Introducing a novel mesh following technique for approximation-free robotic tool path trajectories

Carmelo Mineo, Stephen Gareth Pierce, Pascual Ian Nicholson, Ian Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
253 Downloads (Pure)


Modern tools for designing and manufacturing of large components with complex geometries allow more flexible production with reduced cycle times. This is achieved through a combination of traditional subtractive approaches and new additive manufacturing processes. The problem of generating optimum tool-paths to perform specific actions (e.g. part manufacturing or inspection) on curved surface samples, through numerical control machinery or robotic manipulators, will be increasingly encountered. Part variability often precludes using original design CAD data directly for toolpath generation (especially for composite materials), instead surface mapping software is often used to generate tessellated models. However, such models differ from precise analytical models and are often not suitable to be used in current commercially available path-planning software, since they require formats where the geometrical entities are mathematically represented thus introducing approximation errors which propagate into the generated toolpath. This work adopts a fundamentally different approach to such surface mapping and presents a novel Mesh Following Technique (MFT) for the generation of tool-paths directly from tessellated models. The technique does not introduce any approximation and allows smoother and more accurate surface following tool-paths to be generated. The background mathematics to the new MFT algorithm are introduced and the algorithm is validated by testing through an application example. Comparative metrology experiments were undertaken to assess the tracking performance of the MFT algorithms, compared to tool-paths generated through commercial software. It is shown that the MFT tool-paths produced 40% smaller errors and up to 66% lower dispersion around the mean values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-202
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Computational Design and Engineering
Issue number3
Early online date16 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2017


  • tool path generation
  • robotics
  • mesh following technique
  • NDT
  • triangular meshes
  • surface mapping
  • metrology
  • computer aided design
  • computer aided manufacturing
  • non-destructive testing


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