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Development of an industrial rf tagging technology to enable automa ted and flexible manufacture of "one-off" and small batch products

Objective



The manufacture of 'one-off' and small batch products, cut or machined from block raw material, is often carried out by small companies willing to tolerate the high levels of process set up time, that larger mass production firms are not. Products included in this category range from wooden doors and joinery products, especially designed for building or furniture applications, to large steel profiles for subsequent fabrication into heavy industrial products, such as boilers, ships and plant machinery. Cutting and machining door blanks from wood block does not add significant levels of value to the raw material, hence margins are low and the domestic market vulnerable to lower cost base importers, especially those from Indonesia, Malaysia, South America and South Africa. For instance, 30% of the European market for wooden doors is imported from outside the Union. Unable to compete on price alone, European SMEs have started to differentiate their offering by providing increased added value to their customers. They have specifically targeted improvements in speed of response, through the reduction of total time from order to delivery; process improvements that avoid further machining of the product by the customer; and increased traceability for ISO 9001 & 9002. In addition, they recognise the need to improve material utilisation and reduce their requirement for high skilled, high cost labour within the production process. Large companies in other sectors already enjoy the benefits of automated product ordering systems, automated programming of CNC cutting & machining centres and material utilisation optimising (nesting) software, within, fully automated manufacturing systems. However, these companies tend to manufacture very high volumes of a small range of products, reducing the number of process variables and effectively avoiding the need to identify individual products in process, in relation to the CAD and NC code that describes them and enables their manufacture. Hence, the key to applying automated & flexible manufacturing systems to SMEs, producing one-off & small batch products, is the provision of an industrially hardened and low cost system able to automatically and remotely identify individual material blocks as single or multiple products. Therefore, the industrial objective of the proposed RTD is to provide European SMEs with a novel, low cost, ruggedised RF tagging technology, able to be integrated with commercially available software systems and manufacturing plant, to optimise materials utilisation and automate the manufacture of one-off and small batch products from block material, direct from 2D CAD file data, sourced from the customer at point of order. This will enable SME producers of one off and small batch products to fully utilise CNC systems which cannot currently be made cost effective due to the high level of programming required for individual products. The specific processes to which this technology is to be applied, in the form of case studies, are the cutting and machining of wood and steel, using CNC routing and laser centres. The proposed system will: - Reduce total elapse time between order and delivery, by 20% Increase materials utilisation by 10% Reduce the skilled NC programmer's input to manufacture by 50%

Funding Scheme

CRS - Cooperative research contracts

Coordinator

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

Participants (5)

Esprit Automation Ltd
United Kingdom
Address
Wilsthorpe Road
NG10 3JX Long Eaton
Hazlin of Ludlow Ltd.
United Kingdom
Address
Bromfield
SY8 2BT Ludlow
Production Engineering Research Association - PERA
United Kingdom
Address
Nottingham Road
LE13 0PB Melton Mowbray - Leicestershire
Reichenbacher GmbH
Germany
Address
32,Rosenauer Straße 32
96487 Dörfles-esbach
Rofin-Sinar France SA
France
Address
10,Allée Du Cantal 10
91018 Evry