Unmanned machine tools as part of an automated factory require reliable, inexpensive sensors to provide machine and process information to the controller. The electric current in the DC motor of a CNC machine tool can be inexpensively measured and used to calculate the tool/workpiece cutting force and the forces associated with drive system components. In order to characterize the bandwidth, sensitivity and accuracy of current monitoring on the feed system of a CNC lathe, a dynamic lumped parameter model of this sensor system is developed. The model is used to identify the system components that have a dominant effect on the behavior of the sensor. Tests were conducted in order to determine the model parameters, verify the model, and determine the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio of the sensor. The bandwidth of this sensor is predicted to be 80 Hz. Tests show that the S/N ratio is low but can be improved by a trade-off with the system bandwidth. The bandwidth is limited by the characteristics of the SCR amplifier. In addition, the sensitivity and accuracy of calculating the feed force component of the cutting force from the total current used by the feed motor is limited by the pitch of the ball screw and friction coefficient variations in the slide. Feed system design changes, to improve the S/N ratio of the feed system as a tool and machine force sensor, are discussed.

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