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Scalable automation for flexible production systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ScalABLE4.0 (Scalable automation for flexible production systems)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30

Plant managers and engineers struggle to adjust the level of automation of production lines to product variations and market demand. Especially when robots are involved, updates are slow, complex and cost-intensive, and the loss of productivity is considerable due to a stopped manufacturing line. The most common solution is to keep the level of automation deliberately low to guarantee the fast updatability of the system. Another solution is to simply design the manufacturing lines from the start for the maximum estimated customer demand, but this means high initial investment and low equipment utilization during large parts of the product cycle and a huge difficulty to change the product (Figure 1). Both solutions are expensive and inefficient.
The main objective of the ScalABLE4.0 project is the development and demonstration of an open scalable production system framework that can be used efficiently and effectively to visualize, virtualize, construct, control, maintain and optimize production lines. This Framework aims to provide this through a) a tight integration of the enterprise information systems with transformable automation equipment paired up with b) the necessary open APIs for optimized solutions on all hierarchy levels.
The outcome of the ScalABLE4.0 automation concept will bring a new level of adaptability and scalability to manufacturing lines by tightly integrating advanced robotics and sensing equipment with a digital twin of the manufacturing plant that glues the enterprise IT tools (Manufacturing Execution System (MES), into a single cyber-physical system that offers:
(1) To update the manufacturing line to customer demand and product updates with automation equipment is much quicker;
(2) To shorten setup-time of manufacturing lines so that smaller lot-sizes with high automation become affordable;
(3) To support optimizing line parameters such as speed, throughput and manual vs. automation ratio;
(4) To allow progressive and modular investment of new production lines (progressive ramp-up).
The use of collaborative robot has great potentials but their deployment (programming and networking) and difficult integration in the overall production systems are still obstacles to a broader adoption. The ScalABLE4.0 project addresses these problems with a dual bottom-up and top-down approach, promoting the co-development of skill-based flexible robotic systems with enterprise IT tools (such as MES or Advanced Simulation tools) sharing a common integrated digital model of the manufacturing plant.
The project started in February 2017 and the consortium focused on the establishment of common working procedures, management practices and the required support tools for the management of the project. Shortly after, the consortium focused on the detailed specification of both industrial use-cases with several on plant meetings and on the specification of the test sprints that play a central role on the consolidation of work and on the iterative feedback from the end-users. Five plenary (with two of them occurring at the end user sites) and 9 technical workshops took place during this period.
A Summary of the major technical achievement follows:
- A complete definition of the requirements of the use cases.
- In-depth analysis of available hardware solutions for the integration of the ScalABLE4.0 robot, including grippers, collaborative robots and sensors.
- Design and development of a modular ScalABLE robot (Figure 2), capable of operating in both use cases.
- Development of Plug-n-produce tools for the fast integration of robotics system. These tools are developed in close cooperation with the ROS industrial consortium, which promoted a wide visibility and a clear roadmap for the development of stable and widely used tools.
- Development of skill-based assembly operations and first tests applied in the insertion of pistons in the engine.
- Design and implementation of a comprehensive Advanced Plant Model (APM), that acts as a digital twin for the manufacturing plant and provides a unified data model for the ScalABLE4.0 ecosystem.
- Development of an advanced MES system fully integrated with the APM and capable of dealing with highly flexible production resources such as the ScalABLE4.0 robot.
- Development of simulation tools to support the decision-making processes production line layout and assignment of production orders.
- Definition of 16 foreseeable Key Exploitable Results and drafted the exploitation routes for them.
- Development of project material, including the project logo (Figure 3), preparation of the project video, flyers, website, among others.
At the month 18 of the project the progress beyond the state of the art can be evaluated by the articles accepted in per review conference and journals, that mainly concern the scientific and technological achievements developed in the context of Plug-n-Produce, Skill based robot programming, machine vision and simulation and decision support.
The potential impact of the project is, with the information available in this early stage of the project, inline or even exceeding the original foreseen impact of the project:
- Impact on the End users: Although the extension of the impact can only measure at the end of the project, some signals indicate a high potential impact. In the automotive sector (PSA use case) the relevance of a scalable production system increased from the point of view of the end-user, mostly due to the change in the automotive landscape where the electrification trend is now perceived to be occurring sooner. The focus of the ScalABLE4.0 project is on the drivetrain assembly plants which are expected to report a significant increase of variants that are significantly different among them, moving from a diesel/gasoline duopoly to a diesel/gasoline/Hybrid/PHEV/EV matrix. Concerning the impact on the plastic injection sector (Simoldes Plásticos(SP) use case), the feedback from the SP technical staff is that the multi-product line has the potential to be a revolution in the company and on the sector. The confidence on the results led SP to move the ScalABLE4.0 experiments to an industrial facility in production, mobilizing a set of injection machines in real operation which will benefit the industrial validation of the project.
-Impact on the consortium SME’s: At this stage of the project, is clear that the ScalABLE4.0 project will have a direct impact on both SME’s, with a foreseen introduction of a new product on SARKKIS Robotics (the ScalABLE4.0 robot) and the development of a module to extend the existing MES from Critical Manufacturing.
- Impact on the R&D partners: INESC TEC, Aalborg University and Fraunhofer IPA have identified several exploitable results that can extend the impact of its mission of promoting science and technology. The clearest result so far is the showcase of a Plug’n’Produce component that has already attracted the interest from a large robot component to have it integrated into their products.
- Impact in the society by communicating through dissemination activities (video, talks, conferences) where the integrated vision of a ScalABLE4.0 production system with robots and human operators collaborating can lead to a more efficient and sustainable manufacturing in Europe.
Figure 1 - Illustration of under-automation (top) and over-automation (bottom).
Figure 2 - 3D CAD of two possible configurations of the ScalABLE4.0 robot.
Figure 3 - ScalABLE4.0 logo.