An EU project called I-RAMP3 has brought together a consortium of industrial enterprises and research bodies to develop intelligent, communicative components aimed at transforming production facilities quickly and without complexity. The project, which has three years’ backing from the European Commission, is already producing impressive results. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum is supporting the project coordinator, providing assistance with project bidding. It is also a project partner for project planning, knowledge management and training.
Information technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds, allowing industry to reinvent itself. Future production practices are being examined as the curtain goes up on intelligent, flexible and network production facilities (Industry 4.0 or smart factories). Fully on board with this trend is an EU project called I-RAMP3 (full title: Intelligent Reconfigurable Machines for Smart Plug & Produce Production). The goal set for I-RAMP3 is to optimize the commissioning time for production facilities – also known as the ramp-up stage – and to shorten this process.
The project is being coordinated by Harms & Wende GmbH, who is currently working with business partners to develop a process that can also be embedded in legacy production systems. The development of smart systems for introduction into industrial manufacturing is integral to the concept – with Plug & Produce capability to reduce the time taken between planning and production ramp-up. This should be made possible by NETDEVs (network-enabled devices). NETDEVs are quite simply devices that are linked through a network to inform each other about their availability and functionality. This can drastically simplify the time-consuming task of configuring devices and optimize processes. The I-RAMP3 concept also involves new ways to introduce intelligent sensors and actuators, both of which will play an important role in designing future “smart factories.” Ultimately, this should improve quality and flexibility and cut costs by raising efficiency.
In addition to Harms & Wende, four other German organizations are involved in the project alongside industrial partners and research bodies from France, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal and Hungary. The concept and scope of the technology covers production in all sectors of industry. It is this universality that will offer opportunities for wide-scale industrial application. Another important feature of I-RAMP3 relates to its modularity. NETDEVs offer potential use as building blocks in extremely heterogeneous production networks. Since they are easy to adapt and can configure themselves, they offer ways to carry out modular upgrades on existing machinery.
The success of the project does not just hinge on milestones of a purely technological nature, however. When highly qualified experts come together from different fields, it is crucial for them to communicate intensively and openly. This not only includes technical discussions and joint developments, but also the pooling of knowledge into a common base. Special attention is therefore given to prudent observation of intellectual property rights and the interests of both the individual and the group. As a result, work extends beyond technological tasks to include other core elements of the project: knowledge management, clarification of property rights, training on technology transfer and the sharing of project results.
Eighteen months into the project, the project partners met up in the early summer of 2014 to conduct a half-time evaluation of the project. Goals reached until now were presented and examined critically. A road map was also developed for tasks in the next project phase. For the first time, NETDEV prototypes and software components were also presented. As the project progresses, the prototypes will be combined to make three types of demonstration models which will then also be presented. Technical consultants and representatives of the European Commission also attended the session and were extremely positive about the project, particularly highlighting the early accomplishment of project results and the outstanding degree of collaboration within the consortium.
The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum supported I-RAMP3 in the project bidding process, providing project partners with project management support in administration and funding. Its work also focused on tasks such as knowledge management, clarifying intellectual property rights and associated training within the consortium communication project process. The latest news on the project and project events can be viewed on the website and a LinkedIn page for the project.