Looming Factory is up and running: a strategic partnership led by the UPC to explore new Industry 4.0 technologies

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Looming Factory is one of the two groups led by the UPC as part of the Government of Catalonia’s emerging technologies programme. The partnership, which is formed by around twenty research centres and institutions, has started up with the challenge of applying advances in artificial intelligence and information and communication technologies to the industrial sector.


 

The Motion Control and Industrial Applications Research (MCIA) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), headed by researcher Luis Romeral, is the entity that coordinates Looming Factory. Looming factor is a new partnership led by the university that brings together 10 research centres apart from the UPC, eight Catalan research institutions and an advisory council of companies in the sector.

The challenges of the group are based on digitisation and transfer to virtual environments, data integration, cyber-physical hybridisation and integration of cloud technologies, as well as economic and energy optimisation. Together, through specific actions such as systems monitoring, data management, connected industry, collaborative robots or learning tools, these actions are designed to increase the production results and, at the same time, reduce energy consumption and maintenance time and tasks.

Four key projects
Looming Factory is focused on accelerating the arrival of Industry 4.0, a new model characterised by the interconnection between machines and the operational integration of employees with the production environment. To achieve this, the entities and companies in the group collaborate on four initiatives: Smart Factory, focused on the development of advanced monitoring algorithms; Connected Factory, to develop communications systems; Robots on Factory, which is focused on collaboration and the shared use of work space by people and robots, and Factories of the Future, which is focused on creating a pilot plant for digital manufacturing where the technologies developed in the projects can be demonstrated.

The group has an advisory council comprised of various companies and other stakeholders of interest. The council will help researchers to find out first-hand the needs and the situation in the sector, and it will find an outlet for the technologies and other innovations that are generated.

European funding
The Looming Factory project has joint-funding of 2 million euros from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, as part of the FEDER Operational Programme of Catalonia 2014–2020.

In the framework of this European programme and that of the Research and Innovation Strategy for the Smart Specialisation of Catalonia (RIS3CAT), the Government of Catalonia has promoted nine strategic alliances for entities to promote the appraisal and transfer of research results. The UPC participates in six of these. In addition to the Looming Factory, it leads the BASE3D group on additive manufacturing (3D printing).

Other institutions that benefit from the project are the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), the University of Barcelona (UB), the Leitat Technological Center, the Technology Centre of Catalonia (Eurecat), the Computer Vision Centre (CVC), the Internet Research Centre (i2Cat) and CIM UPC.

Launch of the Looming Factory
The first meeting of the Looming Factory project took place online on 14 July with an institutional welcome from the UPC rector, Francesc Torres, and the director-general of Planning for Universities and Research, Mercè Chacón. Researcher Luis Romeral, coordinator of the group, presented the partnership and made way for the projects that will be started up, which were presented by the researchers Vicenç Puig, David Remondo, Cecilio Angulo, Francesc Sabaté and Arnau Fatjó.