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E-space for collaborative manufacture of reconfigurable assembly cells

Development of a framework for the design and manufacture of a new generation of highly customisable and flexible assembly cells over the internet for a number of strategic industrial sectors in europe.

Assembly automation is a core enabling technology in a number of key European industrial sectors such as telecommunication systems and products, precision medical equipment, electronics, automotive and other sectors. Such industries have common requirements for increased product customisation and improved competitiveness in terms of reduced cost, shorter delivery times and improved quality. In order to address these demands in the current highly competitive market, the users and suppliers of assembly systems need to work together to deliver highly customised production systems faster and at a lower cost. To make such systems efficient they should be able to be reconfigured and reused for the manufacture of different products. Due to the level of customisation required, the assembly automation base in Europe has gradually moved from large suppliers to small, lean and agile companies capable of delivering a wide variety of systems in small volumes, often one-of-a-kind and with shorter delivery times. The proposed project aims to produce a working prototype for a web site that will facilitate the exchange of information needed in order to design systems such as those mentioned above. The project consortium has identified that there is a clear need for practical methods and tools to support the interactions between different stakeholders at the early product and assembly cell design stages. E-RACE will create a framework in which cells can be specified and configured over the Internet. Different module vendors can then deliver these. This new environment will improve competitiveness, initially for the manufacturers involved and ultimately, to the UNITED KINGDOM and European manufacturing industry in general. The forum will improve the specification process for purchasing new equipment by compressing the time of response and thereby reducing design cost. An important step in this process is the identification, structuring and formalisation of the related knowledge contained within organisations. This has to be implemented through the development of new working methods for rapid specification, design and manufacture of 'smart' (knowledge intensive) assembly systems. E-RACE aims to address these issues by bringing together a consortium of SMEs (including suppliers and manufacturers) and users of customised reconfigurable assembly cells supported by the expertise of several academic and research institutions. By using this forum to improve the specification of the equipment and time of response this will improve the competitiveness of the manufacturers involved. A key factor for recent developments in assembly automation has been the need for portability, rapid specification and delivery of customisable assembly cells on demand. A framework where cells can be specified and configured over the web and delivered by different distributed module vendors offers an ideal solution for this. Despite the active research in development of distributed engineering support systems, there is a clear need for practical methods and tools to support the interactions between different stakeholders at the early product and assembly system design stages. E-RACE aims to significantly improve the current practices and provide a basis for design and manufacture of a new generation of highly customisable and flexible assembly cells for a number of strategic industrial sectors in Europe. Keywords: assembly cells, collaborative design, web portal.
Acronym: 
E-RACE
Project ID: 
2 851
Start date: 
01-09-2002
Project Duration: 
36months
Project costs: 
9 550 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Computer Technology/Graphics, Meta Computing
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.