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  Flexible Inter Processing  
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In the flexible inter processing scenario different types of items are moved from one place to another depending of production specific requirements. The requirements can specify one-of-a kind, small quantity or large quantity of items to be moved. A temporary/partial or complete item is placed alone or together with other items for either further manufacturing or temporary storage. An item is undergoing a series of manufacturing activities and must be stored, retrieved and moved between such activities.

In this scenario the flexible inter processing system knows which items are involved and the planned manufacturing activities for such items. The units of the inter processing system, for example a combination of autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), various forms of stationary storage and temporary manufacturing tools interact and collaborate about timing and responsibility for the actual flow of the inter processing movements of items. The units of the flexible inter processing system will communicate either with the surroundings of the manufacturing processes to locate the items or directly with the items themselves. Flexibility and autonomy are essential properties of the inter processing system in the sense that the units collaborate about the actual activities and units can change dynamically from actual but unnecessary services to other services with high priority.
Information concerning the status and priority of each item is available and can be controlled through interaction with the flexible inter processing system at any time.

In order to reach the needed flexibility and a reasonable capacity, a large amount of control units will be placed in production equipment, AGV’s etc., and to make this economical feasible the units must be low price. A key issue is therefore to make the architecture for the distributed control units as simple as possible, only handling the needed processes and communication, in a generic way so that different kind of equipment can be controlled by the same control system. The project will develop and produce cheap AGV’s, possible from scrap plastic, as well as cost effective control systems and architectures, with focus on minimizing the processor and communication demand in the distributed units.

To start experiments at an early stage and at low cost, experimental test platforms will be set up. An experimental prototype, based on LEGO Mindstorms artifacts equipped with processing and communication capabilities combined with additional PDA devices and wireless communication will be set up. In the initial configuration, PDA’s are attached to the LEGO artifact and serve as an informational element of the tangible object whereas the LEGO construction itself represents a physical element. The PDA communicates with the LEGO construction through an IR port and controls the various sensors and actuators from the LEGO Mindstorm package. LEGO constructions may be stationary or movable. Their functionality may include to move parts of itself or to move itself.

The result of this phase will be a prototype of flexible inter processing consisting of:

  • Intelligent containers, movable by LEGO Mindstorms.
  • Simulated intelligent production sites, with available LEGO bricks.
  • LEGO Mindstorms, used as flexible transportation units.
  • A simple high-level shop floor control system, enabling users to input tasks etc.

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Related research areas
Ambient Intelligence with Tangible Objects
Mobile Systems and Wireless Communication
Object Technology
Project Manager
Bent Bruun Kristensen
the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute for Production Technology
University of Southern Denmark
Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense M

Phone: 6550 3539
Fax: 6615 7697
Email: bbk@mip.sdu.dk

   CfPC©, updated: 14-nov-05