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Eco-efficiency evaluation & product design

Task 5.1 RLW Navigator Architecture and Developed Software Modules Integration
Task Leader: ES
Participants: Warwick, Polimi, UP, EPFL, LR, Stadco, Comau

It is important, both for the delivery of the project and to the use of the resulting RLW Navigator technology,that an appropriate RLW Navigator software architecture be developed which will integrate all the modules completed in WPs 1, 2, 3, 4 and in Task 5.2. RLW Navigator software architecture will need to fulfil three key requirements:

First, present the end user with a ready means to specify information for defining system and station configuration, geometry and materials to be joined using RLW joining process, to launch the application and to present the results to the user in a way which is readily interpreted in terms of an optimal design for the joining process.

  • Second, manage the execution of the various sub-processes of the design activity, feeding appropriate parameters from stage-to-stage and monitoring various outputs in support of the final design proposal.
  • Finally, provide needed built-in capability for robust optimisation and analysis to simplify the assembly of the process chain. This will provide a common architecture which will be used by all the project partners all the project partners during the development of their work packages, thus providing a library with all the needed simulation toolboxes (optimization, DOE, RSM and others).

 The RLW Navigator software architecture will be built based on the modeFrontier (version 4.4; with migration to version 5 when appropriate) and will be enhanced by the Self-Orchestrated Multidisciplinary Optimization (SOMO) software. Both modeFrontier and SOMO will be provided by ES (partner 11) to all partners. The RLW Navigator Software architecture development and implementation will be used for:

(i) RLW Navigator Information Repository to capture all the input information necessary for modelling and simulation (CAD/CAM as well as measurement data) conducted in WPs 1-5. This information will be used for the development of various simulation modules (WPs 1-5) as well as a testbed for verification and validation of the development approaches/modules. The input information will include: selected automotive assembly process workflow, CAD/CAM information of the selected assembly process and other relevant information.

 (ii) RLW Navigator RTD collaborative tool. All partners will be able to access the necessary input information, run their simulation modules and publish their outputs in the collaborative software environment. Additionally,the modeFrontier will provide access to all the toolboxes (CAD, CAM, FEM, matlab, statistical analysis and other relevant during the duration of the project). At the centre of this integration a process control and optimisation tool will be used. In its normal operation it functions as a drag-and-drop process design tool that enables a user to develop a graphical representation of a sequence of activities. The individual activities within this sequence correspond to nodes in the process flow diagram, and each node is able to link to other underlying software or physical activities, launching new sub-processes, passing data to them and recovering results. Such a process may be managed automatically using a variety of algorithms to pursue multiple design objectives. It is widely used in a variety of industry sectors for the design optimisation. Within this task the main activity would be the development of the necessary process definition layer and the communication mechanisms with the individual sub-processes. It is anticipated that the inbuilt robust optimisation capabilities of the integration tool will be applied within this task to control the optimisation of the fixture design - systematic iteration of the key design step using a particular algorithm (mixed integer sequential quadratic programming) will be applied to the primary finite element solver to develop optimised joining proposals. Overall, the integration and navigation layer developed during this work package will present the means to utilise the technology developed in the other work packages in a format that will ensure their accessibility to future users of this joining technology.

 (iii) Verification and validation of all critical models and modules conducted during the testbed (Task 6.1) as well as pilot testing (Task 6.2) and (Task 6.3); 

 (iv) RLW Navigator GUI - customization of RLW Navigator based on the modeFrontier (and SOMO when available) using; (a) MyNode as node customization; (b) capability of creating, attaching new modules and processing algorithms; (c) programming environment for developing new front-ends based on the user requirements.


 To provide the end user with a customised interface we plan to develop a series of data gathering and reporting panels which will be launched automatically during the process to interact with the end user, both to gather data and report results. These panels will be individual stand-alone mini-applications dedicated to the provision of a user-friendly means of setting key parameters of the process: they are seen as central to achieving an acceptable ease of use for the non-specialist user.

All relevant partners will participate in the development of technical interfaces to integrate all software modules into RLW Navigator.


Task 5.2 Eco-Efficiency Evaluation

Task Leaders: EPFL
Participants: Warwick, POLIMI, UP, LR, Stadco, Comau, ES

The evaluation of the system's performance and eco-efficiency will lead to the extraction of vehicle design guidelines in order to develop a Body In White (BIW) design, oriented to be assembled mainly by RLW processes. Such guidelines could involve visibility restrictions of the laser beam, flanges utilization for the joining between the parts, dimensional and geometrical characteristics (tolerance assignment), selection of specific forming processes that facilitate the joining with RLW, material selection and thicknesses etc. Joining design guidelines will also be developed based on the work from Tasks 3.2 and 3.3. Such guidelines will be used to recommended weld stitches geometries (linear, circular, C-, T-, Z- shape) and examples of the main expected outcomes are:

  • Review and compilation of existing design guidelines and rules used for RLW
  • Specification of RLW driven design constraints as well as design freedom (e.g. flange dimension, stiffness, etc) and generation of the design guidelines for product
  • Design guidelines for processes.

 The ecological evaluation work package aims to quantify the different environmental effects due to the welding process and the resulting product. In general, with any manufacturing process, there is a complex interaction between the elements. Two types of evaluation can be made, the first evaluates the static phases of the product lifecycle, while the second the use phase. In this case the main emphasis is on the use phase, that is, the RLW process. Other effects of the product treated, that is cars, can be evaluated using the static method to estimate the benefits of cars treated in this way.

In order to understand and quantify the effects of the process it is necessary to perform an experimental comparison between RLW and other automotive joining processes (Resistance Spot Welding, Self Piercing Riveting, MIG welding etc.), measuring different effects such as materials, energy use, result quality or other effects that it is desired to evaluate. These experiments should be performed with different parameters, such as gap width, in order to be able to optimise process parameter setting for specific cases. The analysis method to be used was developed for milling in a previous project, the NEXT FP6 project (led by EPFL), with the aim of providing an experimentally based method for effect quantification. The method can be used to compare alternatives and optimise parameter setting in manufacturing processes to reduce environmental impact. In addition, it is intended to develop a robot model as input to the standardisation of manufacturing resources as part of ISO 14649 being developed by ISO TC184/SC1 WG7. This will make it possible to estimate energy consumption for different movements of the robot and laser parameters to optimise both when possible.


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RLW Navigator is a three year, €3.9M, project funded by the European Commission under the ICT-Factories of the Future programme.  The project has fourteen partners and began in January 2012.

The goal of the project is to develop an engineering platform for an emerging joining technology from the automotive industry, Remote Laser Welding (RLW), that will enable the exploitation of this technology and ultimately support other joining processes.

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