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Agent based engineering in a cost estimation model for composites (ECOMP)

Final Report Summary - ECOMP (Agent based engineering in a cost estimation model for composites)

The market for composites is growing steadily, including commodity type applications in the automotive, civil infrastructure, and other emerging markets. A major obstacle to achieving the full potential of composite structures in many applications is cost-effective manufacturing.

The scientific challenge of the ECOMP project lay in the application of web based and agent-oriented software engineering to cover the real need of computing time and cost estimates in the expanding market of composite designs, as well as assisting designers in evaluating cost reduction strategies based on advanced computing techniques, which can be easily and readily accessed and used by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their efforts to remain at the forefront of technological developments and to be well-positioned to compete on the global scene.

The technical objectives of this project lied in the development, verification and validation of a web-based and agent-based infrastructure that will assist composite manufacturers, equipment and tooling manufacturers, product designers and process engineers in developing new and better products optimising processes, choosing equipment configurations and materials from a wide range of suppliers by providing them with a tool to assist them in evaluating cost reduction strategies so that they can confidently make decisions early on during the design phase.

All the technical objectives have been achieved successfully except the webcrawler agent development, where only a study has been possible, due to the lack in the wide implementation of web services thorough the composites community nowadays.

Different methodologies have been used for the project development. Time scheduling has been used as the base for the project development. The different data and calculus procedures have been developed initially with tailored templates which permitted the validation on behalf the different expert partners of the project. Finally, the templates have been traduced in program code into the system. All the work has been summarised in form of deliverables and regular meetings have been carried out during the project for ideas exchange and the study of the state of the project.

The technologies involved have been: Java as main language, JSP for active pages, MySQL for data bases, and Jade for agent oriented programming. After the midpoint revision, the object oriented approach has been used for materials, properties and process selection; meanwhile the agent oriented approach has been adopted for the cost model modules.

The contribution to the state of the art is the creation of a system for cost modellisation and material, process and properties estimation in the early stage of the composite selection. ECOMP is the first tool for the selection of these different issues in an early stage in a wide aspect for different types of processes and materials.

The final results of the ECOMP project can be seen at online. The web-based system require information on the final product requirements, ECOMP usability and technical information for user production and cost limitations and guides the user along the process of materials selection, manufacturing parameters, properties and others. It estimates the cost of selected alternative roots and inform of other non-economic issues to aid the user in making knowledgeable decisions.

Two main parts can be seen divided in the whole system:
- composites expert knowledge acquisition: the composites technology knowledge is gathered mainly from industrial partners and research and technological development (RTD) performers. The research seeks to capture the human solving knowledge used in composites, organise this knowledge and other numerical computing required for the control and design activities, and provides the computer software frameworks to strategically exercise this knowledge.
- web-based expert system: the system applies knowledge and reasoning features to proceed to the appropriated composite material selection, properties and costs. Uses the expert data obtained in the previous point and proceed to the proper calculus for helping the composite designer from the very early stage design in an easy way of use and user customisation.

The final developed is capable to performing different activities for the composites professionals in the early stages of composites election. One of its main strength is that depending on the inputs to the system, different outputs are achieved.