Automated Machine Tools

Cam. Tracer. Record-Playback. NC/CNC.

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This set of Notebooks will be a strange miscellany. It came about because, against my expectations and better judgment, I became interested in homebrew/D.I.Y. CNC machine tools. This led to a couple of hands-on building and programming projects, which needed someplace to be documented. Because it is always important to understand where things came from, this also led to some research into the earlier NC machine tools (and some reprints from this literature). Well, quite a lot of research, really.

Finally, as I am now convinced that this field was not a post-WWII invention in computing but rather the next step in a long and economically important history of analog automated machine tools, these Notebooks will contain a scattered bit of the literature of Automatic Screw Machines and the like. But note that pantographically controlled machine tools are an important part of this history of analog control. These are considered in several Notebooks, links to which are collected in a group within the general Machine Shop page.

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Historical Studies

[NOT ONLINE YET] At present this contains only a draft of the book Machines without Machinists: A Surveyof the Technical History of Automatic Machine Tools.

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A survey of the literature, with reprints when possible, of all of these kinds of automatic machine tools.

There are limitations here which are imposed by the nature of the literature in various periods. The literature of the cam-controlled period is relatively straightforward. It is also generally now in the public domain (at least for material from the USA). The literature of tracer control is less comprehensive. It also merges with the literature and study of pantograph engraving and typographical matrix making (which is something that I consider elsewhere). The Record-Playback period was extremely brief. The early literature of Numerical Control is sometimes very difficult to discover; it is not clear to me that certain important documents survive at all. The literature of CNC is very large, but is of low quality and not generally useful. It is also almost entirely in copyright. I'll only cite a few of the better works.

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CircuitousRoot Projects

[NOT DONE YET] A draft of the project (and its book-length manual): Manually Programmed Tools: G-code Programming in C.

Miscellanous notes from my attempts to get (C)NC machines working.

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