A consortium of industrial companies and academic partners led by Robert Bosch GmbH is working on the cyber-physical production systems (CPPS), a fully-automated and scalable production system that would allow industry to manufacture more flexibly and efficiently.
CPPS is an integrated information and communication infrastructure that connects an entire system of intelligent machines, storage systems, and operating resources, that can autonomously exchange information, trigger processes, and control each other, even between companies.
Supported by the German federal ministry for economic affairs and energy, the CoCoS (Context-Aware Connectivity and Service Infrastructure for Cyber-Physical Production Systems) project kicked off at the beginning of this year and is set to run through the end of 2016.
A research team has set itself the task of developing an integrated infrastructure where technical production processes are closely linked to the business processes, and can be easily and flexibly controlled or modified to allow optimum use of resources.
This is a shift away from the present-day automated production systems that are organised hierarchically with each process assigned to a level. With each level having its own function and sometimes even its own communications technology this can lead to data discontinuity which could result in changes in the production process – especially at interfaces – becoming cumbersome, time-consuming, and consequently expensive.
In contrast, CPPS can promptly respond to a changed need. Because all technical production processes are closely linked to the business processes, they can be easily and flexibly controlled or modified to allow optimum use of resources.
CPPS relies on cooperative network architectures, not hierarchical ones; this means the entire CPPS is connected, including all sensors and actuators. Moreover, it is designed to connect to several CPPS and also integrate isolated solutions. This allows companies to control the entire production process uniformly and across locations, from management to logistics.
CoCoS project researchers want to use standardised software to integrate the individual production components into the overall system – merging what were previously separate levels to create a flexible structure.
The CPPS landscape is based on two platforms. First, the networking platform, which is scalable and hence easily expanded, determines the way in which the manufacturing components as well as the embedded sensors and actuators communicate with each other. Building on this networking platform, the services platform comprises software for controlling the entire modular system and includes smart applications such as software agents, knowledge databases, and business apps.
This structure supports the development of new electronic services and makes modern manufacturing facilities more autonomous. Cloud computing can be used to integrate and couple together different cyber-physical production systems.
Other consortium partners include the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH (DFKI) in Kaiserslautern, DMG Electronics GmbH in Pfronten, Technische Universität Berlin, trustsec IT-Solutions GmbH in Stuttgart, and XETICS GmbH in Stuttgart.
To document the performance capacity of the new platform philosophy, three of the partners – Bosch, DFKI, and DMG – are each building a demonstrator. These individual demonstrators will then be coupled together and evaluated.
The CoCoS findings will lend themselves to application wherever production is split into several steps, such as the delivery of raw materials, the manufacture of components, or finished products – even when the production steps take place in different companies or at different locations belonging to a single company. CoCoS is thus helping to establish CPPS, which in turn will form the core of smart factories.
''Industry will be able to use the structures and functions of the internet of things to create smart, flexible production systems, making them a vanguard of the so-called fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). This could give Germany a distinct competitive advantage both as a manufacturing location and as a leading global provider of plant equipment,'' Bosch said in a release.
Part of the ''Autonomics for Industry 4.0'' technology programme, CoCoS is receiving some 2.4 million euros of funding from the German federal ministry of economic affairs and energy, following a decision in the German Bundestag.