Characterizing envelopes of moving rotational cones and applications in CNC machining
Motivated by applications in CNC machining, we provide a characterization of surfaces which are enveloped by a one-parametric family of congruent rotational cones. As limit cases, we also address ruled surfaces and their offsets. The characterizations are higher order nonlinear PDEs generalizing the ones by Gauss and Monge for developable surfaces and ruled surfaces, respectively. The derivation includes results on local approximations of a surface by cones of revolution, which are expressed by contact order in the space of planes. To this purpose, the isotropic model of Laguerre geometry is used as there rotational cones correspond to curves (isotropic circles) and higher order contact is computed with respect to the image of the input surface in the isotropic model. Therefore, one studies curve-surface contact that is conceptually simpler than the surface-surface case. We show that, in a generic case, there exist at most six positions of a fixed rotational cone that have third order contact with the input surface. These results are themselves of interest in geometric computing, for example in cutter selection and positioning for flank CNC machining.