Rapid changes in a production line require a significant flexibility of reconfiguration. Modular production equipment can create highly adaptable production lines to enable efficient production of small series tailored to customer demands. Previous research has shown that the modularity can be at two levels, either as complete machines with their own interface and material handling system or as interchangeable tool heads. In both cases, the advantage of modularity should be demonstrated by the ease of use and plug-and-produce features allowing for rapid modification.
The functionality of the modules should enable the production of the widest variety of complex products. The modules need to allow rapid physical rearrangements, through either automated processes or manual intervention; and have accessible, secure interfaces in order to be connected to a common data system for production control. The interfacing with the existing hardware and legacy software is another aspect that needs to be covered.
Proposals are expected to start from existing test beds that are flexible enough to allow for the introduction of multiple modular process units. Proposals should cover all of the following areas:
- The development of a range of production modules covering several different disciplines such as mechanical cutting tools, thermal processes, laser treatments and additive manufacturing technologies, taking into account safety aspects;
- The integration of comprehensive production management systems, including real-time process control in a reconfigurable line, which includes considerations for data interoperability between modules and process line (including legacy hardware and software);
- Pilot production of different products covering processing technologies and features such as multi-functionality (mechanical, electrical, thermal, optical, etc.), multi materials, and complex shapes.
The production modules could be considered as demonstrators on their own. However, their integration in the pilot line as well as an actual production demonstration with a variety of components or product prototypes should be achieved before the end of the project.
Proposals are expected to cover demonstration activities driven by the industrial community.
Activities should start at TRL 5 and achieve TRL 7 at the end of the project.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 12 and 15 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
As an exception from General Annex D, the funding rate for eligible costs in grants awarded under this topic will be differentiated: 100% of the eligible costs for beneficiaries and linked third parties that are non-profit legal entities; and 50% of the eligible costs for beneficiaries and linked third parties that are for profit legal entities.
- At least 15% reduction of time to reconfigure the production line (alternatively 15% reduction in downtime);
- 10% higher resource efficiency due to more suitable processing equipment for customised products;
- Reduction of at least 15% of the overall cost of production;
- Measurable yield improvement from run-to-run for small lot sizes.
Illustration Photo: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland’s new plasma equipment accelerates industrial production processes and the creation of new products. The entire production chain, from raw materials to product, has been accelerated and streamlined. (credits: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))