Intelligent Virtual Design and Manufacturing
Modern manufacturing enterprises are no longer well-defined in their locations but comprise virtual environments in which related manufacturing operations may be widely distributed geographically and yet closely linked conceptually in terms of dependencies and material, information and knowledge flows. In virtual design and manufacturing, teams from the same company but in different geographic locations or teams from several companies band together to achieve a specific goal.
Virtual Manufacturing System (VMS). A VMS architecture is currently being developed in collaboration with Huazhong University of Science & Technology (HUST), P.R. China, and NUS, where a product design could be performed in NUS and manufacturing done in HUST, and vice versa. The developed VMS architecture will have a plug-and-play characteristic so that the users can plug in a variety of packages, e.g., simulation software, CAPP system, CAD/CAM software, and elements in a manufacturing system such as factory equipment and materials. Interfaces and common databases will be developed so that commercially available software packages and systems that have been developed or currently being developed in the university can be integrated to function as a complete system. Current research activities in VMS are in the areas of the development of an agent-based web-based fault diagnostic system for machining processes using JESS, and using virtual reality technology and mobile agents to optimise and tele-monitor machining processes (Figures 1 and 2).
Figure 1: Web-based Virtual Milling Machine.
Figure 2: Collision Detection.
An intelligent manufacturing resource management system is currently being created with the Java programming language. A client/server model is adopted in this system, wherein the server would interact with a resources database and retrieve and process the data according to the requirements of the client programs. This system is applicable in a virtual enterprise, where the different parts of the system are able to interact with one another over the Internet.
Virtual Design. A distributive and collaborative concurrent product design system through the WWW and the Internet has been developed on the Unigraphics platform. This system allows designers to concurrently work on one same product at different geographical locations, making use of the macro functions in Unigraphics. Currently, an intelligent web-based feature-based incremental feature recogniser that can handle features interactions is currently being developed. This STEP-based incremental feature recogniser, that is being developed on the Unigraphics platform and employs the neural network techniques, can handle various types of features intersections and interactions.
A Distributed Multi-Agent Environment for Product Design and Manufacturing Planning. A multi-agent system that integrates product design, manufacturability analysis, and process planning, has been developed. The objective is to develop a distributed concurrent engineering system to allow geographically dispersed entities to work co-operatively towards overall system goals. The proposed model considers constraints and requirements from the different product development cycles in the early development phases and fully supports the concept of design-for-manufacturability. This methodology uses conflict resolution (CR) techniques and design-improvement suggestions to refine the initial product design. The model comprises a facilitator agent, a console agent and six service agents. Each service agent is used to model different product development phases, and the console agent acts as an interacting interface between designers and the system, while the facilitator is responsible for the decomposition and dispatching of tasks, and resolving conflicts of poor designs. A prototype system for part design, manufacturability analysis, and process planning has been implemented. The performance of the prototype system shows that it could be extended to include other service agents, such as assemblability analysis, to become a comprehensive distributed concurrent engineering system for geographically dispersed customers and suppliers.
Contact Person: Prof Andrew Nee
Tel: 874 2892, Fax: 779 1459