an opening 1517 in the slider 1516 is visible. The solid arrow 1520 indicates the direction that the slider will move relative to the device 1510, which will cause a deformation of an expansion piece 1511 located on the interior of the slider 1516.

[0058] In Figs. 15C & 15D, the cover 1514 is removed to show the exterior of the slider 1516 and a fixed bushing 1515 along which the slider 1516 slides. Also visible is a compressible member 1518 (e.g., spring) at one end of the fixed bushing 1515. As shown, an expansion piece 1511 is located inside the slider 1516 at another end of the fixed bushing 1515. A cable 1520 runs through the case 1513 and through a channel in the slider 1516. A cable stop 1522 is positioned at an end of the cable 1520 that is nearerthe slider 1516. In particular, the cable stop 1522 is configured to abut a surface of the slider 1516. [0059] As shown in device 1510, the expansion piece 1511 is formed as a clamp having two arms or jaws that can move clamp down or release either a relaxed/not deformed/not compressed/open/not clamped configuration/position or to an engaged/deformed/compressed/closed/clamped configuration position. For example, in the relaxed position, the jaws of the expansion piece 1511 are moved away from each other (the expansion piece has a larger cross-section area) and can accept the protrusion 1203 when inserted into the expansion piece 1511. Further, when the jaws of the expansion piece 1511 are in the relaxed position the protrusion 1203 is free to move with respect to the expansion piece and is not held in place by the expansion piece. In the engaged position, the jaws of the expansion piece 1511 are moved toward each other (the expansion piece has a smaller cross-section area) and can clamp onto and engage the protrusion 1203 that is inserted into the expansion piece 1511. Further, when the jaws of the expansion piece 1511 are in the engaged position around the protrusion 1203, the protrusion 1203 is restricted from moving with respect to the expansion piece and is held in place by the expansion piece 1511.

[0060] The cable stop 1522 is configured to interact with the slider 1516, which interacts with the expansion piece 1511 as further discussed herein. The cable stop 1522 may be sized larger than the internal channel of the slider 1516 so that it abuts against a surface of the slider 1516 around the internal channel. Accordingly, when the cable 1520 is pulled/tensioned it causes the slider 1516 to move in the same direction the cable 1520 is pulled. The slider 1516 accordingly slides along the fixed bushing 1515. A portion of the slider 1516, as shown, is shaped (e.g., tapered) to interact with the expansion piece 1511 when pulled along the fixed bushing 1515 causingthe expansion piece 1511 to transition from the relaxed position to the engaged position. When the cable 1520 is released from tension, the expansion piece 1511 may return to a relaxed position. The compressible member 1518 may help to return the device to its original position, with the expansion piece 1511 in a relaxed (not deformed) position.

[0061] Figures 16A-16C show an embodiment of the mechanism whereby the device 1510 is engaged with the part 1200. In each of Figs. 16A-16C, the upper panel shows an exterior view where the cover 1514 is illustrated in shadow so that the action of the expansion piece is clear, while the lower panel is a cross-section showing the interior view. In Fig. 16A, the part 1200 is not yet engaged with the device 1510. In Fig. 16B, the part 1200 is partially engaged with the device 1510. The distal end of a protruding portion 1203 of the part 1200 is inserted into the opening 1517 of the slider 1516 on the device 1510. The protruding portion 1203 is also positioned inside of an opening in the expansion piece 1511. In Fig. 16C, the part 1200 is fully engaged with the device 1510. A cable 1520 or other tensioning element (not shown) pulls the slider 1516 in the direction of the solid arrow 1521, causing the slider 1516 to deform the expansion piece 1511 around the protruding portion 603 of the part. In the process, the expansion piece 1511 is clamped down tightly against the protruding portion 6003 of the device. In some embodiments, the slider is a cylinder, but any geometric shape may be used. For example, the slider may be conformal to the shape of the protruding portion.

[0062] One aspect of the present disclosure relates to a device for reversibly fastening to an external channel/protrusion of a part, comprising: a housing comprising a case, the housing having a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof; an expansion piece with a hollow channel; and a tensioning control device comprising a component such as a cable having a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channels of the housing and the expansion piece, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece, wherein the cable stopper is configured to move between at least two different positions comprising: (i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area.

Expansion piece and housing

[0063] In any of the devices described herein, the expansion piece may be made of flexible and/or compressible material, which allows the expansion piece to be deformed by the pressure from a tensioning control device. The tensioning control device may comprise at least one of a cable stopper and a cable, and any means to pull or secure the cable in a direction towards the device. For one position of the cable stopper, the expansion piece has a first cross sectional area (for example, a first circumference). When the cable stopper is pulled, the expansion piece is deformed and/or expanded so that at least a portion of the expansion piece has a second cross-sectional area (for example, a second circumference) that is greater than a first cross-sectional area where the expansion piece is not deformed. The second cross-sectional area creates a tight fit between the internal wall of the part and the expansion piece. Accordingly, the device and the part can be joined together securely and accurately. Because the expansion piece is made of a flexible material, parts in a range of sizes can be accommodated by the same expansion piece. For example, parts with internal channels (e.g., screw holes) ranging in diameter from 0.5 mm to 6.0 mm may be used with one or more different sizes of expansion pieces. An example expansion piece may be used for any internal channels having a radius between 2.0 mm - 4.0 mm, while another expansion piece may be used for any internal channels having a radius between 4.0 mm - 6.0 mm.

[0064] Expansion pieces may be manufactured using either additive or subtractive manufacturing processes. An expansion piece may be custom-made for a part, or may be made to standard sizes. An expansion piece may be configured to hold a portion of a part in a specific position and/or to hold the portion of the part in a grip having a specific strength. For example, a portion of a part may be held tightly by an expansion piece of a large size or having a thick wall.

[0065] An example expansion piece may have a uniform cross-sectional area along its length, for example, if the expansion piece has a symmetrical shape in which each cross-section made along at least one of its lengths is a substantially identical polygon. A cylindrical expansion piece may have circular cross sections. In some embodiments, the expansion piece may not have a uniform cross-sectional area along its length. For example, the expansion piece may have two or more portions in which the cross-sectional areas differ. An expansion piece may be cylindrical in a first portion and may comprise a bellow structure in a second portion. An expansion piece may comprise portions of different sizes. An expansion piece may comprise several different structures. Regardless of its structure or composition, the expansion piece may be configured to change its cross-sectional area or circumference in at least one portion (e.g. at least one cross sectional area) when the expansion piece is deformed, as compared to when the expansion piece is not deformed. For example, the largest cross-sectional area or circumference of a cross-sectional area taken from a position along the length of a deformed expansion piece may be greater than the largest cross-sectional area or circumference of a cross-sectional area taken from a position along the length of a non-deformed expansion piece.

[0066] To move the expansion piece between deformed and non-deformed configurations, a tensioning control device such as a cable and cable stopper may be used. The cable stopper may be configured to move between at least two different positions comprising (i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross- sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area. In some embodiments, the second position corresponds to a position in which the cable stopper and the expansion piece may not be engaged and/or the cable stopper may not be exerting pressure on the expansion piece. In this second position, the expansion piece may have too large of a cross-sectional area to fit inside the internal channel of the part. In the first position, in contrast, the interaction of the cable stopper and the expansion piece may cause the cross-sectional area of the expansion piece to become smaller. In the first position, the expansion piece may then have a cross-sectional area that is small enough to be placed inside the internal channel, after which the cable stopper may be returned to the second position where the expansion piece has a larger cross-sectional area and may securely hold the part from inside the internal channel.

[0067] Accordingly, first and second positions of the cable stopper relative to the expansion piece may be a first position in which the cable stopper is not yet exerting pressure on the expansion piece and a second position in which the cable stopper exerts pressure on the expansion piece, causing at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a larger cross-sectional area. Alternatively, the first and second positions of the cable stopper relative to the expansion piece may be a first position in which the cable stopper is exerting pressure on the expansion piece, and a second position in which the cable stopper is not exerting pressure on the expansion piece.

[0068] The expansion piece may be a cylindrical or otherwise polygonal shape with an opening that receives a part or a portion of the part. The geometry of the expansion piece may be complementary to the part that will be fastened. For example, the expansion piece may be configured as a cylinder, a square, or the inverse of a star shape, so as to accommodate round screw holes, or square screw holes, or star-shaped screw holes, respectively.

[0069] The geometry of the expansion piece may be complementary to a portion of the part that will be fastened. In some embodiments, the expansion piece may contact the part at only certain locations on the part. For example, the expansion piece may contact the inner channel of a screw hole at only a portion of the entire surface of the inner channel. The expansion piece may contact the part, e.g., the inner channel or screw hole, at one or more points along the outer circumference or surface of the expansion piece.

[0070] The expansion piece may be configured to conform to the part or a portion of the part where the expansion piece and the part interface. For example, the expansion piece may conform to the shape of the part, such as curves or contours along the part. In some embodiments, the expansion piece is fittingly secured against a portion of the part, but need not be entirely conformal to all structural features in that portion of the part.

[0071] Suitable flexible materials for the expansion piece include but are not limited to thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU); polyamide (PA); urethanes such as ester polyurethane or ether polyurethane; urethanes belong to categories of heat resistance urethane, antistatic urethane, abrasion resistant urethane, ceramic urethane, low rebound urethane; nitrile rubber, cholorprene rubber, ethylene rubber, silicon rubber, fluoro rubber, low elasticity rubber, butyl rubber or white butyl rubber. [0072] In some embodiments, the expansion piece may comprise a perforated structure, a lattice structure, an actuator (e.g., a linear actuator with bellows), a walled tube, a plurality of finger-like protrusions, one or more auxetic unit cells, an inflatable structure such as a balloon, or any structure that may be compressed so its cross-sectional area or circumference in one part is different in a first state (e.g., a compressed or deformed state) state than in a second state (e.g., a non-deformed or non-compressed state). The expansion piece may buckle, fold or unfold, bend, or expand in order to increase the cross- sectional area or circumference.

[0073] In certain embodiments, the housing of the device further comprises an adaptor. An adaptor may be used for mounting the part on the locator, or for aligning the part on the locator so that the adaptor conforms perfectly to the locator. An adaptor may be configured to use for aligning parts, so that a reference surface on an adaptor contacts a surface on a part. An adaptor may not have an alignment function. Without an adaptor, the device may simply be fastened to a part, for example, when precise alignment is not needed. In some embodiments, adaptors are configured so they do not make contact with the part.

[0074] The housing of the device comprises a case having a hollow channel extending through at least a portion thereof. The case may be custom-designed, and may be manufactured by an additive manufacturing process. The case may comprise means for attaching the device to a fixture or other measuring or reference system. Cases may be any geometric shape, for example, cylindrical in at least a portion that contacts the adaptor of the device. When adaptors are machined on a turning machine, a cylindrical shape is common, but both the adaptor and case may be any shape. The case may be a different shape from the adaptor, as long as there is an interface between these parts. Portions of the case may be flexibly designed to fit into any space or join parts at any angle.

[0075] In some embodiments, the hollow channel in a case through which a cable or other tensioning control means passes, has a short length. For example, the hollow channel may be a hole through an essentially planar surface with a thickness that is less than 10 mm, or less than 1 mm, in which case the hollow channel has a length that is the thickness of the planar surface. The hollow channel may be any shape, like a cylinder, or may comprise a first opening at a first end and a second opening at a second end, wherein the first opening is larger or smaller than the second opening. An opening in the hollow channel may be angled or curved in relation to the case.

Tensioning control device [0076] A tensioning control device (also called tension control, pulling means or tension pulling device) may be configured to deform the expansion piece upon application of tension in a first direction. In some embodiments, the tensioning control device may comprise a stopper that is configured to contact the expansion piece and a pulling means that may be used to move the stopper from a first position to a second position. For example, a pulling means may be a cable, a rigid structure, a lever, a handle, a rope, a wire, a rod, a cylinder, or any other structure that may be used to physically move the stopper. In some embodiments, the pulling means may comprise magnets, electronic devices, vacuum, or pressure from gases or liquids, to move the stopper. The stopper may be configured to deform, compress, stretch, or pull the expansion piece or a portion of the expansion piece. For example, a stopper may comprise a squeezing mechanism such as a conical shaped structure that is configured to receive a portion of the expansion piece. A pulling means may draw more of the expansion piece into the cone, thereby deforming the shape of the expansion piece, reducing its cross-sectional area or circumference, and providing a configuration that may grip around a part or an external portion of a part. A squeezing mechanism may be an array of grippers or gripper fingers that are configured to close by the action of the pulling means. The squeezing mechanism may compress and/or deform at least a portion of the expansion piece and reduce its cross-sectional area or circumference, so the expansion piece is configured to grip a part or external portion of a part.

[0077] The stopper may be a mechanical structure whose properties differ from the expansion piece. For example, the stopper may be larger than the portion of the expansion piece that the stopper contacts, so that pulling the stopper against the portion of the expansion piece causes the expansion piece to deform. The stopper may be made of a more rigid material than the expansion piece, so that the expansion piece deforms when the stopper is pulled against it. The stopper may have a solid structure, while the expansion piece may be a porous structure, a lattice, a foam, or other deformable structure.

[0078] An example tensioning control device may comprise a component such as a cable and a cable stopper, wherein the cable runs through the hollow channels of the housing and the expansion piece, and wherein the cable stopper is configured to contact the expansion piece, wherein the cable stopper is configured to move between at least two different positions comprising: (i) a first position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to have a first cross-sectional area, and (ii) a second position in which interaction between the cable stopper and the expansion piece causes the at least portion of the expansion piece to have a second cross-sectional area that is greater than the first cross-sectional area. A cable may be pulled in order to move the cable stopper from the first position to the second position. A cable hub may be used to pull more than one cable and cable stopper.

[0079] In some embodiments, tensioning control device comprises a cable and a cable stopper. The cable stopper may be at one end of the cable, and may be configured to move between at least two different positions, for example when tension is applied on the cable. In at least one position, the cable stopper provides pressure against the flexible material of the expansion piece, which causes at least a portion of the expansion piece to deform and/or expand to fill the internal channel in the part and/or in the adaptor of the device. The cable stopper may move continuously through different positions, for example, in any position along the length of the device. The cable may be attached to a system that integrates the action of more than one cable, such as a cable pull or a wire hub. When several cables are be pulled at the same time, it is possible to control the position of multiple cable stoppers in multiple devices, thereby fastening the device at multiple connection points in a part or in several parts. In certain embodiments, pulling and clamping are performed in stages, so that one or more cables may be pulled to a first position to expand the expansion piece, then pulled to a second position in order to expand the expansion piece further. Alignment functions, for example, with precise locators, may be part of the same device and clamp combination, or alignment may be performed separately from the clamping.

[0080] The cable in a tensioning control device may be housed inside a cable housing. The wire runs in the internal channel of the cable housing and may be attached to a cable puller, such as a wire hub integrating several cable pulls. The cable housing may be configured to provide stiffness in the axial direction, and to absorb forces when a cable is pulled.

[0081] In some embodiments, the engagement component is not a cable. For example, a device may comprise an expansion piece whose expansion is structured, or is controlled by electronics, pressure, vacuum, or magnets. The expansion piece may be manufactured by additive manufacturing, providing design freedom in structure, so the expansion does not depend on a wire. In some embodiments, the tensioning control device may create tension on the expansion piece by using gravity, for example, the weight of an assembly of part and device may compress or expand the expansion piece.

Additive manufacturing systems

[0082] The devices disclosed herein and components of the device may be designed for and/or manufactured by additive manufacturing. For example, the expansion pieces, adaptors, and cases may be configured with custom dimensions in order to fit with specific parts. When a custom fit to a part, especially with an accurate fit (e.g., tolerances below 100 μηι or below 50 μηι), is required, the devices may be designed to fit the part ora portion of the part. The locator element used for mounting the devices may be custom-designed for aligning a part in a desired position.

[0083] Embodiments of the invention may be practiced within a system for designing and manufacturing 3D objects. Turning to Figure 1, an example of a computer environment suitable for the implementation of 3D object design and manufacturing is shown. The environment includes a system 100. The system 100 includes one or more computers 102a-102d, which can be, for example, any workstation, server, or other computing device capable of processing information. In some aspects, each of the computers 102a-102d can be connected, by any suitable communications technology (e.g., an internet protocol), to a network 105 (e.g., the Internet). Accordingly, the computers 102a-102d may transmit and receive information (e.g., software, digital representations of 3-D objects, commands or instructions to operate an additive manufacturing device, etc.) between each other via the network 105.

[0084] The system 100 further includes one or more additive manufacturing devices or apparatuses (e.g., 3-D printers) 106a-106b. As shown the additive manufacturing device 106a is directly connected to a computer 102d (and through computer 102d connected to computers 102a-102c via the network 105) and additive manufacturing device 106b is connected to the computers 102a-102d via the network 105. Accordingly, one of skill in the art will understand that an additive manufacturing device 106 may be directly connected to a computer 102, connected to a computer 102 via a network 105, and/or connected to a computer 102 via another computer 102 and the network 105.

[0085] It should be noted that though the system 100 is described with respect to a network and one or more computers, the techniques described herein also apply to a single computer 102, which may be directly connected to an additive manufacturing device 106.

[0086] Figure 2 illustrates a functional block diagram of one example of a computer of Figure 1. The computer 102a includes a processor 210 in data communication with a memory 220, an input device 230, and an output device 240. In some embodiments, the processor is further in data communication with an optional network interface card 260. Although described separately, it is to be appreciated that functional blocks described with respect to the computer 102a need not be separate structural elements. For example, the processor 210 and memory 220 may be embodied in a single chip.

[0087] The processor 210 can be a general purpose processor, a digital signal processor (DSP), an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a field programmable gate array (FPGA) or other programmable logic device, discrete gate or transistor logic, discrete hardware components, or any suitable combination thereof designed to perform the functions described herein. A processor may also be implemented as a combination of computing devices, e.g., a combination of a DSP and a microprocessor, a plurality of microprocessors, one or more microprocessors in conjunction with a DSP core, or any other such configuration.

[0088] The processor 210 can be coupled, via one or more buses, to read information from or write information to memory 220. The processor may additionally, or in the alternative, contain memory, such as processor registers. The memory 220 can include processor cache, including a multi-level hierarchical cache in which different levels have different capacities and access speeds. The memory 220 can also include random access memory (RAM), other volatile storage devices, or non-volatile storage devices. The storage can include hard drives, optical discs, such as compact discs (CDs) or digital video discs (DVDs), flash memory, floppy discs, magnetic tape, and Zip drives.

[0089] The processor 210 also may be coupled to an input device 230 and an output device 240 for, respectively, receiving input from and providing output to a user of the computer 102a.

[0090] Suitable input devices include, but are not limited to, a keyboard, buttons, keys, switches, a pointing device, a mouse, a joystick, a remote control, an infrared detector, a bar code reader, a scanner, a video camera (possibly coupled with video processing software to, e.g., detect hand gestures or facial gestures), a motion detector, or a microphone (possibly coupled to audio processing software to, e.g., detect voice commands). Suitable output devices include, but are not limited to, visual output devices, including displays and printers, audio output devices, including speakers, headphones, earphones, and alarms, additive manufacturing devices, and haptic output devices.

[0091] The processor 210 further may be coupled to a network interface card 260. The network interface card 260 prepares data generated by the processor 210 for transmission via a network according to one or more data transmission protocols. The network interface card 260 also decodes data received via a network according to one or more data transmission protocols. The network interface card 260 can include a transmitter, receiver, or both. In other embodiments, the transmitter and receiver can be two separate components. The network interface card 260, can be embodied as a general purpose processor, a digital signal processor (DSP), an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a field programmable gate array (FPGA) or other programmable logic device, discrete gate or transistor logic, discrete hardware components, or any suitable combination thereof designed to perform the functions described herein.

[0092] Figure 3 illustrates a process 300 for manufacturing a 3-D object or device. As shown, at a step 305, a digital representation of the object is designed using a computer, such as the computer 102a. For example, 2-D or 3-D data may be input to the computer 102a for aiding in designing the digital representation of the 3-D object. Continuing at a step 310, information is sent from the computer 102a to an additive manufacturing device, such as additive manufacturing device 106, and the device 106 commences the manufacturing process in accordance with the received information. At a step 315, the additive manufacturing device 106 continues manufacturing the 3-D object using suitable materials, such as a liquid resin.

[0093] These suitable materials may include, but are not limited to a photopolymer resin, polyurethane, methyl methacrylate-acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer, resorbable materials such as polymer-ceramic composites, etc. Examples of commercially available materials are: DSM Somos ® series of materials 7100, 8100, 9100, 9420, 10100, 11100, 12110, 14120 and 15100 from DSM Somos; ABSplus-P430, ABSi, ABS-ESD7, ABS-M30, ABS-M30i, PC-ABS, PC ISO, PC, ULTEM 9085, PPSF and PPSU materials from Strata sys; Accura Plastic, Dura Form, CastForm, Laserform and VisiJet line of materials from 3-Systems; the PA line of materials, PrimeCast and PrimePart materials and Alumide and CarbonMide from EOS GmbH. The VisiJet line of materials from 3-Systems may include Visijet Flex, Visijet Tough, Visijet Clear, Visijet HiTemp, Visijet e-stone, Visijet Black, Visijet Jewel, Visijet FTI, etc. Examples of other materials may include Objet materials, such as Objet Fullcure, Objet Veroclear, Objet Digital Materials, Objet Duruswhite, Objet Tangoblack, Objet Tangoplus, Objet Tangoblackplus, etc. Another example of materials may include materials from the enshape 5000 and 7800 series. Further, at a step 320, the 3-D object is generated.

[0094] FIG. 4 illustrates an example additive manufacturing apparatus 400 for generating a three- dimensional (3-D) object. In this example, the additive manufacturing apparatus 400 is a laser sintering device. The laser sintering device 400 may be used to generate one or more 3D objects layer by layer. The laser sintering device 400, for example, may utilize a powder (e.g., metal, polymer, etc.), to build an object a layer at a time as part of a build process.

[0095] Successive powder layers are spread on top of each other using, for example, a recoating mechanism (e.g., a recoater blade, drum, or roller). The recoating mechanism deposits powder for a layer as it moves across the build area, for example in the direction shown, or in the opposite direction if the recoating mechanism is starting from the other side of the build area, such as for another layer of the build. After deposition, a computer-controlled C02 laser beam scans the surface and selectively binds together the powder particles of the corresponding cross section of the product. In some embodiments, the laser scanning device is an X-Y moveable infrared laser source. As such, the laser source can be moved along an X axis and along a Y axis in order to direct its beam to a specific location of the top most layer of powder. Alternatively, in some embodiments, the laser scanning device may comprise a laser scanner which receives a laser beam from a stationary laser source, and deflects it over moveable mirrors to direct the beam to a specified location in the working area of the device. During laser exposure, the powder temperature rises above the material (e.g., glass, polymer, metal) transition point after which adjacent particles flow together to create the 3D object. The device 400 may also optionally include a radiation heater (e.g., an infrared lamp) and/or atmosphere control device. The radiation heater may be used to preheat the powder between the recoating of a new powder layer and the scanning of that layer. In some embodiments, the radiation heater may be omitted. The atmosphere control device may be used throughout the process to avoid undesired scenarios such as, for example, powder oxidation.

[0096] The control computer 434 may be configured to control operations of the additive manufacturing apparatus 400. In some embodiments, the control computer may be one or more computers 102 from Figure 2 or the computer 305 from Figure 3. In some embodiments, the control computer 434 may be a controller built into or configured to interface with the additive manufacturing apparatus 400.

[0097] Various embodiments disclosed herein provide for the use of a computer control system. A skilled artisan will readily appreciate that these embodiments may be implemented using numerous different types of computing devices, including both general purpose and/or special purpose computing system environments or configurations.

[0098] Examples of well-known computing systems, environments, and/or configurations that may be suitable for use in connection with the embodiments set forth above may include, but are not limited to, personal computers, server computers, hand-held or laptop devices, multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based systems, programmable consumer electronics, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, distributed computing environments that include any of the above systems or devices, and the like. These devices may include stored instructions, which, when executed by a microprocessor in the computing device, cause the computer device to perform specified actions to carry out the instructions. As used herein, instructions refer to computer-implemented steps for processing information in the system. Instructions can be implemented in software, firmware or hardware and include any type of programmed step undertaken by components of the system.

[0099] A microprocessor may be any conventional general purpose single- or multi-chip microprocessor such as a Pentium ® processor, a Pentium ® Pro processor, a 8051 processor, a MIPS ® processor, a Power PC ® processor, or an Alpha ® processor. In addition, the microprocessor may be any conventional special purpose microprocessor such as a digital signal processor or a graphics processor. The microprocessor typically has conventional address lines, conventional data lines, and one or more conventional control lines. [0100] Aspects and embodiments of the inventions disclosed herein may be implemented as a method, apparatus or article of manufacture using standard programming or engineering techniques to produce software, firmware, hardware, or any combination thereof. The term "article of manufacture" as used herein refers to code or logic implemented in hardware or nontransitory computer readable media such as optical storage devices, and volatile or non-volatile memory devices or transitory computer readable media such as signals, carrier waves, etc. Such hardware may include, but is not limited to, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs), programmable logic arrays (PLAs), microprocessors, or other similar processing devices.

[0101] The control computer 434 may be connected to a laser scanning device 444. The laser scanning device may include movable mirrors which can direct the laser beam received from a laser source into the building area. The laser source may also be a movable laser source, or it may also be the laser scanner provided in a stereolithography device 400. The control computer 434 may further include software which controls the movement and functionality of the laser scanning system 444. As such, the control computer 434 may be configured to control the moment and activation of the laser scanning device.

[0102] The control computer 434 may further be configured to interface with an image acquisition assembly 436, such as to receive data/images from the image acquisition assembly 436. The control computer 434 may further be configured to process the data/images to determine if errors have or will occur in the build process as described herein. The control computer 434 may further be configured to control when and how the image acquisition assembly 436 captures images.

[0103] The image acquisition assembly 436 may be configured to attach to, be integrated with, and/or sit separate from the additive manufacturing apparatus 400 and placed in such a position to monitor the building area 450 and/or the build surface. Further, the image acquisition assembly 436 may be configured to be stationary, or moveable (such as based on control signals received from the control computer 434) to monitor the building area 450 from different angles.

[0104] The image acquisition assembly 436 may be configured to acquire images of a calibration plate 448 or a build surface. More particularly, the image acquisition assembly 436 may be configured to acquire images of laser spots and/or other markings made on the calibration plate 448 or build surface by the scanning system 444.

[0105] The image acquisition assembly 436 may include a camera, for example, an optical camera. The camera may be a commercial off-the-shelf ("COTS") digital camera having sufficient resolution to capture spots and other markings on the calibration plate 448 or build surface in sufficient detail to calibrate the scanning device. In some embodiments, the image acquisition assembly is selected from an optical camera, a thermal imaging device, an IR camera, or a sensor that transfers other signals to visual signals.

[0106] A camera may take the form of a special purpose camera which is configured to capture spots reflecting from the surface of the calibration plate. In order to capture spots on the calibration plate, it may be necessary to position the camera so that it points to the area near the spot created by a scanner in the scanning system 444. Accordingly, the image acquisition assembly 436 may also include a mount. In some embodiments, the mount may be a tilt-pan mount, which provides a range of motion sufficient to capture images in various locations on the calibration plate 448. The mount may be driven by a motor. The motor may be configured to receive control signals from the control computer 434 which provide instructions for the movement of the camera 450. In some embodiments, in addition to having a tilt-pan range of motion, the camera 450 may be further mounted on a projecting arm of a crane, commonly referred to as a jib. The jib may provide a further range of motion by allowing the camera not only to tilt and pan, but also to physically move its location in order to better acquire images of spots and/or markings on the calibration plate 448 or build surface.

[0107] It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications can be made in form and detail to the above-described example embodiments of the present disclosure without departing from the scope of embodiments. Thus, it is intended that the present disclosure covers all such modifications provided they fall within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents. The specifications and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative sense rather than a restrictive sense.