Automation System Where Machines and Robots Make Their Own Decisions
(Photo : University West)
A new automation system has been designed by researchers at the University West in Sweden. With this automation system, robots and machines can make their own decisions and adapt to external circumstances. Even when there is an error they continue to function. They are designed with the ability to be easily reprogrammed and fitted with different equipment and manufactured products.
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Automation Scientists Fredrik Danielsson and Bo Svensson have demonstrated that this works in reality. The tests were performed on an automated production line which had three robots, two metal cutting machines, a transportation system, a material handling system and a measuring station.
Generally such an automated production line functions as long as nothing goes wrong since the system is hierarchical. The master control system gives orders about what should be done. Only when the control system is told that the order has been completed, the next order is placed.
"A single error somewhere makes everything stop. For example, if a sheet metal is damaged an operator has so take it out and then reset and restart everything," says Bo Svensson.
In Fredrik Danielsson's and Bo Svensson's new model, all robots and machines work independently.
"The agents know what neighbors they should communicate with and make small local decisions," says Fredrik Danielsson.
An agent is triggered by what is happening next to it. The start signal for a machine may be that someone puts a sheet metal in it. Then it knows that it must drill. Things do not have to happen in a certain order. If a sheet metal is lost the system continues to work with other sheets. The operator can also insert a new part in the middle of the flow without disturbing the system.
Agents are automatically generated in minutes by the software P-SOP developed by Fredrik Danielsson and Bo Svensson. The operator gives P-SOP instructions, in the form of a PowerPoint sketch, of how the system should work.
"Then he presses a button and P-SOP spits out a bunch of small agents for different machines. I think this may be the next big step in automation," says Fredrik Danielsson.