Intelligent automation to enable flexible manufacturing

Innovation project: Flexible assembly through self-optimizing components

Production in Germany faces a variety of challenges in global competition. To reduce costs, companies must automate more and more. At the same time, increasing customer demands require individualized products to be manufactured in small quantities. Because of this, production processes must be made more flexible. It is necessary to develop adaptable production components that can be reused efficiently in different production lines without compromising quality and process reliability. Perfect human-machine interaction plays a key role here.

The aim of the research project is to develop an integrated concept for flexible assembly, incorporating new processes and methods from the fields of human-machine interaction, machine learning and automation technology. At the same time, flexible mechatronic components should be combined in production lines without the need for manual local programming.

To achieve this, a requirements analysis is first carried out to investigate the issues of autonomous running of individual production components, the human-machine interface and how the equipment control system interacts with machine learning processes. This is used as a basis for devising a flexible software control and integration concept. Interaction strategies are developed so that faults can be described easily via the human-machine interface. Machine learning algorithms allow production component control systems to adapt autonomously. The project draws on the results of cross-sectional projects in self-optimization and human-machine interaction. Before being implemented, the results are tested by constructing an industry-oriented reference environment and making comparisons with a live production environment.

The project significantly improves the flexibility, user-friendliness and cost-effectiveness of manufacturing processes without compromising quality and process reliability. As a result, it is expected that on-site production line commissioning costs can be reduced by up to 30%, for example. The flexible production components approach is a model that can be transferred to numerous other manufacturing companies e.g. in mechanical engineering, the electrical industry and the automotive supply industry. This makes an important contribution to keeping production in Germany competitive.

Project duration
01 July 2012 - 30 June 2015