Ford trials self-driving robot to deliver parts

Ford is trialling a self-driving robot to deliver spare parts around one of its manufacturing plants. The robot, nicknamed “Survival”, can dodge unforeseen objects, change its route if obstructed and stop whenever necessary.
Developed entirely by Ford engineers, the company says it is the first of its kind to be used in any of the company’s European facilities.
“We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor so, together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate,” Eduardo García Magraner, engineering manager, at Ford’s state-of-the-art body and stamping plant in Valencia, Spain, where the robot is being trialled, said.
“When it first started you could see employees thinking they were in some kind of sci-fi movie, stopping and staring as it went by. Now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them.”
According to Ford, delivering spare parts and welding material to different stations around the plant is a crucial element in keeping Kuga, Mondeo and S-MAX production going. For Ford workers though, the task is time-consuming and relatively mundane.
In a statement, the company said the robot does not replace employees but can save up to 40-employee hours every day by taking over this role, allowing operators to use their time on more complex tasks.
The robot is equipped with an automated shelf that has 17 slots to hold materials of different weights and sizes. To avoid errors, the opening and closing of these slots is automated, meaning operators in each area only have access to the materials assigned to them.
“Survival” is one of a number of smart robots employed in Ford’s European facilities, including the “Robutt” and co-bots in Cologne, Germany. The self-driving robot uses LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to visualise its surroundings, a technology also used in Ford’s prototype autonomous vehicles.

Jungheinrich opens spare parts centre in Singapore

Jungheinrich is expanding its spare parts logistics capacities in Southeast Asia. With the opening of a spare parts centre in the Southeast Asian trade and logistics metropolis of Singapore, the company has reduced the delivery times of replacement parts by up to five days.
Jungheinrich customers all over Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand will benefit from the increased spare parts availability. This will enable Jungheinrich to also satisfy particularly urgent customer requests in the APAC region by providing round-the-clock access to spare parts.
“The new spare parts centre in Singapore will strengthen our position as the market leader in terms of spare parts availability by now also covering Southeast Asia and the Pacific area,” Stefan Brehm, Vice President of After Sales at Jungheinrich said.
“By bridging up to seven time zones, we will be able to react faster to the requests of our customers. For Jungheinrich customers, this represents minimal downtime and maximum productivity.”
In addition to the customer service aspect, environmental considerations at Jungheinrich also played an important role. Through the additional optimisation of the region’s transport network, CO2 emissions will be reduced by 75 per cent. Furthermore, the spare parts centre is a perfect example of efficient and intelligent warehouse management thanks to its modern lift rackings and lithium-ion powered forklift trucks.

Microsoft and BMW partner to build future Industry 4.0 solutions

Microsoft and the BMW Group have announced a new community initiative to enable faster, more cost-effective innovation in the manufacturing sector.
The two organisations will establish an Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP). The initiative is expected to support the development of smart factory solutions that will be shared by OMP participants across the automotive and broader manufacturing sectors.
According to both organisations, the goal is to significantly accelerate future industrial IoT developments, shorten time to value and drive production efficiencies while addressing common industrial challenges.
“Microsoft is joining forces with the BMW Group to transform digital production efficiency across the industry. Our commitment to building an open community will create new opportunities for collaboration across the entire manufacturing value chain,” Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Microsoft Cloud + AI Group said.
With currently over 3,000 machines, robots and autonomous transport systems connected with the BMW Group IoT platform, which is built on MicrosoftAzure’s cloud, IoT and AI capabilities, the BMW Group plans to contribute relevant initial use cases to the OMP community.
“Mastering the complex task of producing individualised premium products requires innovative IT and software solutions. The interconnection of production sites and systems as well as the secure integration of partners and suppliers are particularly important. We have been relying on the cloud since 2016 and are consistently developing new approaches. With the Open Manufacturing Platform as the next step, we want to make our solutions available to other companies and jointly leverage potential in order to secure our strong position in the market in the long term,” Oliver Zipse, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Production said.
The OMP will be designed to address common industrial challenges such as machine connectivity and on-premises systems integration. This will facilitate the reuse of software solutions among OEMs, suppliers and other partners, significantly reducing implementation costs. For example, an ROS-based robotics standard for autonomous transport systems for production and logistics will be contributed to the OMP for everyone to use. The OMP will be compatible with the existing Industry 4.0 reference architecture, leveraging the industrial interoperability standard OPC UA.
 

Volkswagen partners with Amazon to automate its manufacturing and logistics processes

Amazon and Volkswagen have announced a multi-year, global agreement to build the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud, a cloud-based Industrial digital production platform that will  transform the automotive company’s manufacturing and logistics processes.
Volkswagen will rely upon the breadth and depth of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) portfolio of services, including IoT, machine learning, analytics, and compute services to increase plant efficiency and uptime, improve production flexibility, and increase vehicle quality.
The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud will bring together real-time data from all of the Volkswagen Group’s 122 manufacturing plants to manage the overall effectiveness of assembly equipment, as well as track parts and vehicles.
“We will continue to strengthen production as a key competitive factor for theVolkswagen Group. Our strategic collaboration with AWS will lay the foundation. The Volkswagen Group, with its global expertise in automobile production, and AWS, with its technological know-how, complement each other extraordinarily well. With our global industry platform we want to create a growing industrial ecosystem with transparency and efficiency bringing benefits to all concerned,” Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG and Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft responsible for ‘Production’ said.
“Volkswagen’s industrial cloud, which will reinvent its manufacturing and logistics processes, is yet another example of how Volkswagen continues to innovate and lead. Volkswagen’s and AWS’s collaboration will have a profound impact on efficiency and quality in production throughout Volkswagen’s global supply chain, as Volkswagen gains access to the broadest and deepest cloud with the most functionality, the most innovation, the highest performance and security, and the largest community of partners and customers of any other infrastructure provider. We are tightly aligned across Volkswagen’s businesses to help them reimagine the future of automobile manufacturing by taking advantage of all the benefits the cloud can deliver,” Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS said.

3D printed steel tools can cut titanium alloys

High strength cutting tools can now be 3D printed, potentially saving time and money for aerospace and Defence manufacturers.
RMIT University PhD candidate Jimmy Toton received the 2019 Young Defence Innovator Award and $15,000 prize at the Avalon International Airshow for the research, which was conducted with Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) and industry partner Sutton Tools.
Because the metals used in Defence and aerospace are so strong, making high quality tools to cut them is a major, and expensive, challenge.
This collaborative project conducted at RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct is the first convincing demonstration of 3D printed steel tools that can cut titanium alloys as well as, or in some cases better than, conventional steel tools.
“Now that we’ve shown what’s possible, the full potential of 3D printing can start being applied to this industry, where it could improve productivity and tool life while reducing cost,” said Toton.
The team’s high-performance steel milling cutters were made using Laser Metal Deposition technology, which works by feeding metal powder into a laser beam. As the laser moves and the metal solidifies at the trailing edge, a 3D object is built layer by layer.
This additive manufacturing process also allows for objects to be built with complex internal and external structures.
Toton overcame significant challenges in getting the layers to ‘print’ to form strong, crack-free parts as he took this from initial concept through to development.
He is now working towards establishing a print-to-order capability for Australia’s advanced manufacturing supply chains.
“Manufacturers need to take full advantage of these new opportunities to become or remain competitive, especially in cases where manufacturing costs are high,” said Toton.
“There is real opportunity now to be leading with this technology.”
DMTC chief executive officer, Dr Mark Hodge, said the importance of productivity and cost-efficiency to Australian manufacturers should not be underestimated.
“Supply chain innovations and advances like improved tooling capability all add up to meeting performance benchmarks and positioning Australian companies to win work in local and global supply chains,” he said.
“The costs of drills, milling cutters and other tooling over the life of major Defence equipment contracts can run into the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. This project opens the way to making these high-performing tools cheaper and faster, here in Australia.”
RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct director and Toton’s supervisor, Professor Milan Brandt, said the work was a clear demonstration of the technology’s potential.
“Additive technology is rising globally and Jimmy’s project highlights a market where it can be applied to precisely because of the benefits that this technology offers over conventional manufacturing methods,” said Brandt.

Automation in APAC: trends for 2019

Jon Young

From the most recent smartphone to the latest fashion, keeping up-to-date with trends can be tiring. In the manufacturing industry, future-proofing your factory may seem like a daunting task, especially as parts become obsolete as quickly as new advancements emerge.
Asia Pacific countries can expect a surge in workplace automation, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, over the next three years. According to research from Willis Towers Watson’s Global Future of Work Survey, automation is set to account for around twenty three per cent of work being done across the region.
This compares with thirteen percent of work using AI and robotics today, and just seven per cent three years ago. With this growth in mind, how should manufacturers adapt to stop them from falling behind?
Visualising maintenance
Virtual technology has been around for a while, and is most often associated with design and entertainment industries. However, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been breaking into industrial environments over the past few years, and this growth is set to continue.
Enabled by the increased networking of equipment, such as programmable logic controllers (PLC) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, predictive maintenance uses data obtained by sensors to monitor the condition of equipment. By analysing this data, engineers can predict when equipment parts may need servicing or replacing, allowing them to intervene before the system fails.
AR and VR take things to the next level. By using a smart device, maintenance engineers can create a digital representation of a fault and, more importantly, the solution. This level of maintenance will allow engineers to pinpoint exactly where a system may fail, ensuring the correct replacement part is ordered well in advance.  EU Automation can help your maintenance plan stay ahead of the game by delivering parts worldwide and within 48 hours, meaning broken equipment will never have to put manufacturing on hold.
Going retro
When thinking towards the future, the phrase ‘out with the old, in with the new’ may spring to mind. This doesn’t always need to be the case. As complete upgrades can be costly and time-consuming, many manufacturers will continue to teach older machinery new tricks with retrofitting.
Industrial components that are coming to the end of their service life are always at risk of causing unexpected downtime or delays to production. Retrofitting improves machine reliability by replacing older components with more advanced equipment.
Integration doesn’t need to break the bank. As production rates are so high, some components become obsolete after only a few years, making them an economical option.
Getting personal
One size no longer fits all. Over the last decade, the design-it-yourself business model has snuck quietly into the manufacturing market. Even major producers like Nike and Adidas offer specialised web portals that allow customers to design footwear personalised to their own aesthetic and functional needs.
Thanks to other key innovations in the industry, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, automation will continue to take the desire to differentiate to a mass scale.
But mass customisation puts pressure on manufacturing companies to up their game in nearly every aspect of their operations, from customer sales to crafting flexible yet cost-effective custom manufacturing processes. Manufacturers must be lean and adaptable to deliver variations on products and quickly respond to changes in requirements. It will be of no surprise therefore, if machinery were to feel the impact.
As automation advances, keeping on top of the latest trends may seem tricky. However, preparing for what 2019 has to offer can be made simpler. EU Automation’s fast delivery time guarantee means your new part can be with you on the same day, minimising downtime when integrating new and old technologies.
Jon Young is the sales director of obsolete equipment supplier EU Automation.

Rolls-Royce partners with AI software developer to boost engine reliability

Industrial AI and IoT software developer, Uptake, and Rolls-Royce have joined forces to extend Rolls-Royce’s digital ecosystem.
According to Uptake, the company will demonstrate how its capabilities can help Rolls-Royce implement a data-science-first approach to optimising the performance of its Trent engine fleet, the market-leading engine family for widebody aircraft.
Rolls-Royce’s TotalCare® service enables customers to maximise the availability of their engines while allowing Rolls-Royce to focus on the most efficient management of the fleet. Working with Uptake to analyse a number of disparate datasets will arm Rolls-Royce with new insights to deliver on its TotalCare® promise to airlines around the world by improving the uptime and availability of their Trent engine fleet.
“We’ve been applying analytics as a key part of our TotalCare® services strategy for many years and are always looking to advance our digital approach to improve the quality and value of our services. With industrial AI and machine learning techniques, we can increase the uptime of our engines and help customers extend the life and value of their critical assets,” Tom Palmer, Senior Vice President of Services for Rolls-Royce’s Civil Aerospace business said.
Built on a foundation of data science and machine learning, Uptake develops solutions that help industrial companies digitally transform their business. The company’s latest release of its Asset Performance Management application, Uptake APM, incorporates the Asset Strategy Library (ASL), the world’s most comprehensive database of industrial content including equipment types, failure mechanisms and maintenance tasks. This rich combination of deep operational and equipment knowledge with predictive analytics provides unparalleled visibility into, and insights surrounding, the entire asset environment, whether assets are connected or not.
Uptake APM is built on top of our industrial AI and IoT platform. This enables companies to put powerful AI and machine learning to work, using our pre-trained data science models and industry-specific content to turn mountains of data into actionable insights that drive financial outcomes.

Swinburne University: 3D concrete printing takes the ‘boring’ out of buildings

Construction is one of the largest industries in the world economy – worth $10 trillion globally – equivalent to 13 per cent of GDP.
But, Professor Jay Sanjayan, from Swinburne University of Technology, explains that construction has suffered for decades from remarkably poor productivity compared to other sectors.
While agriculture and manufacturing have increased productivity 10-15 times since the 1950s, construction remains stuck at the same level as 80 years ago, he said.
“That’s because construction remains largely manual, while manufacturing and other industries have made significant progress in the use of digital, sensing and automation technologies.
“We and other research groups see 3D-printed concrete as a possible solution to these problems. The technique will likely also give architects the freedom to inject more creativity into their designs for new structures,” said Sanjayan.
Modern civil infrastructure is almost entirely built with concrete. More than 20 billion tons of concrete is used per year, Sanjayan explains.
“The only material we use more than that is water.
“The construction industry is facing a number of serious problems, including low labour efficiency and high accident rates at construction sites.”
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the construction industry has the highest rate of work-related injuries at 59 per 1000 workers.
There are also difficulties in quality control at construction sites, high levels of waste and carbon emissions, cost blow-outs, and challenges in managing large worksites with a vanishing skilled workforce.
Disruptive technologies such as 3D concrete printing can offer solutions.
3D construction uses additive manufacturing techniques, which means objects are constructed by adding layers of material.
Conventional approaches to construction involve casting concrete into a mould.
But additive construction combines digital technology and new insights from materials technology to allow free-form construction without the use of formwork.
Eliminating the cost of formwork is the major economic driver of 3D concrete printing. Built using materials such as timber, formwork accounts for about 60 per cent of the total cost of concrete construction.
It’s also a significant source of waste, given that it is discarded sooner or later.

Manufacturing: 1/3 to be automated within 3 years

A third of manufacturing is expected to be automated within the next three years, according to a report investigating the rise of technology and the impact of Industry 4.0.
The report from SSG Insight reveals one in eight (12%) of manufacturers are going further with their technological evolution, by preparing to automate up to 50% of their business in the same time frame.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is predicted to help automate internal areas within manufacturing businesses, primarily aligned to the production and manufacturing process including the decision making required to optimise operational performance. AI will also be applied to predict and manage maintenance issues and address quality deviations. External business areas such as sales and marketing, distribution and customer service are less likely to be automated.
Nearly all manufacturers (93%) are utilising live data and automation technology already in some capacity, most commonly to help optimise products and ensure quality consistency. The second most popular way to utilise the technology today is to facilitate a better understanding of the end customer, leading to the development of supporting services as a change to the traditional manufacturing business model.
Improvements in speed, whether developing new products to bring to market, the pace of production, reducing downtime and enabling better decision making are all being driven by automation technology. Furthermore, live data is helping manufacturing businesses to be more accountable, including providing a better understanding of the workforce to create happy and safe working environments, as well as improving traceability of materials and lowering the cost of production.
Manufacturers identify the areas of technology they predict will play a greater role in their business in the next three years:

  1. Analytics of big data including customer insight (28%).
  2. AI and machine learning (26%).
  3. Automation, robotics and cobots (25%).
  4. Internet of Things (24%).
  5. App-based, mobile reporting software for seamless management (22%).
  6. 3D printing and material science (18%).

This latest industry snapshot draws on extensive research among leading manufacturing executives. The report, Harnessing Technology and Insight: Manufacturers maintaining a competitive edge in an age of uncertainty & opportunity, is co-authored by industrial automation and control engineering expert Dr Hongwei Zhang and Professor Sameh Saad from Sheffield Hallam University and Jon Moody of SSG Insight.
Principal lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University Dr Zhang said: “Industry 4.0 is here, and the opportunity is now for manufacturers to embrace the potential of the technology currently available, as well as prepare for future advancements in order to retain a competitive edge. It’s vital that manufacturers seek to futureproof their business as far as possible, utilising live data and advanced analytics to unlock the potential for greater automation and AI within production plants.”
Chief product officer at SSG Insight Jon Moody said: “The rapid acceleration of technology is seen as the biggest challenge disrupting the manufacturing industry today, but it also presents the greatest opportunity. The adoption of technologies such as AI, robotics, automation and 3D printing, as well as innovative data management, will ensure manufacturers can reap the benefits of Industry 4.0 and become more globally competitive. It’s encouraging therefore to see manufacturers committing to investment in technology.”
 

Manufacturing, transport are major challenges to be studied

UNSW Sydney has announced new institutes to address humanity’s most pressing challenges, in which the university will invest up to $200m in new and emerging areas.
UNSW Sydney has established four new institutes focused on finding solutions to major scientific and social challenges confronting society through cross-disciplinary research.
The UNSW Futures Institutes are part of the UNSW Futures initiative, a major component of the university’s 2025 Strategy. UNSW Futures provides a framework for facilitating cross-faculty and interdisciplinary work, driving innovative approaches to research, and addressing scientific and social challenges.
As part of the initiative, UNSW will invest up to $200m in new and emerging areas from across faculties. These virtual institutes will receive core funding to support operations, seed-funding for new research projects, and a commitment of funding for Strategic Hires and Retention Program (SHARP) employees.
UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Nicholas Fisk announced the first four futures institutes last week. The first futures institutes are:

  • UNSW Ageing Futures Institute: enabling optimal ageing for individuals and society – led by Professor Kaarin Anstey.
  • UNSW Cellular Genomics Futures Institute: inventing technologies to decode individual cell DNA, chromatin, RNA, and protein outputs that will be used for precise diagnosis and precision treatment of human disease – led by Professor Chris Goodnow.
  • UNSW Digital Grid Futures Institute: future-proofing global energy systems to ensure reliable, secure, affordable, sustainable energy supply – led by Professor Joe Dong.
  • UNSW Materials & Manufacturing Futures Institute: transforming the future of materials and manufacturing research in energy, transport, information technology, and healthcare – initially led by Professor Sean Li pending a definitive appointment.

The university will formally launch the institutes at an event on Wednesday 24 October from 4 – 6pm in John Niland Scientia Building, Leighton Hall. The event will include a brief presentation and panel discussion, followed by an opportunity for networking with futures institute directors and lead investigators.
Professor Fisk said these institutes position UNSW as a big picture visionary university of the future.
“The institutes will enhance UNSW’s focus on innovative interdisciplinary and cross-faculty research that impacts society and policy,” said Professor Fisk. “The institutes build on our existing strengths and will act as a drawcard for international recruitment, government and industry links, while harnessing academic excellence to address humanity’s major challenges.”
A second round of UNSW Futures Institutes applications will open in late 2019.
 

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