The incremental forming of metal sheet parts can be an interesting alternative to the manual forging of the blanks or to the manufacturing of resin dies for the production of prototypes or small lots of parts. Indeed the characteristics of small-volume production would call for an increase in the level of automation, possibly leading to a robotised cell able to complete the part after forming: in this case, the robot performing the deformation could automatically change its tools, cut the part, bend or flange the borders, load/unload the part, etc. Unfortunately the conventional industrial robots do not have the required stiffness nor are able to apply the necessary forces to the blank, but the rather new family of parallel robots have characteristics similar to machining centres, while still keeping the versatility of a robot. The present paper describes the tests that have been performed at the Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona to assess the feasibility of the automated processing by using a hybrid robot interlocked to the incremental forming cell. The complexity of the experimental setup required the use of several simulation tools, able to design off-line the experiments and even to check beforehand their real feasibility. In the end an effective development environment has been set up, able to interface the different software tools in order to support the process designer in making the correct choices.

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