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Self reconfigurable intelligent swarm fixtures (SwarmItFIX)
Start date: 01 Oct 2008, End date: 31 Jan 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

A step beyond flexible/reconfigurable fixtures for higher continuous adaptation of production resources respect to production objectives and technical conditions in the knowledge-based factory is achievable today by synergic convergence of the NMP themes of flexible fixtures, parallel robots and new/smart materials with the ICT themes of robot swarms with networked embedded control. Today’s smartest adaptable fixtures have limited adjustment capability, are mostly operated manually, are usually setup off-line with help of external measuring equipment, e.g. laser. Significant increase in effectiveness and decrease in cost may come from on-line fully actuated configuration/reconfiguration, large adaptability to different shapes and the capability to dynamically concentrate the support in the region where manufacturing is actually performed, doing that on-line and without moving/removing the part from the fixture. We propose the new concept of self adaptable swarm fixtures composed of mobile agents that can freely move on a bench and reposition below the supported part behaving as a swarm, all without moving/removing the part from the fixture. Each fixture agent is composed of: *A mobile platform, *a parallel robot fixed to the mobile platform, *an adaptable head with phase-change fluid and an adhesion arrangement, to sustain/clamp the supported part perfectly adapting to the part local geometry. A hybrid control system is adopted and each robot is treated as an autonomous agent exhibiting its own behaviours. Behaviour based translocation of the robots to destination positions is adopted to reduce planner complexity, with *no need to plan exact trajectories and *no significant increase in complexity when extra units are removed/added. The area of manufacturing of thin metal sheets is considered (aircrafts and automotive bodies). The project objective is to develop a swarm fixture for a large range of sheet shapes to fully replace the specialized fixtures today used.
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