Evolvable/Adaptable Production Systems
Professor Mauro Onori
Description of the field
The Evolvable/Adaptive Production System group, shortly EPS group, is active in the branches of studies aimed at producing a new generation of “intelligent” manufacturing systems. The group is part of a broader EPS consortium that is spread in several European countries and that includes other universities as well as research centers and industrial partners.
Sustainability, defined as one of the main goals at the Lisbon and Gothenburg Councils, remains elusive in production systems. Sustainability is a scenario in which companies need to re-engineer rather than re-develop their existing production systems, within the shortest possible time, and at a minimal economic and ecological impact. Evolvable Production Systems (EPS) offers fully re-usable system modules, eliminated operator training, and far lower Time-to-Market.
Hence, EPS is a viable paradigm to attain such goals, and is radically new: it does not focus on solutions which try to accomplish all of the envisaged production needs within a closed unit but, rather, a solution which, being based on several re-configurable, process-oriented, intelligent modules, allows for a continuous evolution of the production system. EPS also goes a step further by proposing a totally new way a considering the products and production systems: the design cycle of the products will be influenced by which modules are available.
EPS introduces adaptability as the objective, rather than flexibility: flexible entitities cannot, by definition, adapt to new requirements without external intervention. Evolvable systems are adaptable since they may learn and consequently adapt their behaviour to meet the needs, and they are able to do so autonomously.
EPS, with its distributed control approach and dynamic link between product design and production system development, may be considered as entering the realm of Plug & Produce. This opens several new research areas, including emergence. In effect, the small-scale cooperating units with self-configuration, self-diagnostics, and self-organisation will exhibit behaviours that cannot be forecasted or planned for: emergent behaviour. The main research focus is, therefore, to develop an open system architecture for an evolvable production system, with the necessary tools and methods for analysis of emergent behaviour and subsequent complex system development methodology.
The EPS group current main topics include:
• Business Models for Evolvable Production Systems
• Highly responsive Planning and Scheduling System
• Self- Learning production system
• Self-Organizing production system
• Ontological modeling
• Scientific methodology for applied sciences
The EPS consortium is currently involved in a major European Project called IDEAS which aims to develop a new generation of very adaptable automatic Assembly System. Several other national and international projects are currently run by the group mainly in the following fields:
• Autonomous Robotic vehicle
• Advanced Control technology
Among the other research field pharmaceutical and forest industry are the most investigated for application.