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Evolvable Ultra-Precision Assembly Systems

Final Report Summary - EUPASS (Evolvable Ultra-Precision Assembly Systems)

The EUPASS project aimed to develop affordable, cost effective and sustainable ultra-precision manufacturing solutions by offering rapidly deployable ultra-precision assembly services on demand. This would be achieved by developing and delivering a number of breakthrough technologies and solutions including:
- European wide pilot infrastructure of depots of micro-assembly modules and integration software, enabling rapid configuration and deployment of flexible precision assembly systems with minimum investment cost.
- Next generation ultra-precision enabling technologies, including modular high-precision manipulators, grippers and feeders.
- Novel micro joining techniques including micro-mechanical joints, nano-dispensing, and laser welding.
- Robust and legacy-compliant knowledge driven methodology, cost models and software tools to support the offering of rapidly deployable ultra-precision assembly services with low investment cost, high capacity utilisation and improved equipment reusability.
- New standards for seamless integration of precision assembly modules and control systems using open architecture approach.

The major point of debate, throughout the four-year project, was based on two issues:
- The idea of having depots of modules throughout Europe.
- Evolvability: what it is and how it should be applied.

The work that was performed during the reporting period was divided into six work packages (WP).

WP1 Roadmapping
The WP1 objectives for the upcoming period remained fairly constant to previous ones, and may be summed up as:
- To monitor, develop strategies and vision for the successful development and application of evolvable precision assembly technologies with emergent behaviour.
- To keep the EUPASS members informed of the key industrial needs, new solutions, and disruptive technologies that have a bearing upon evolvable precision assembly (short, medium and longterm).
- Indicate threats, opportunities and objectives that lay on the path to attaining beyond the state of the art in sustainable, fault-tolerant, cost-effective assembly systems, including control systems and innovative, supportive, technologies.

WP2 SW Support, cost and sustainability
In the reported extension period, there were no planned WP2 activities.

WP3 Modular plug and produce devices
This WP was terminated in the period 3.

WP4 EUPASS technology platform
In the reported extension period, there were no planned WP4 activities.

WP5 Innovation-related activities
Under the reported period the focus was set in four objectives. Giving more weight to the later ones as the time evolved:
- Investigation of the existing standards related to the field would continue. The work should be based on the real needs of the project consortium. All participants should bring their input for narrowing the standardisation focus and should supply their information on the standardisation issues.
- Standard development would be divided into parallel Working Groups (WG) of AT and other WPs of the project, each of which would focus on standardisation activity around a selected topic. Firstly to investigate and evaluate the suitability of existing standards for the topic and secondly to start the standard development, if the requirements were not met by the existing standards.
- Development of the standard specifications for the areas identified important for the success of the EUPASS project.
- Disseminating the availability of the developed standards.

WP6 Project Management activities
The EUPASS website was transferred during this period from the original IBM communication tool QuickPlace, to an ITIA-based framework. The organisation and structure within the website was taken care of by ITIA, with the supervision of the Project Management Team (PMT). This structure and internal organisation was regularly monitored for optimisation and subsequently optimised according to the findings.

Regular individual discussions were organised between single partners and the Project Manager to ensure awareness of the PMT with regard to individual partners opinion. It was acknowledged that one of the major challenges was the positioning of the participants and other stakeholders interests into the overall project goals. Keeping close (face to face) contact and regular communication with partners was chosen as the instrument to optimise this process.

Regular WP meetings were held for ensuring WP progress. During the first year much time was spent to gain good understanding of the different WP partners' expertise. Minutes were written of each meeting and approval of minutes was gained during meetings of each previous meeting.

To clarify the EUPASS exploitation potential and to determine the exploitation strategy, the PMT convened with the Exploitation Board in Stuttgart (June 2008). It was decided to form a more pragmatic approach and seek an extension for the more Interoperability-linked technologies being developed in EUPASS. The new plan for Exploitation may be summarised as follows:

There were two main categories of exploitation that could be derived at through a joint effort, and on the basis of the EUPASS technological innovation:
- System integration components and facilitators.
- System to services transformation.

The Joint Exploitation therefore decided on expanding and consolidating these aspects (October 2008), such that a European-wide network (EUPASS.ORG) in support of this form of evolvable assembly could be consolidated. Some of the underlying issues discussed included:
- Services that could be offered.
- Services that guaranteed lower implementation needs, programming knowledge, system maintenance know-how.
- The emphasis must be on the system integrator, not end-user.
- End-user attitude needed to be catered for more efficiently: they were interested in better products with faster TTM, at a reasonable cost. Suppliers had to address the new business models, not end users.
- Evolvability. Reduction of integration costs by 50% was the driver. If services were supplied at the same time, it could become a win-win situation. However, the environment in which the technology was deployed was also a key factor.
- System suppliers and integrators should see that offering turnkey systems limits their markets and creates unnecessary competition. By opening cooperation and integration of system supply, the market expands and TTM decreases drastically.
- EUPASS was particularly interesting to small enterprises that were specialists in a particular process.

The requirements to developing interoperable, Evolvable Assembly Systems included the development of web-based services that could assist the deployment of systems by providing standards, interfaces (emplacements), architectural guidelines, etc. Research teams in Europe and around the world were working in developing such models, standards and services, along with the practical implementation of their work.