Digital
intelligence
in processes

Robotics and Automation

Industrial automation can be defined as the use of a series of control devices and technologies that result in the automatic operation and control of industrial processes. All of this is done without significant human intervention, and achieving a greater yield than with manual execution.

The growing industrial competitiveness requires high quality, and increasingly more robust products at competitive prices. Industrial robotics and automation lead to an improvement in product quality, production reliability and rate, and also reduce production costs, by adopting new, innovative and integrated services and technologies.

Data acquisition through industrial sensors is essential in the industrial automation process. The latest advances in this field, driven to a great extent by Internet of Things systems, have permitted the development of intelligent sensors.

What we are currently working on

Within the field of automation, the aim of LORTEK’s intelligent manufacturing team is to provide industry with operating intelligence by incorporating advanced robotics, monitoring and IoT, data analysis, system integration, modelling and simulation. Consequently, a step forward in advanced manufacturing is proposed to achieve objectives such as zero defect manufacturing, improved quality and precision, online parts inspection, unit treatment, improved productivity, in-depth knowledge of the manufacturing process, as well as process optimization and control:

    Advanced Control:

  • Control of the additive manufacturing process: Real-time process control of the Laser Melting Deposition additive manufacturing technology. LORTEK is working on the control of this process, in order to achieve a stable increase in layers, with a constant temperature and molten bath area. With this, high geometric parts precision is achieved, as well as good metallurgical properties. In this sense, different control strategies have been satisfactorily implemented.
  • LORTEK is developing an advanced control system for the rotary friction welding process. This system will allow to control the rotary welding process with high sensitivity and speed. Besides, new advanced manufacturing capabilities are being implemented, such as the acquisition, monitoring and analysis of data and critical parameters.
  • Internet of Things:

  • Hyperconnected architecture for High Cognitive Production Plants (HYPERCOG European Project): LORTEK is developing an innovative architecture for a cyber physical system (CPS), which permits addressing the complete digital transformation of the process industry, and cognitive process production plants. This Cyber Physical Industrial System will be implemented in the use cases of SIDENOR (steel manufacture), CIMSA (cement) and SOLVAY (chemical).
  • Monitoring of the welding process: Monitoring allows optimizing the welded joint process, marking the process limits, understanding how defects are generated, and increasing the quality of welded products. In this sense, LORTEK has designed and developed an intelligent robotic welding cell, integrating a set of sensors, and capturing critical process parameters in real-time. The subsequent analysis of this data, based on artificial intelligence, allows moving towards the production of zero defects.
  • Industrial Robotics:

  • LORTEK is working on the development of a process for the intelligent repair of high value added parts through advanced robotics, welding and 3D inspection systems. The repair process includes both parts that present defects during the production process, and parts that undergo wear during their working life. The objective is to mature the available 4.0 technologies (advanced robotics, artificial vision, welding 4.0, etc.) to achieve an automated solution to repair defects.
  • Within the flexible robotized welding framework, LORTEK is working on jigless robotized welding, where one robot holds the parts to be welded, and another or several other robots simultaneously weld. A robotized cell based on this technology permits handling multiple references/products, and production orders even with unit batch sizes.

Specific Equipment

INTELLIGENT ROBOTIZED CELL

  • Integration of sensors and critical parameter capture in order to monitor the robotized welding process.

CONTROL OF THE ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING PROCESS

  • Control of the molten bath (CCD coaxial laser camera) varying the laser power.

ROBOTIZED CELL FOR THE AUTOMATIC SANITATION OF PARTS

  • Robotized cell for the automatic repair of high value-added parts.

Success Cases

Automatic ARC welding repair

Challenge

In high added value parts, the production process, or their actual lifetime in use, produces and gives rise to a series of defects – cracks, cavities, wear, flaws – that require the application of certain repair operations using filler material. The complex geometry of this type of parts has meant that the recomposition operations, carried out to date, have been done manually by specialized workers, entailing high process costs and long lead times.

Solution

In order to automate, optimize and improve the aforementioned filler operations, LORTEK has developed a work strategy based on, 1) the automatic 3D scanning of the areas to be filled, and 2) the subsequent calculation of the optimal and automatic filler material trajectories. Through modern scanning technologies – rapid, automatable, multi-material – it is possible to obtain a “digital map” (CAD) of the part in question, which will be compared with the ideal image, thus obtaining the areas to be filled. These target regions are translated into optimal filler trajectories (CAM), which an automated cell then executes.

Benefits

This robotized strategy permits, in principle, an increase in productivity thanks to the process automation. Furthermore, on reducing times and quantity of material used, it keeps the production costs down as much as possible. Finally, it provides the process with versatility faced with the many different types of defects and cases.

Challenges

Challenges to be faced in the coming years:

The future improvement of welding processes and their operating performance will depend on the efficacy of the development and implementation of innovative adaptive systems. In this sense, work will be carried out on the automation, robotization and adaptive control of complex welding processes. These new systems must be robust, reconfigurable, reliable, intelligent and economically feasible to satisfy the demands of an advanced manufacturing technology.
The manufacture of parts with complex geometries by means of the LMD additive manufacturing process, may represent a challenge for the mono-variable controls implemented today. Multivariable adaptive control algorithms will make it possible to optimize the additive manufacturing process in terms of different objectives, such as the part quality, the efficiency of the deposited powder, the manufacturing speed, etc.
The HyperCOG project proposes an intelligent manufacturing system based on cyber physical systems, which must be robust to changes or deviations in production. The solution is designed to permit real-time monitoring, mass data analytics, multilateral communication, and interconnection between cyber physical systems and people. Thus, a digital transformation of manufacturing industries is proposed, making them more flexible.
Multi-robot cooperative systems are a current theme in robotics, as it is considered that their application will represent considerable profits in the manufacturing industry. However, these systems (for example, jigless welding) still represent some technological challenges, which must be overcome for them to be totally implemented in industry.

Francisco Javier Huertos

Main Researcher in Sensing & Control systems and Robotics.

Engineer in Automation and Industrial Electronics by Mondragon Unibertsitatea and Master’s Degree in Systems and Control Engineering by the Complutense University of Madrid / UNED. He is currently a senior researcher in LORTEK’s intelligent manufacturing group, leading control, robotics and industrial process automation activities. Among other projects, he is the coordinator of the European project, HyperCOG. He also has more than 10 years’ experience as a researcher at different R&D centres of the ArcelorMittal group (Belgium and Spain), leading and participating in several international and national research and development projects.