Article from Germán Vergara, CTO at New Infrared Technologies

The DIMOFAC ambition is to enable the modularity, adaptability and responsiveness of production lines in order for European factories to quickly adapt to market dynamics (sudden drop of demand for a given product, sudden increase of demand for a slightly different product, etc.).

Such adaptability implies in particular a zero-defect process: this requires a tailor-made reconfiguration setup for the production of the new product. But it’s all the more challenging if the reconfiguration time is shortened, which is DIMOFAC’s goal.

The success of this ambition lies on four pillars:

  1. Online process monitoring, control and non-destructive inspection systems.
  2. A process modelling to simulate the behaviour of the module reconfiguration and the impact on product quality.
  3. Intelligent digital twins of Plug-and-Produce modules based on a model-based system engineering
  4. Printed NFC tags compliant with injection post-processing for the production of smart packaging prototypes.

In February 2021, NIT, a consortium partner specialised in machine vision detectors for the industry, coordinated the design of the first pillar, the integration of Online Process Monitoring Systems for the future advanced production lines.

Because DIMOFAC relies on the implementation and validation of a portfolio of production modules, the Online Process Monitoring Systems are focused on the design, development and implementation of an interoperable platform capable of operating in different production equipment schemes, involving different manufacturing processes (e.g. injection moulding, joining of multi-material components, sandblasting… etc.). In short, the DIMOFAC Online Process Monitoring Systems are meant to be flexible and adapt to a variety of production lines.

The objective of integrating Online Process Monitoring Systems in DIMOFAC production line is twofold:

  • Enabling closed-loop control[1] based on embedded processing, allowing reaction to unpredictable conditions.
  • In line[2] quality assurance for an early detection of defects.

The integration of Online Process Monitoring Systems in the production lines is a fundamental piece in the strategy for reaching the DIMOFAC objectives.

The benefits to the manufacturer are evident from the moment the Online Process Monitoring System integrates hardware (sensors and electronics), and software (real-time and closed-loop control algorithms) to correct the deviation of process-related magnitudes by modifying the process parameters in real time.

In addition, online quality control systems will provide an immediate awareness of the production line status (temperature distribution of moulds, welding quality, etc.), allowing to adopt corrective measurements in a short period of time for saving materials, energy and productions costs.

[1] “Closed-loop control” is a standard and widely used term referring to the capability of control systems to keep process parameters inside a predefined range.

[2] “In line” here means that the quality control of the product is made right after the production of the piece/part, in the same production line (hence, “in line”). This way you can act on the production line in a very dynamic way.