Nov 19, 2010

Delcam to aid development of information system for the ‘Factory of the Future’

Delcam is one of a number of leading organisations from the EU, Switzerland and Korea working on a cooperative R&D project to develop a universal information system for the ‘Factory of the Future’. The system will be based on data exchange standards using an information pipeline to distribute and share seamlessly necessary information within a manufacturing system, locally or globally, in a commonly-accepted model and format.

The four-year project, titled FoFdation (Foundation for the Factory of the Future), envisions a ‘Smart Factory’ architecture and implementation. This has the potential to achieve significant benefits in earlier visibility of manufacturing issues, faster production ramp-up time, faster time-to-volume production and subsequently shorter time-to-market, reduced manufacturing costs and improved product quality, as well as sustainability objectives like reduced energy consumption and waste reduction.

Other partners in the project are the Airbus (France), Artis (Germany), GF Agie-Charmilles (Switzerland), CADCAMation (Czech Republic), Centro Richerche CRF (Italy), Fidia (Italy), Mecadtron (Germany), Paragon (Greece), Siemens (Germany),Tekniker (Spain) and the University partners, Ecole Centrale de Nantes (France), ETH Zurich (Switzerland), EPF Lausanne (Switzerland), Postech (Korea) and the University of Patras (Greece).

These benefits will be achieved by meeting the following five objectives which jointly compose the foundation of the ‘Factory of the Future’:

1. End-to-end digitisation of the process, product and machine resources;

2. Development of a ‘Smart Machine Controller’ (SMC) concept, including a ‘Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System’ (SCADA), adaptive process control and energy-efficient monitoring;

3. Realisation of a ‘Smart Manufacturing Optimiser’ (SMO) using the virtual product information from CAD/PLM and the real machine and on-line process information to adapt process control information to achieve optimal process results;

4. Extension of MES systems to a ‘Smart Manufacturing Execution System’ (SMES) by supporting resource efficiency and sustainability goals and interfacing with ‘Enterprise Resource Planning’ (ERP) systems;

5. Compilation of all information into a common dashboard towards the "production-to-enterprise” asset integration and overall sustainability management.

In short, the developments will extend existing information processing systems by adding more information about product data, machine tools, tooling and processes, and process monitoring information fed back to shop-floor information systems.

This will improve:

· Toolpath descriptions independent of machine tools;
· Machining process simulation based on product and process information;
· In-machine process simulation and validation;
· In-machine process verification incorporating product and tool machine tolerances and inspection plans;
· In-machine process optimisation of feeds and speeds based on product and machine information;
· Feedback of machine and process information to shop-floor information processing and design;
· Integration of process data with manufacturing planning and management.

This project is co-funded by the European Commission as part of the European Economic Recovery Plan (EERP) adopted in 2008. The EERP proposes the launch of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in three sectors, one of them being Factories of the Future (FoF).

Factories of the Future is a 1.2 billion Euro program in which the European Commission and industry are collaborating in research to support the development and innovation of new enabling technologies for the EU manufacturing sector.