Production lines are planned, designed and developed in such a way as to support technologies, equipment and methods that restrict the flexibility of production systems and processes. Despite the fact that manual and automated tasks run smoothly and efficiently, problems arise when technical issues occur. With EU funding, the AUTORECON (Autonomous co-operative machines for highly reconfigurable assembly operations of the future) project set out to develop highly reconfigurable technology to be integrated into a common open hardware and software architecture. Project partners developed technology consisting of mobile units that can change tasks and position on shop floors, thus enabling assembly equipment to rapidly and easily adapt production processes in the case of halts and bottlenecks. These units include novel actuators, wireless sensor networks and robotic structures. In addition, the technology contains intelligent control and monitoring systems that improve performance and enable random production flow as well as architecture to better integrate into a network among the control systems. The team demonstrated the AUTORECON solution in two industrial sectors. The automotive pilot involved the real-time reconfiguration of an assembly line during a simulated breakdown. The feasibility of an autonomous and flexible production line was successfully tested with all the AUTORECON components. The consumer goods pilot used the reconfigurable robot grippers and wireless sensing network to select randomly placed components and position or transfer them accordingly. Technology developed by AUTORECON allows for a flexible and highly cooperative industrial work environment with less effort and complexity. By adopting open and robust production solutions, manufacturers are in a better position to compete within and beyond Europe.
Production technology, factories, robotic technology, co-operative machines, assembly operations