An open approach to modular control systems for agile automations
This research has investigated methods and technologies to improve the agility of automated production systems with particular reference to open systems, modular control, and parametric mechatronic software. A critical review of current methods and technologies, both in available literature and the study of prototype modular control systems available in the Manufacturing Systems Integration Research Institute (MSIRI) of Loughborough University, revealed that production agility could be improved by enabling adaptability at the levels of control system integration and control module configuration. The practise to parametrically link the transition logic of many autonomous modules together forming integrated systems on the basis of functional components was known to improve adaptability. The research found that adaptability could be further increased if all other logic elements within the components became reconfigurable as well. Proprietary control infrastructures used in the prior art were identified as a limitation on adaptability. These findings led to the design and implementation of the universal mechatronic software (UMS), in a manner that supports a wide range of mainstream computing infrastructures, features fully parametric logic, and connects modules through open network protocols. This makes it possible to:
1) Design, simulate and parametrise clusters of mechatronic systems using uniform models.
2) Use the UMS in all control modules regardless of module function and cluster architecture.
3) Reuse legacy systems and existing networks in UMS controlled systems without modifications.
This research quantified adaptability in automatic production control systems, contributed to science by proposing mathematical models that focus on maximising adaptability, and contributed to technology by implementing these models in the form of parametrisable control software which when used for production control promises to deliver higher adaptability than its prior art.
- Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering