HORSE (Smart integrated Robotics system for SMEs controlled by Internet of Things based on dynamic manufacturing processes) aimed to bring a leap forward in the manufacturing industry proposing new flexible and versatile production lines: A new model of smart factory involving collaboration of humans, robots, AGV’s (Autonomous Guided Vehicles) and machinery to realize industrial tasks in an efficient manner is developed and validated.
The manufacturing industry and particular manufacturing SMEs are faced with pressures to increase productivity and efficiency. This is directly related with the production flexibility. The Industry 4.0 developments encompass advanced robotics, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Cyber-Physical Systems. Despite the progress these have not resulted in providing more flexibility in the factory floor. The use of robots in manufacturing is still not flexible and efficient. First, there are the safety regulations that still keep the robots in isolated spaces from humans, and the emergence of collaborative robots does not always solve the safety issues if not supported by the right technological context. Secondly, the inflexibility is also caused by the work allocation specification. Human and Robotic agents have specific tasks and it is not easy to change these tasks in a dynamic manner as requested by the diversity of products and production lines would impose. This leads to sub-optimal resource usage. Thirdly, robot control processes are often poorly integrated in overall, end-to-end manufacturing processes. Robot control processes often follow a vertical orientation, focused on the operation within the individual work cells.
HORSE proposed a comprehensive set of activities to address the above issues and speed up adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies for highly flexible and reconfigurable production lines. HORSE is a multi-faceted project that paved the way in a multiple of areas:
- Technical pilar: HORSE Framework developed a reference architecture for a cyber-physical system that combined horizontal production processes in the cyber space with vertical production agents (human workers, machines and robots), in an integrated environment which enabled production flexibility and reconfiguration. Safety of the human worker as well as reduction of health risks through physical support by the robotized equipment were considered in the new digital manufacturing processes. HORSE aims at designing, developing and testing an integrated software environment that explicitly supports (1) safe collaboration of human and robotic workers in the same physical environment, (2) flexible, dynamic allocation of manufacturing tasks to robotic workers, human workers, and hybrid teams of both, and (3) integration of vertical, within-cell manufacturing processes with horizontal, across-cell processes and linkage of these to enterprise-wide business processes. A variety of components have been integrated in the framework and have been customized and integrated.
- Factory Challenges: A range of 10 factory -driven use cases addressing real-life manufacturing challenges. (see HORSE Factories).
Ecosystem of Digital Innovation hubs: HORSE fostered technology deployment towards SMEs by:
- developing a methodological and technical framework for easy adaptation of robotic solutions (see HORSE Technical Framework)
- co-designing and piloting this framework with 3 factories: Thomas Regout International in the Netherlands, Robert Bosch Fabrica Castellet SA in Spain, and Oldewnie Polskie SA, in Poland.
- paving the way for the set-up of an innovative manufacturing ecosystem with regional Digital Innovation Hubs that act as clustering points for industry 4.0 application in manufacturing. The ecosystem is composed of:
HORSE fostered advanced manufacturing technology deployment by industries and especially SMEs that stimulate their interest and further actions. Therefore, HORSE Innovation Hubs were established and now became recognized regional hubs with central role in the digitization of their regions. They offer technical expertise, demonstration of HORSE Framework and network to robotics and digitalisation for European industry and especially manufacturing SME. In line with the EC initiative to support the European leadership in manufacturing through the adoption of ICT technologies, HORSE is an implementation of the second phase of I4MS, focusing on Advanced Robotics for manufacturing.