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The efficiency and sustainability of both the manufacturing of actual and future products is still very much determined by the processes that shape and assemble the components of these products. Innovative products and advanced materials (including nano-materials) are emerging but are not yet developing to their full advantage since robust manufacturing methods to deliver these products and materials are not developed for large scale. Research is needed to ensure that novel manufacturing processes can efficiently exploit the potential of novel products for a wide range of applications.

Mechatronics, which is also called mechatronic engineering, is a multidisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the engineering of both electrical and mechanical systems, and also includes a combination of robotics, electronics, computer, telecommunications, systems, control, and product engineering. (From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechatronics)

  • Advanced materials in manufacturing systems
    Production equipment does not yet take full advantage of the benefits that new and advanced materials offer, and factories of the future will need more advanced equipment to meet the requirements for energy efficiency and environmental targets and to meet new demands for a connected world. The future will therefore see modern, lightweight, long-lasting/flexible and smart equipment able to produce current and future products for existing and new markets. There will be a step change in the construction of such equipment, leading to a sustainable manufacturing base able to deliver high added value products and customised production. Increased smartness in the manufacturing equipment also enables a systems approach with machines able to learn from each other and impacting on the human-machine interface.
  • Measurement, condition and performance monitoring technologies

    Continuous monitoring of the condition and performance of the manufacturing system on component and machine level, enables sustainable and competive manufacturing, also by introducing autonomous diagnosis capabilities and context-awareness. Detecting, measuring and monitoring the variables, events and situations will increase the performance and reliability of manufacturing systems. This involves advanced metrology, calibration and sensing, signal processing and model-based virtual sensing for a wide range of applications, e.g. event pattern detection, diagnostics, anomaly detection, prognostics and predictive maintenance.

  • Control technologies

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_system

    Control technologies will be further exploiting the increasing computational power and intelligence in order to come forward to the demands of increased speed and precision in manufacturing. Advanced control strategies will allow the use of lighter actuators and structural elements for obtaining very rigid and accurate solutions, replacing slower and more energy-intensive approaches. Learning controllers adapt the behaviour of systems to changing environments or system degradation, taking into account constraints and considering alternatives, hereby relying on robust industrial real-time communication technologies, system modelling approaches and distributed intelligence architectures.

  • Energy technologies
  • Intelligent machinery components, actuators and end-effectors

    Intelligent components enable the deployment of safe, energy-efficient, accurate and flexible or reconfigurable products and production systems. This includes the introduction of smart actuators and the use of advanced end-effectors composed of passive and active materials. Energy technologies are gaining importance, such as (super)capacitors, pneumatic storage devices, batteries and energy harvesting technologies.

  • Engineering tools

    Engineering is the creative application of science, mathematical methods, and empirical evidence to the innovation, design, construction, operation and maintenance of structures, machines, materials, devices, systems, processes, and organizations. (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineering)

The European Factories of the Future are expected to provide global manufacturing competitiveness, but also to create a large amount of work opportunities for the European population. Future factory workers are therefore key resources for industrial competitiveness as well as important consumers. However, the changing demographics and high skill requirements faced by European industry pose new challenges. Workers with high knowledge and skills (“knowledge workers”) will be scarce resources.

The classification shown below has been successfully applied under the Ace factories cluster projects (A4BLUE, Factory2Fit, HUMAN, INCLUSIVE, and MANUWORK) funded under the horizon 2020 call “FOF-04-2016: Continuous adaptation of work environments with changing levels of automation in evolving production systems”.  More details can be found in The ACE factories white paper “Human-centred factories from theory to industrial practice. Lessons learned and recommendations” (More information).

  • Augmented and Virtual Worker
  • Social and collaborative worker
  • Super-strong worker
  • Health and happy operator
  • Smarter and Analytical operator

 

  • Augmented and Virtual Worker

    Workers must undertake regular training to acquire and refresh the skills that are required due to new procedures. Providing adaptive tools that deal with human variability for training purposes will facilitate the learning process. Mixed Reality (MR) technologies allow the adaptability of training and guidance to changing circumstances (e.g. new devices, new procedures, new workers, workers with different skills, etc.).  (Source)

     

  • Social and collaborative worker

    The Social and collaborative operator concept includes, on the one hand, solutions to support participatory design and knowledge sharing and, on the other hand, human-robots collaboration solutions. Knowledge sharing and communication are key aspects in the industrial work context.  (Source)

  • Super-strong worker

    The Super-strong operator concept involves the usage of wearable apparatus, such as exoskeleton devices, that have the potential to reduce the operator’s physical fatigue, increase their strength, overall safety and productivity
    Health and happy operator.  (Source)

  • Healthy and happy operator

    The Healthy and happy operator concept can be supported by solutions that monitor physical and mental fatigue, and solutions that give the worker motivating feedback. While many traditional ergonomics and physical safety challenges disappear when operator work becomes knowledge based, new challenges related to cognitive ergonomics may arise as a result of higher mental workload. (Source)

  • Smarter and Analytical operator

    The smart and analytical operator is assisted by an Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA). This is a software agent or artificial intelligence that has been developed to help a smart operator in interfacing with machines, computers, databases and other information systems as well as managing time commitments and performing tasks or services in a human-like interaction.  (Source)