3D-based Advanced Machine Service Support




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


In the face of today's unpredictable and fluctuating global market, there have been trends in industry towards wider adoption of more advanced and flexible new generation manufacturing systems. These have brought about new challenges to manufacturing equipment builders/suppliers in respect of satisfying ever-increasing customers' requirements for such advanced manufacturing systems. To stay competitive, in addition to supplying high quality equipment, machine builders/suppliers must also be capable of providing their customers with cost-effective, efficient and comprehensive service support, throughout the equipment's lifecycle. This research study has been motivated by the relatively unexplored potential of integrating 3D virtual technology with various machine service support tools/techniques to address the aforementioned challenges. The hypothesis formulated for this study is that a 3D-based virtual environment can be used as an integration platform to improve service support for new generation manufacturing systems. In order to ensure the rigour of the study, it has been initiated with a two-stage (iterative) literature review, consisting of: a preliminary review for the identification of practical problems/main issues related to the area of machine service support and in-depth reviews for the identification of research problems/questions and potential solutions. These were then followed by iterations of intensive research activities, consisting of: requirements identification, concept development, prototype implementation, testing and exploration, reflection and feedback. The process has been repeated and revised continuously until satisfactory results, required for answering the identified research problems/questions, were obtained. The main focus of this study is exploring how a 3D-based virtual environment can be used as an integration platform for supporting a more cost-effective and comprehensive strategy for improving service support for new generation manufacturing systems. One of the main outcomes of this study is the proposal of a conceptual framework for a novel 3D-based advanced machine service support strategy and a reference architecture for a corresponding service support system, for allowing machine builders/suppliers to: (1) provide more cost-effective remote machine maintenance support, and (2) provide more efficient and comprehensive extended service support during the equipment's life cycle. The proposed service support strategy advocates the tight integration of conventional (consisting of mainly machine monitoring, diagnostics, prognostics and maintenance action decision support) and extended (consisting of mainly machine re-configuration, upgrade and expansion support) service support functions. The proposed service support system is based on the integration of a 3D-based virtual environment with the equipment control system, a re-configurable automated service support system, coupled with a maintenance-support-tool/strategy support environment and an equipment re-configuration/upgrade/expansion support environment, in a network/lntenet framework. The basic concepts, potential benefits and limitations of the proposed strategy/ system have been explored via a prototype based on a laboratory-scale test bed. The prototype consists of a set of integrated modular network-ready software tools consisting of: (1) an integrated 20/30 visualisation and analysis module, (2) support tools library modules, (3) communication modules and (4) a set of modular and re-configurable automated data logging, maintenance and re-configuration support modules. A number of test cases based on various machine service support scenarios, have been conducted using the prototype. The experimentation has shown the potential and feasibility (technical implementation aspects) of the proposed 3D-based approach. This research study has made an original contribution to knowledge in the field of machine service support. It has contributed a novel approach of using a 3D-based virtual environment as an integration platform for improving the capability of machine builders/suppliers in providing more cost-effective and comprehensive machine service support for complex new generation manufacturing systems. Several important findings have resulted from this work in particular with respect to how various 20/30 visualisation environments are integrated with machine service support tools/techniques for improving service support for complex manufacturing systems. A number of aspects have also been identified for future work.





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