1) Robotization of press brake tooling manufacture:
WILA is a renowned manufacturer of a variety of tooling for press brake, which is an equipment for bending sheet metal. The press brake is a machine pressing tool for bending sheet and plate metal products. The tooling is designed clamp work pieces prior to bending to match different product configurations. Figure 1 (a) illustrates an image of a press brake machine, while figure 1(b) shows an image for a press brake tooling, which WILA produces at its manufacturing facility at Lochem, here in the Netherlands.
Figure 1: Press brake tooling
The manufacture process of the tooling involves several steps consisting of variety of operations and production steps. Usually starting with metal blanks of varying dimensions, or thickness, transformation of the blanks to the press brake tooling involves a combination of processes, such as cutting, grinding, machining, welding, assembly and inspection. The transformation processes involves a combination of traditional manufacturing with several production steps integrating robots systems. Integrating robots within the manufacturing cells yields a high-level of autonomy and automation, with several obvious benefits – high productivity, safety and consistent product quality. However, several other manufacturing processes still rely on operators, of course, with associated lower levels of autonomy and/or automation.
This thesis assignment will focus on developing a conceptual approach for assessing feasibility of robotizing production processes in the shop floor. The developed approach should guide decision makers to identify, analyze in a structured way, and prioritize production processes or steps which can be robotized or automated by introducing technologies such as AGV’s. The developed approach will emphasize use systematic methods, for instance, hierarchical task analysis (HTA) for functional decomposition and tasks analysis. Furthermore, the assignment will seek to develop a selection criteria which will characterize potential steps to be robotized. For instance, production steps with repetitive assembly sequences could be candidates for robotization, while highly cognitive steps are best performed by operators. The developed approach is expected to yield an expert decision support tool/model (DST) for implementing the methodology (e.g. based on Paprika software or other DST tools).
Key activities of the research include the following:
- Use structured functional decomposing methods, to analyze manufacturing and assembly processes and identify critical production steps for each of the processes.
- Formulate criteria for assessing feasibility of robotizing several or all critical steps of the manufacturing and/or assembly processes.
- Design develop a multi-criteria decision support tool for implementing systematic characterization and prioritization of interesting manufacturing processes to robotize on the shop floor.
- The final activity will involve validating the conceptual model to identify candidate processes at WILA which can be feasibly robotized.