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Please Invent a CMM for Parts (Dis)Assembly

My wife’s MacBook tangled with a Cocoa-Latte yesterday and ended up like this:

A Ricebook
A Ricebook

Luckily I had the tools on hand to disassemble the Unibody in about 20 minutes. I quickly washed off the sugar and soaked all of the parts in two large bags of rice (the rice acts as a silicate, absorbing the moisture). After several hours I reassembled the rice-book and voila! It worked! For the morbidly curious, here are two galleries of the process:

Monday’s misadventure ended up sparking an idea off in my tiny brain however. It was a real pain in the butt to remember where all of the screws went when reassembling the MacBook. That’s when it hit me:

All screws have a distinct X,Y,Z coordinate triple in relationship to the MacBook.

My father revealed that they make Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs) for large-scale industrial use. So I thought why not scale it down like the LiveScribe Pen?

A CMM for Parts (Dis)Assembly

All you really need is a surface area that you place the device (such as a laptop) on. The surface is intelligent and measures the dimensions (width, height, depth) of the device. Additionally, the device would have to remain relatively still on the working surface. This could be accomplished via some type of surface sensor that lets the technician know when the device is situated where it was originally (if the device moves for some reason). Then you work with a special screw-driver or screw-driver adapter when removing screws. Each time you remove a screw the device notes the order in which you removed the screw and then notes the X,Y,Z coordinate of the screw in relationship to the device.

This is the important part.

Unless the screw-driver has a miniature camera for uniquely identifying each screw by its head width and thread size and length (a later version perhaps), it will be up to the technician to maintain the order of the screws in which they are removed. Think of this as a fourth coordinate, T, for time. The order would be like a stack of trays in a cafeteria, the first one into the stack is the last removed. The last tray in is the first removed.

When it comes time to reassemble the device you simply take the last screw removed off the top of the stack and place it in the screw-driver. Then the screw-driver simply emits an audible tone when you get the screw near its destination on the device.

This seems possible, but maybe I’m out of my gourd. I know that there are some issues, such as having to reorient the device in three-dimensional space to access some screws (perhaps the surface area tracks the device’s own coordinates with some cameras?), but overall it seems like a sound idea. What are your thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Please Invent a CMM for Parts (Dis)Assembly

  1. I wish I could commission you to build one. Then again, if wishes were money I’d be living in the slums because I was born wish-defficient. It’s been a real problem since I’m a genie by trade. I’d kindly ask you not to bring it up again :(

    Seriously though, if you’ve got the initiative to build one, I say go for it. You know at least one person willing to be a guinea pig :)

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