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Scalable automation for flexible production systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ScalABLE4.0 (Scalable automation for flexible production systems)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2020-06-30

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 (Fig.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 brings 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 is able to:
(1)update the manufacturing line to customer demand and product updates with automation equipment is much quicker;
(2)shorten setup-time of manufacturing lines so that smaller lot-sizes with high automation become affordable;
(3)support optimizing line parameters such as speed, throughput and manual vs. automation ratio;
(4)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 addressed 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 at the beginning of 2017 and throughout its implementation, all planned tasks, reports and milestones were completed. The outlined test sprints to test the developments played a central role in the consolidation of work and on the iterative feedback from the end-users.
A summary of the major achievements 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, capable of operating in both use cases. 3 prototypes assembled (Fig.2).
-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 and testing of Plug-n-produce tools for the fast integration of robotics system; robot sensing system for each use case; robot skill-based programming; simulation tools to support the decision-making processes production line layout and assignment of production orders; and an advanced MES system fully integrated with the APM and capable of dealing with highly flexible production resources such as the ScalABLE4.0 robot.
-Complete integration of all the aforementioned ScalABLE4.0 components at the PSA pilot line and at the Simoldes Plásticos line replica.
-Implementation of a multi-product line at SP shop-floor working with one ScalABLE4.0 robot.
-Definition of 20 Exploitable Results with the respective exploitation routes, including the creation of a spin-off (RiACT).
-Participation in several dissemination activities: relevant presence in the ROS-I community, 3 publications in journals, 8 papers presented in conferences, participation in different trade fairs showcasing the ScalABLE4.0 robot and other software developed during the project.
The progress of the project beyond the state of the art can be evaluated by the articles accepted in peer-reviewed 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 inline or even exceeding the original foreseen impact of the project:
-Impact on the End users: 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. The implementation of the project was performed at a pilot line designed to create a vision of what they expect to be the PSA factory of the future.The different solutions and technologies that were/are going to be showcased in this pilot line will help the plant and production managers to test and validate new solutions to be implemented at the real production lines. Concerning the impact on the plastic injection sector (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 ScalABLE4.0 experiments that took place in the implemented multi-production line at SP shop-floor already created a positive impact in their production and was a proof-of-concept to start the change of their production paradigm, which might be extended to other lines and factories.
-Impact on the consortium SME’s: as expected the project had a direct impact on both SME’s, with the introduction of a new product on SARKKIS Robotics‘ portfolio (ScalABLE4.0 robot) and the development of a module to extend the existing MES from Critical Manufacturing according to the knowledge acquired during the project.
-Impact on the R&D partners: INESC TEC, Aalborg and Lund 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 is the creation of a spin-off, RiACT, to exploit one of the software platforms developed by AAU and ULUND during the project implementation. Other exploitable results have been identified but need further developments to enter the market. New funding opportunities have already been identified.
-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 more efficient and sustainable manufacturing in Europe.