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Content archived on 2024-05-14

Development of a virtual process planning system


DEVELOPMENT OF A VIRTUAL PROCESS PLANNING SYSTEM .There more than 5500 manufacturers of special purpose plant, covering virtually all industrial sectors and including equipment for applications as diverse as food & drink production, plastics processing, assembly and work placeventilation. Whist some examples are huge in cost and size, such as oil and petro-chemical plant, more than 95% of special purpose equipment sold in Europe is below the 100kECU price mark. In this market area SMEs dominate, and account for almost 70% of the total population of suppliers. Many of the key market segments for special purpose plant are represented by the five SME end users in the core group. Because of their relatively small size they tend to be more flexible in offering bespoke equipment solutions than European LEs However, they are often disadvantaged when competing with companies from lower labour base economies such as those in the Pacific Rim. These competitors are often LEs, as they require fairly powerful sales and maintenance support structures to overcome the disadvantage of the large geographic distance between customer and manufacturer. In response, European SMEs concentrate on differentiating their offering by providing higher added value through building a partnership approach to the equipment solution they hope to supply In this manner they can also help clients to adopt lean manufacturing techniques and accommodate increasingly frequent reconfiguration of manufacturing processes using computer aided simulation techniques. The key to this is better communication of solution concepts and plant configuration / reconfiguration, enabling them to work, closely with client, as an integrated team, initially when selling the plant and in the longer term when helping the customer to reconfigure it to respond to changes in his market. A tool that is already revolutionising concept visualisabon and interaction, is Virtual Reality (VR). It is being used, today, to communicate detailed designs between client and supplier in the construction, off shore and ship building sectors. Unfortunately, it's use is restricted to such sectors, involving very high capital products/projects, due to the currently high cost of accessing the technology. Appiications characteristically run on high end hardware, costing 500kECU or more, and require high levels of expertise in their execution. Low cost access of VR visualisabon techniques, by SMEs not expert in IT, is currently not possible. The industrial objective of the proposed RTD is to provide European SME plant suppliers with a VR concept visualisation tool that can be used as a virtual process planning system that on existing CAD hardware with negligible extra hardware costs and operated by their production planning staff. This would facilitate better communication of concepts and enable a reduction in process and equipment configuration times by typically 20%, achieved by conducting process optimisation ahead of implementation and thereby creating a similar saving in cost against the 160M ECU p.a. currently spent by European companies on process design and reconfiguration. This innovative process design tool will have the following advantages over the current manufacturing process simulation route.Provide real time interactive visualisation (VR) of special purpose rnachinery on computer hardware corrrnonly used in CAD applications (e.g. Silicon Graphics Indigo2, Sun SPARC) for use by manufacturing enginseers with no specialist knowledge of real-time computer prograrnming techniques; Facilitate real time discrete event simulation of plant design through integration of state of the art process simulation modelling packages, giving increased confidence in any given process confirguration; Allow 3- dimensional spatial relationship issues to be assessed within tolerances of O.O1rnrn for cornponent parts of the plant, the assembled plant within it's environment and for operator interfaces with the plant. Allow changes to the model to be made from within the real-time environment relating to geometric or process characteristics, without reducing graphical perfomance to below 20Hz refresh rate; To achieve this, a number of technical oblectives must be met:. Devebpment of a knowledge-based user interface through which the manutacturing engineer constructs and manipulates the model of the proposed plant, that will: > convert input CAD data into a format suitable for use in a real time environment; *assign material textures and colours to surfaces, based on incoming CAD data;associate process characteristics such as kinematic information and functionality; Reduce computational overheads to increase graphical performance /decrease hardware specification, achieving a graphical refresh rate of 20 Hz by: Automatic reductibn of detail in imported CAD data by parsing the incoming file to determine intra-machine spatial relationships then automatically eliminating all hidden detail or insignificant surface features; *Reorganisation of CAD database hierarchy to ensure spatial coherence, facilitating zone culling and enabling only the area of interest within the model to be held in memory at any given time. Integration of an industry standard numerical kemel for discrete event simulation into the real-time graphical environment by converting the output values of process variables into a format suitable for use with a real-time environment;

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James Engineering
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Prenton Way
L43 3DU Prenton - Birkenhead
United Kingdom

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