The Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), located in Co. Westmeath, Ireland, has added a new smart manufacturing cell. The pilot cell combines robots, intelligent sensors and related algorithms to improve process reliability and overall efficiency.
“Using complex algorithms, we can actually teach computers how to optimise and adjust processes without the need for human intervention,” explained Dr. Declan Devine, director of the Materials Research Institute at AIT.
He continued: “If a [manufactured] part goes out of spec, the machine will realise and compensate immediately, which has the potential to save companies large amounts of money.”
The smart manufacturing cell is funded by Confirm, a €47m SFI-funded smart manufacturing research centre. The centre’s goal is to improve the competitiveness of the Irish polymer industry through technological advances.
It is believed that smart manufacturing using automated and self-regulating processes is a strategy which will allow companies in areas with high labour rates to compete directly with those in regions with lower wages.
Companies interested in utilising the pilot line can work collaboratively with the team in either of two ways.
AIT can purchase the equipment and license use back to the company, or the company can bring their own technology to learn how it works in tandem with other hardware.
Dr. Devine explained, saying: “[Companies] can set up their systems here so that they can show new or potential clients what their products can do in a neutral environment. It’s a display area for their technology, as well as our own technology, and how we can augment it together.”
The team has further developed new training software which works with the smart manufacturing cell to show users how to set up and operate the machines.
The training technology currently uses virtual reality to view changes, but future plans will see those changes completed in physical demonstrations.
AIT is home to two gateways on campus. These are Comand, which specialises in ICT engineering and APT, which specialises in polymer processing.
APT was covered in the Plastics Ireland special supplement included in the July/August 2019 issue of PRW magazine.