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FP7 CLAMPIT project

INTELLIGENT WELDING CLAMP DESIGN SOFTWARE USING COMPUTER-AIDED OPTIMIZATION FOR SMES TO ACHIEVE HIGH PRECISION ASSEMBLY

The manufacturing and engineering industry depends heavily on workflow efficiency. Despite continuous attempts at innovation, the sector is reaching record lows across Europe. This is especially true for welding, as it is an essential area of industrial manufacturing. Smaller welding workshops are under economic pressure to find new solutions in order to stay in a competitive market, while the number of skilled welders decreases every year. A fundamental part of all types of manufacturing technologies is clamping. This operation is critical especially in welding where the high temperatures and forces due to possible deformation enhance the need even more. The task of specifying clamping positions and forces for welding assemblies are among the most common everyday tasks for welding SMEs. At present preparing the optimal clamping design needs significant human resources both in time and experience. While a simple design requires a couple of hours of an engineer or an experienced technician, a more complex assembly containing 3-5 or more work pieces might require even some days to correctly calculated. The engineer needs to find out the safest possible position of the work pieces that allows joining them by the appropriate welding technique, calculating forces to fix the work pieces and prepare a list of necessary clamping accessory to be used. Based on the internal investigations of welding expert SMEs of the consortium, a small size company is estimated to allocate 50-600 engineer hours a year to prepare clamping designs. At present there is not any commercial product available that could provide a more effective solution for clamping design. Manufacturing technologies of these days use for increasing flexibility and better control over the given production 3D design. 3D modelling and computer technology has been successfully used in CAM and CNC phases of the manufacturing process but in welding it has not been used to its full potential. As welding is a very important technique the fact that it has not reached its full potential slows the whole manufacturing process down. For small batch productions universal clamping assemblies are becoming more and more popular due to their versatile nature. However designing and building those still needs highly trained and experienced staff as there is no holistic software solution for doing these calculations. CLAMPIT project aims to develop a high-end decision supporting system that helps metalworking SMEs carrying out welding work to increase their efficiency by automatizing clamping design calculations. The CLAMPIT software will help its users to find an optimum process sequence, optimal clamping points and forces and furthermore it will help to apply the innovative LSND technology. The heart of the system will be a module specifying clamping Force and position based on Case Based Reasoning (CBR) algorithms. Its sub-modules will be responsible to create clamping solutions automatically, to learn new cases and to apply them later. The self-teaching will be maintained through human interactions and a set of data verification functions. Generated outputs will be forwarded to the GUI in a structured format by the assistance of the report generation module. CLAMPIT will include an additional module - Low Stress No Distortion (LSND) module - that can be used independently, together with clamping optimization (CBR), or can be excluded depending on the needs of the user. This module aims to apply thermal methods (LSND techniques) in order to reduce the residual stress and distortion in welded parts. The developed module will be able to optimize LSND conditions for a component based on the CAD model and the Welding Procedure Specifications. The introduction of CLAMPIT will speed up the methodology of the welding process as the whole clamping design can be done quickly and accurately saving time. The use of case based reasoning (CBR) to design clamping fixtures has been well documented and this can be applied with other decision support systems (DSS) to give accurate information (visually as well) to the welding engineer making the work more efficient. It is more and more accepted that knowledge, experience and expertise can be represented digitally by the use of computer systems in special cases. CLAMPIT will use CAD file recognition and CBR to supply the knowledge and experience which would take years of training. It is important to note that the system will not replace but enhance the job of a welding expert giving maximum benefit and reduce the possibility of error. The issue of better resource management and increase of efficiency affects all SMEs. This is the same in the welding sector; hence they know best what they need. The CLAMPIT system will be a tool to help the competitiveness of SMEs in particular. The expertise required to carry out such research project can be found in the consortium made up of specialist SMEs. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) - managed by REA Research Executive Agency - under grant agreement no. 315208. The consortium is built up of 5 SMEs and 3 research partners who implement the R&D tasks. For further information, please visit: www.clampit.eu

Countries

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, United Kingdom