Computer-integrated flexible manufacturing systems are designed to respond quickly and economically to varying production requirements. Since an essential ingredient of all manufacturing operations is fixturing, if these modern manufacturing systems are to be truly flexible, then the fixturing must be adaptable also. Traditional design philosophies focused on dedicated fixtures are clearly inadequate for these applications. This paper reports on an innovative class of adaptable fixtures based on particulate fluidized beds. This mode of fixturing exploits the ability of these devices to change from a solid phase to a liquid phase and vice versa. Design criteria for the holding ability of this novel class of fixtures is established herein, and the proposed design philosophy is validated by an experimental program.

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