Modular and Easily Reconfigured Manufacturing Cells

Technology Overview

Typical production lines in a factory are highly customised and expensive to reconfigure. Stations were centrally controlled by a PLC and sensors are placed along conveyor systems to monitor goods being produced. Such design is often difficult to modify or scale without reprogramming the centralized PLC and going offline to test and commission the new modifications. 

This innovation introduces a decentralised, modular production station and conveyor system that improves flexibility and scalability of production lines. The modular manufacturing cell supports the low-volume, high-mix production process by allowing different goods to share some production process (e.g. packing) while each having unique assembly steps along the production line.

Technology Features & Specifications

The innovation comprises of the following modular components:

  1. Modular Transport System with Decentralised Control: Sensor-less and Stopper-less transport system with autonomous carts with traffic control and connectivity.
  2. Autonomous Carts: Monorail and Twin-rail carts move goods between stations. Autonomous design reduces sensors along the rails and reduces efforts to reconfigure rails and stations. The cart provides ’Lot Size 1’ capability with full product data traceability up to individual product tracing.
  3. Modular Processing Station: Dockable processing station that can be rapidly configured to run different assembly process or product. The station has a scalable base that allows machines of different size to be mounted. A standardise connect provides power, connectivity, pneumatic and vacuum to the cell base, reducing configuration time.
  4. Scalable Base: Agile, reusable, flexible manufacturing cells with multi-product capability
  5. Flexi-Picker: A vision assisted versatile robotic product handling system that can pick and place the product by compensating actual pallet position error.

Potential Applications

The modular manufacturing cells are easily reconfigurable, reducing the total cost of implementation of the production line. The system is scalable allowing "farms" of processing station arrays to be added incrementally or reconfigured even when production is online.

Market Trends and Opportunities

Typical manufacturing lines are customised to produce a predefined recipe of goods. Each line is typically configured to be responsible for one recipe and requires significant changeover and stabilization time making it increasingly unsuitable for the low-volume, high-mix manufacturing. Shorter product life requires shorter ROI period for dedicated investment in new manufacturing lines. Manufacturers find it challenging to produce low-volume high-mix products in their manufacturing lines.

These cells provide more flexibility as they are reusable, scalable manufacturing modules that can be used to build multiple products on the same production line, maximizing reuse and minimizing reconfiguration cost to scale or add product variation. The cells are suitable for both high-volume, low-mix production, and low-volume, high-mix production.

Customer Benefits

The cells are able to provide a host of benefits as below:

  • Flexible configuration
  • Scalable and fast integration capable
  • Modular & reusable
  • Highly reconfigurable with distributed intelligence
  • Lower cost & shorter lead time
  • Easily automate existing manual loading machines
  • Single lot processing
  • Green manufacturing
  • Collision sensing cart
  • IoT cart with inbuilt controller
  • Lower operating cost

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