Collaborative machining, powered by the cloud
Design, planning, and even production - EU-funded researchers have developed a cloud-based system that supports the machining of parts. Intended primarily for SMEs, this system is designed to streamline manufacturing processes and facilitate collaboration among users.
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The cloud-based manufacturing system developed by the CAPP-4-SMEs project was designed specifically to streamline the production of machined parts. It was trialled in three of the businesses involved in the research.
From the design stage to the delivery of executable code, all steps leading up to the production of a machined part can be handled as part of an integrated process, says project coordinator Lihui Wang of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. The system also factors in the availability of the required machines and runs simulations to pre-empt any problems at the actual machining stage.
If the production equipment is hooked up to the internet, the system can even go one step further and run it by feeding in the necessary instructions, Wang notes. The process is streamlined from design all the way to machining, he explains.
The ability to produce instructions and actually operate the machinery is a unique feature, Wang observes. I am unaware of other cloud-based systems that can produce machinable code and cut a part directly, he notes. Cloud-based manufacturing in itself is still quite rare in machining, he observes.
The system was envisaged as a pay-as-you-go service, although further development would be needed following the end of the project in November 2015, Wang notes. It would help businesses to save time and resources by enabling them to plan and optimise processes, he adds. It could also provide them with a marketplace for crucial services: users could outsource parts of the process or to make idle capacity available to others. Smaller businesses could also collaborate on large orders, joining forces to handle tasks they might not be able to handle individually. Our system could truly empower SMEs, Wang concludes.
Two of the CAPP4SMEs project partners are continuing to work with Wang and his team to turn the cloud-based solution into a business.