Self reconfigurable intelligent swarm fixtures

 

Project Objectives

Adaptive production systems. The project will contribute to the development of new manufacturing systems that adapt to flexible, small or even single batch oriented production. Today, adaptability of production systems relies on available robotics and it is limited by the devices that interface directly the pieces to be manufactured like fixtures and grippers. The problem of modular and adaptive fixtures has been considered by different research actors but no solution till now satisfies completely the requirements on agility and adaptability addressed by the SwarmItFIX Project.

Rapidly configurable machines .... self-adaptive machine structures ... self-optimization..... reduction of time needed for reconfiguration and maintenance. The swarm fixture developed, with simple robots reconfiguring in real time to adapt to different thin sheet shape and manufacturing operation, will substitute sets of complex specific devices purposely designed for a very limited range of or single pieces. This results in saving in cost and reduction in fixturing and set up time. Modularity of the robots swarm guarantees fast maintenance and scalability. Furthermore the new hybrid control approach will optimize reconfigurability against every operation phase in the manufacturing cycle. The project impact will be both at manufacturing shop floor level up to production planning and logistics levels with improved productivity along all the chain.

Control system architectures for mechatronic knowledge-based systems. The new generation of SwarmItFIX fixtures adopts a set of behaviour based mechatronic agents. The control architecture relies both on implicit, stigmergy based, and explicit communication. This innovative architecture together with the intrinsic high stability of the agent mechatronic design produces robustness and stiffness to the overall system. Reconfiguration planning goal and logics are based on the knowledge of the behaviours of single and multiple cooperating agents that adapt in real time to the specific manufacturing task. The swarm fixture concept involves problems of seamless connectivity and inter-working of scalable embedded systems in the manufacturing domain. The fixture agents cooperate in spatial proximity to jointly realize the common workpiece support task and together represent a small-scale complex distributed system expressing a reactive, but also efficient, robust, predictable, safe behaviour.

More efficient, flexible, secure, easier to maintain and more productive (large infrastructure) manufacturing plants. The new fixture is a distributed system that requires a new engineering approach ensuring efficient, adaptable, safe and secure behaviour for the manufacturing process. The self adaptability of the fixture improves the flexibility towards customised production, reduces human presence and work in the production environment rising safety and security, avoids refixturing tasks, reduces fixturing setup time improving plant productivity. The modular distributed system makes maintenance interventions easier and faster. While the fixture can be considered a "small scale" distributed system, the control methodology developed for the dynamic fast reconfiguring architecture can be applied to more complex, large scale distributed systems.


 

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