Human-centric process planningfor Plug & Produce : Digital threads connecting product design withautomated manufacturing
Abstract: Adaptations to a fluctuating market and intensified customer demands for unique products are a challenge for manufacturers. Manual manufacturing is still the most flexible, nevertheless, automation ensures stable quality, minimizes wear and tear of the operators, and contributes to a safer and better working environment as the distance between the operator and the process can be increased and screened off. Hence, the manufacturing industry is searching for human-centric automation solutions that are flexible enough to handle these challenges. Conventional automation is tailored for one or a few similar variants of products, in addition, increased flexibility implies increased complexity to handle. This licentiate thesis demonstrates a flexible Plug & Produce automated manufacturing concept where the complexity is redirected to focus on the products and manufacturing processes by utilizing artificial intelligence. Together with digital threads that connect the product design to automatic manufacturing that enables manufacturing companies to manage new production scenarios with their in-house knowledge. Data is picked directly from the computer-based design of the products and process knowledge that normally exists within the manufacturing company is added through graphical user interfaces. The graphical configuration tools visualize the flow of sequential and parallel manufacturing operations together with process-bound information. Plug & Produce relies on pluggable process modules with re-cyclical manufacturing resources that can be plugged in and out as needed. As an example, a module with a robot can be plugged in to help an existing robot and thereby balance the production capacity. In Plug & Produce resources start working and cooperate with other resources automatically when they are plugged in. To achieve this, the resources are provided with distributed artificial intelligence together with intelligent products that know how to be finalized. In this concept, everything is digitally configurable by the in-house knowledge of the manufacturing companies. A Plug & Produce test bed was built to verify the concept in cooperation with industrial representatives.
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