The purpose of this trial application is to support the intelligent control of a ceramic kiln, making use of the services provided by the REAKT platform (an environment and methodology for Real Time Knowledge Based system development). This platform is the result of the ESPRIT projects REAKT and REAKT II (5146 and 7805).
The need for increased flexibility and control in manufacturing operations are growing to the extent that plant automation and instrumentation improve. The ceramic manufacturing sector, represented in this project by KERABEN S.A. (Spain), is a clear example.
One of the most important phases in ceramic manufacturing is firing of the product. In this phase the goal is to maintain a temperature profile in the central line of the kiln. If the temperature variations are not controlled well, the result in kiln output products can be very heterogeneous not only in time but also in cross section. In some cases there may even be a dramatic delay between production control and the actuation of firing conditions. This may happen if the material in the kiln actuation zone has different characteristics from that for which the temperature profile was set.
Current control systems are mainly based on a static model of the kiln, leading to a long time transient responses with strong temperature variations, if the desired profile is changed. A dynamic model of the kiln will allow a predictive control to counteract the internal fluctuations. New technologies are being promoted to secure satisfactory responses to these kinds of problems. These technologies include the integration of procedural and knowledge-based solutions in a domain constrained by real time requirements. The REAKT environment, proposed for this work, successfully incorporates both approaches.
The technical approach will include implementing a model to perform predictive control, adjusting the system parameters to avoid possible future deviations in the desired profile, and co-operative problem solving using a variety of knowledge formalisms.
GMV, the co-ordinator, is playing the role of system integrator. UPV focuses on the kiln manufacturing, and TTC, a kiln manufacturer, plays the role of the user. GMV and UPV were former partners in the REAKT and REAKT II projects.
Important technology transfer among partners will take place since ceramic manufacturing, ceramic kilns control technologies and real-time experts systems, represented by REAKT, will receive mutually enriching feedback. With these requirements the goals of the trial application will be to show the system viability aimed at:
1. Increasing process flexibility while reducing the cost of changing from stationary process to new conditions. This cost can be estimated in terms of time required and waste material, and is expected to be reduced by up to 50% of the present one.
2. Increasing process quality, in terms of tile dimensions and planarity. Average waste product in ceramic industry is now between 5% and 20%.
3. Reducing energy expense up to 10% as a result of the process optimisation.
4. Providing a framework for similar applications, evaluating REAKT flexibility for a particular application field.
It is relevant to remark that the European ceramic industry (specially within the countries represented in the consortium) holds a world-wide leadership. This also applies to the equipment suppliers to this industry.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
41042 Fiorano Modena