Manufacturing with the modular design principle

Innovation project: Flexible assembly with integrated interactive robotics

The requirements regarding the flexibility of manufacturing processes are continuously increasing. Amongst other things, this can be attributed to customers’ increasing demand for tailor-made products in smaller batch sizes. It is already possible for customers to create individual products – for example industrial plug connectors – over the Internet by choosing from a variety of components. In the future, manufacturing tasks should be automatically extrapolated and implemented for customer orders with any batch size, even as little as 1. It will thus be possible to reduce warehouse stocks and shorten delivery times. To that end, it must be possible for individual manufacturing steps – such as screwing together, assembling and checking – to be planned, parameterized and easily combined according to the specific order. The potential to achieve this has been enabled by taking advantage of innovative methods that make use of human-robot interaction, for example for the configuration and programming of robot-supported manufacturing steps for new product variations. In the process, high requirements in terms of reliability and user-friendliness must be fulfilled to achieve acceptance by the employees and the customers.

The aim of the innovation project is to develop hardware and software solutions that make production lines modular, in order to facilitate automatic manufacturing of customer-specific products. The production components must be able to be individually combined while reliably adapting to the product to be manufactured without the need for laborious manual programming and configuration.

To this end, the properties and functions of typical manufacturing components, for example those necessary for screwing, assembling or checking, must be described in a machine-readable way. The next step is to develop methods for simplifying the interactive configuration of the components and their use in manufacturing modules. This will allow existing production lines to be efficiently adapted for the manufacture of new product variations. An integrated software platform will be developed for this. Amongst other things, it will make use of simulation models to guarantee individual combinability and error-free production processes. The project will therefore draw on the results of cross-sectional projects in human-machine interaction and self-optimization. The manufacturing components and software platform will then be technically validated by means of a pre-production demonstration model, and subsequently integrated into the production process for evaluation purposes.

This project will make it possible to manufacture individual products quickly and efficiently, without lessening process reliability. The intention is to reduce commissioning and retooling of production systems by 25%. User-friendliness will increase due to the lack of specialist robotics or programming knowledge required to operate the system. The results of the project can be transferred to other production processes such as in the automotive industry.

Project duration
01 July 2014 - 30 June 2017