The UPC leads two strategic partnerships in industry 4.0 and 3D printing

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The UPC is the Catalan institution that participates in the most transformative technological areas and manages the biggest budget in research and innovation projects that are successfully transferred to industry, within the emerging technologies programme launched by the Government of Catalonia to promote the exploitation and transfer of research results. The UPC participates in six of the nine groups or strategic partnerships of research entities that have been promoted by the Catalan government and leads two of them on Industry 4.0 and 3D printing, respectively.

The government programme is part of the Catalan research and innovation strategy for smart specialisation (RIS3CAT) and is jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The aim of the programme is to promote cooperation between leading research centres and foster research and innovation, so that research results reach the market and contribute to increasing the competitiveness of the economy. In total, nine areas will be promoted: two led by the UPC and a further seven associated with the human brain, the use of big data in the life sciences, the internet of things, low-power processors, quantum technologies, fusion energy and graphene.
In the Industry 4.0 area, Looming Factory has been founded as a partnership between research, development and innovation groups in the university world and industry. The aim is to facilitate and accelerate the market launch of emerging technologies that are aligned with new industrial challenges resulting from digital transformation: smart, connected factories and collaborative robotics in production environments, with demonstration of these technologies in real environments. 

Looming Factory is coordinated by the Motion Control and Industrial Applications research centre (MCIA). The idea is to develop digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and validate them in pilot plants of production systems. The characteristics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are the interconnection of machines and systems and the operational integration of workers into the production environment, as well as information exchange with logistics and distribution systems. Four projects will be developed with an overall investment of four million euros:

  • Smart Factory, focused on developing advanced monitoring algorithms for more complex, larger, diverse, interdependent systems that incorporate aspects such as energy efficiency, environmental impact and safety with high resolution, based on data from new sensors and actuators. The project will increase the flexibility and adaptation of monitoring and control systems, so that predictive maintenance strategies can be implemented and provide a response to faults or malfunctioning in industrial plants (health aware control).
  • Connected Factory, focused on communication systems. The main difficulty in these systems lies in the operation at varying time scales and with orders of magnitude of data at different levels, from plant to distribution and commerce. The forthcoming roll out of 5G networks, the extensive use of new communication protocols in companies and the introduction of industrial ethernet in manufacturing plants with time-sensitive networking (TSN), combining the bandwidth of Ethernet networks with the response time of digital fieldbuses in industry, are changing and reducing problems with delays and the quality of industrial communication services.
  • Robots on Factory: this project tackles the use of workspace by robot arms or mobile robots and their collaboration with workers. It includes the design of robots so that they can be adapted to spaces in small and medium-sized industries, and implementation and learning of forms of movements and navigation that are safe for people. The project includes the study and development of learning tools to facilitate interaction between people and robots as well as programming, training and demonstration of cases.
  • Factories of the Future: this project includes demonstrations of technologies developed in previous projects that will be implemented in the Digital Technology Pilot Plant of CIM UPC. The focus is hardware (production demonstration plant) for batch and automated production and software (collaborative platforms) for data and services.

In the area of additive manufacturing (3D printing), the BASE3D group has been created and is led by CIM UPC. This hub of knowledge brings together research centres that boost research, development and innovation in 3D printing. The aim is to increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL), a scale for measuring the maturity of technology before it reaches the market, in areas into which methods of additive manufacturing by layers are currently divided. In this field, projects will be undertaken that add up to a global investment of around 3.7 million euros. The initial projects will be:

  • Llum3D, on studying 3D technologies relating to light for additive manufacturing, to improve materials and their use in various applications. The aim is to improve powdered materials for various applications, optimise parameters for simulating the printing process and create new resins for 3D printing.
  • Fuse3D, focused on challenges like improving adhesion between layers of material and increasing their resistance and combining materials during printing to obtain different surfaces and create geometries with greater height. To resolve these challenges, printing materials and processes will be studied, optimised and characterised. The results will be incorporated into the process of defining the mechanical properties of the product. 
  • Ink3D, centred on responding to the major technological challenges of printing by deposition of viscous materials at ambient temperature. The aim is to improve the manufacture of complex and multi-material parts, and to design more efficient printing systems. 
  • Hybrid3D, whose purpose is to develop, optimise and integrate additive manufacturing technologies to obtain a new process of hybrid, multi-material manufacture (using different types of printing technologies) of high quality. Simulations of the behaviour of liquid and viscoelastic materials will be tested as potential components of the new technology. Software will be created to address the digital designs of various materials.

Participants in the BASE3D group are the Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering Research Group (BBT) of the UPC, the International Centre for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE), the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the Chemical Institute of Sarrià, the Sant Joan de Déu Foundation, the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC) and other research groups from the universities of Girona (UdG)Barcelona (UB) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), as well as LEITAT and Eurecat.