Research

Research Vision

We are working in the field of Machineries & Factories; i.e. smart motion products (industrial machines, energy applications and vehicles) and smart production systems (assembly & batch processes).

Our activities are framed within the fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0).

This revolution is driven by connectivity: motion products and production systems will remain in data connection. This brings along exiting new concepts including cyber-physical systems, vertical & horizontal integration, end-to-end engineering and  human-worker 4.0 concepts.

We make machines and factories smarter through flexible, reliable and performant hardware and software (control).

As such it will allow new business models to emerge such as lot-size one production at the cost of series production and XaaS (X as a service).

We can see an increasing interdependency between products and productions systems.
  1. Machines resp. Factories need to be DESIGNED in view of capabilities of factories (e.g. assembly) resp. industrial machines. 
  2. During factory OPERATION the industrial machines (e.g. robots, drilling &, 3D printing mahines) realise key steps in the manufacturing of (motion) products. The performance (e.g. in terms of quality and energy efficiency) of the factories and machines are mutually impacted by their performance.

Finally, some machines could be considered as factories on wheels (e.g. off road agricultural vehicles), and flexible assembly systems increasingly rely on mobile transportation systems (AGV).  

Digital twins and artificial intelligence (AI) are key enabling technologies.

Our vision is that the strength of digital twins and AI is only fully enabled by the incorporation of domain specific and expert knowledge.

This domain specific and expert knowledge can present itself in the form of multi-physical, scalable models; traditional control loops or optimisation routines; and knowledge graphs drafted by humans.  

We believe the human factor will remain key and might even increase. 

The human designer or quality manager needs to be provided with actionable and interpretable decision support systems. The (assembly) operator needs to receive information with state-of-the-art (immersive) technology to flexibly adapt the operation in order to improve the performance of the product or production system whether it is in view of energy efficiency, quality or life time. In all this, the environmental impact should be considered.   

Research topics

The Ghent University M&F industrial research platform is active on the following research topics:

  • Electromechanical engineering - motion products: multi-physic modelling of physical phenomena in actuators and systems forms a strong basis for the machine level control and design. Our test benches allow to validate smart motion products in an emulated relevant environment (TRL4/5).
  • Electromechanical engineering - decision, sensing & control: (Hybrid) models are developed and used for the design, soft sensing, optimisation, condition monitoring and advanced (yet industry friendly) control of motion products. Digital twin technology and AI control for electromechanical systems. 
  • Industrial systems engineering: we design, optimise and validate flexible (hybrid) assembly cells incl. the task allocation and the virtual commissioning based on digital twin. Strategies for production and maintenance are combined with quality control strategies & supply chain logistics. Our lab infrastructure resembles real industrial assembly cells and factory settings.
  • Digital engineering: our researchers are working on transfer, cross-context & data-efficient machine learning with expert in the loop functionality for industry 4.0. Furthermore, they develop AR/VR/MR industry relevant tools, and our dynamic visualisations support our anomaly detection tools.

 

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