September 24, 2012 AT 12:00 am

Computer Precision for Power Tools

Adafruit 507

Computer Precision for Power Tools @ NYTimes.com.

WOODWORKING is a tricky skill to master. Students learn to measure carefully before they reach for a saw, and to cut as true to the design as hand and eye allow. But, even so, precise cutting is a painstaking job, full of pitfalls and mismatched moldings.

Alec Rivers, a Ph.D. student at M.I.T., guides a cutting tool through wood by watching a computer screen.

Now computers and their tireless calculations may bolster the skills of many people who want to create well-cut picture frames, inlays or furniture but lack the dexterity.

Alec Rivers, a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and colleagues have created a prototype for a compact, computerized addition to power tools that automatically performs precision measuring and cutting.

The system, which has a tiny camera, motors and a video screen, takes part of the pain out of woodworking, by using what Mr. Rivers calls “tool GPS.”

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