A Multiscale Digital Twin-Driven Smart Manufacturing System for High Value-Added Products

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Design Manufacture and Engineering Man


Driven by the ever-increasing demand for performance enhancement, light weight and function integration, more and more next-generation products/components are designed to possess 3D freeform shapes (i.e. non-rotational symmetric), to integrate different shapes/structures and/or to be made of multi-materials. Examples are seen in freeform lens array photovoltaic concentrators, integrated car head-up displays for improving road safety; Lidar (light detection and range) devices for autonomous vehicle; minimal invasive surgery tools for curing aging related diseases such as cataract blindness, osteoarthritis, and saving lives, to name a few. The ratio of required product tolerance to its dimension is less than 1 part in 10e-6, i.e. in the ultra-precision manufacturing domain. The design, manufacture assembly and characterisation challenges for these products are considerable, requiring a step change in the current manufacturing system to achieve the ambitious target of securing industrial efficiency gains of up to 25% (Industrial Digitalisation Interim Report, 2017) as Britain's productivity has long lagged behind that of its competitors.

The project will start from an established baseline in a unique flexible and reconfigurable hybrid micromanufacturing system developed from a recently completed EPSRC project (EP/K018345/1) and advance beyond state-of-the-art of system modelling, digital, control and automation technologies. It will research and develop the underlying science and technology for the creation of a new generation smart digital twin-driven manufacturing system that can sense consumer needs and actively self-optimise for customised next-generation high performance 3D products with enhanced productivity in a sustainable way. It will break new ground in understanding intrinsic links among product design, manufacturing and metrology with a novel product/process fingerprint approach. For the first time, a digital twin-driven automation approach which combines feedback and feed forward control algorithms with inputs from high-frequency digital twins of manufacturing process at machine level will be developed to bridge the real and virtual systems and eliminate dynamic errors and thermal errors which cannot be measured by machine encoders even the machine is running at an extremely high operational frequency to meet the required product performance through predictive control. As such, this project will make a step change in manufacturing automation which is based on linear control theory using semi-closed-looped feedback from encoders. As building blocks of the smart manufacturing system, smart multi-sense in-line surface metrology and smart assembly system will be developed to measure complex and high dynamic surface and to precision assemble large variety of parts that are difficulty to achieve before. A novel multiscale business modelling and system analysis approach will also be developed to allow integration of these smart systems and take the live data, model, predict product quality, delivery time, cost, emission, waste, and optimise the performance into the future in different scenarios. The effectiveness of the SMART will be demonstrated through manufacturing the selected demonstrators including minimal invasive surgery tools, Head-up displays, Lidar and solar cell concentrators.

The consortium will transform the research outcome to industry and our society through knowledge exchange, training, industrial demonstration and deployment. A unified expertise pool in smart manufacturing established in this project will be a "one-stop-shop" for the UK industry, particularly SMEs, who are keen to exploit the benefit of the project.

Planned Impact

The major beneficiaries of the project include UK advanced manufacturing companies (especially SMEs), the collaborative partners and the society in general. The impact will be realised in terms of economy, knowledge, people and society.

Economy: The project is expected to make great contribution to the UK economy growth as it addressed the critical needs of the UK industry to establish its global leadership of industrial digitalisation and to reach future global market for high value-added products. These products are the key drives of UK high value manufacturing industry. To provide access to the novel manufacturing approach developed in this project UK high value manufacturing companies will gain a competitive edge to access multi-billion pounds markets for next-generation products as it will significantly improve productivity (up to 25%), precision (up to 50%) and sustainability. This project will form a unified expertise pool in smart manufacturing which could be a "one-stop-shop" to the UK industry, particularly SMEs, who are keen to exploit the benefit of the project.

Knowledge: The project will underpin manufacturing science and advancement of other disciplines such as computing science, automation and control, system engineering, management and even biomedical science. The multiscale modelling, digital twin-automation, product/process fingerprint, smart assembly and in-line metrology are the building blocks of future manufacturing system. The development of a better understanding of the intrinsic links among product function to its surface geometrical feature and manufacturing process control parameters is a step change for predictive design and autonomous control of manufacturing of many next-generation high value-added products, such as anti-bacterial artificial implants and anti-adhesion surgical devices with hydrophobic micro/nanostructures on their surfaces. Due to significant enhancement of machining capability and productivities offered by the manufacturing approach, the research will stimulate more ambitious design for next-generation high value-added products, such as freeform lens array photovoltaic concentrators, integrated car head-up displays for improving road safety; LiDAR (light detection and range) devices for autonomous vehicle; minimal invasive surgery tools for curing aging related diseases and saving lives, to name a few.

People: The research will influence peoples' perception of manufacturing as with such a developed disruptive technology high-value added products can be manufactured on-demand with great productivity and autonomy. The developed manufacturing system is also a kind of transforming technology which will redistribute digital manufacturing and ultra-precision manufacturing capability from the hands of a few to the hands of many.

Society: The project is a key enabler for the UK's grand societal challenges as it can help increase productivity, potentially create more jobs in high value manufacturing including the new merging autonomous vehicle sectors and increase value added by manufacturing products with desired function in a sustainable way. The project will result in high throughput production of affordable high value-added products to improve quality of life. It therefore contributes to fulfilling the ambitions identified within the EPSRC outcomes frame work of a productive, connected, resilient and healthy nation.

We will take an ambitious plan to engage stakeholders across the whole value chain of high value-added products to implement the impact of our research through knowledge exchange, industrial demonstration and deployment. AFRC and National Manufacturing Institute Scotland will support the project's impact activities. We also plan to set up an UK-wide "Centre of Excellence on Smart Manufacturing" and a world-wide "Smart Manufacturing Research Hub" for joint research and exploitation for sustainable development in this strategically important field.


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