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New Modular Production System Architecture to Combine Flexibility a nd Productivity


More and more often the producer of metal components are faced with the challenge of achieving both high productivity and flexibility. There are different reasons that explain this trend such as: the increasing customisation of the products, the reduced life cycle of the products, the introduction of management concepts related with just in time, the stronger and stronger competition. The contemporary need of flexibility and productivity is not well addressed by available production systems which either tend to focus on
productivity (transfer lines) or a flexibility (FMS). Therefore these systems do not give an adequate answer to a large and ever increasing group of producers of metal components. Previous analyses have shown that one of the key strength of the EC machine tool industry is the ability to deal with product customisation. In order to maintain this advantage and to increase at the same time efficiency, various research effort have been devoted to the definition of a modular architecture for machinc tools (CEDAM, MAREA, KERNEL, KERNEL II). By analysing together the problems of metal component producers and machine tool manufacturers and considering the previous research carried out inside the TRA2, it is evident that it is necessary to propose new solutions at system level.
The aim of the project is therefore to start moving from the single workstation to the system trying, in doing so, to provide better answer to the dichotomy productivity versus flexibility. Since each w orkstation to operate the transformations for which it has been created needs a continuous exchange of materials energy and
information with the rest of the system, the project will concentrate on the hardware and software solution to manage these flows. In particular the project will address itself to the problems connected to the flow of tools, parts and information between the workstation and the system. It will propose new hardware modules for fast pallet exchange and transports, fast tool exchange and transport, and a software module for the implementation of non linear process plans and for the subdivision of machining operations among the workstations of the system. The modules will be developed taking as reference the guidelines contained in the CEDAM and OSACA projects.
The project directly addresses important issues regarding both the life cycle of the product and the production system.
Regarding the products the possibility of producing at the same time products required in high volumes and low volumes will make possible to contemporary produce products which are in different phases of their life cycle. Regarding the life cycle of the system, the architecture identified within the project will lead to production system which may be thought as evolving organisms in the sense that modules of the system will be changed following the needs and the technological change. This will make system life cycle longer or will totally modify the concept of life cycle. The net result will be a reduction of the problems and the waste connected with production system obsolescence.
In order to ripe the benefits mentioned above the configuration issues are extremely important because thesc systems will undergo frequent reconfigurations. Therefore the topic of configuration is also addressed by the project.
The consortium comprises an FMS producer (MCM) a producer of pallet exchange mechanisms (MFE), a producer of special tools (MAPAL) and a producer of metal components for the automobile industry (Lajous). The University and Research Institutes involved deal with the problems of system configuration (Poli Mi), the problems of performance evaluation (UPMC), the problems connected with the design and testing of the hardware modules contained in the project (ITIA CNR). A Major subcontractor (ClMPA Aerospatiale) will deal with the Software implementation of some key modules.

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Machining Centres Manufacturing SpA
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Viale F.G.Celaschi, 19
29020 Vigolzone

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