InSystems Automation has become one of 22 international associates from industrial and scientific backgrounds who are working together in the joint research project CrESt in order to open up access to new technology and methods to develop collaborating embedded systems. This project has been initiated by the government and the DLR and is meant to run for three years with a total budget of over 24 million euros. InSystems’ goal will be the significant improvement of the proAnt transport robot technology in several aspects.

CrESt sets new standards

For those who wish to know how German industry might operate in a few years, CrESt may deliver answers. Universities and technical colleges such as the Humboldt university Berlin, TU Munich, Essen, Kaiserslautern work together with OFFIS, Siemens, Bosch, INCHRON and FEV in order to develop intelligent systems with the ability to organise themselves as individuals as well as in groupings as a contribution to the topic “Collaborating embedded systems”. Collaborating systems are defined by not competing among each other, but working together efficiently instead.

InSystems’ goal to its involvement in this project is to improve its so-called proAnt transport robots, which are produced since 2012. The general focus lies on improvements in technology and creating and evaluating new approaches to their overall concept. More precisely, topics such as decentralised fleet management, communication among individual systems and analysis of environment data are of interest.

From “changeable factory” to maintenance with foresight

The CrESt project is split in six so-called “Engineering Challenges” and six cross section topics. The first three “Engineering Challenges” are devoted to overarching questions regarding the architecture of flexible, dynamic and adaptive systems.

Flexible architecture describes a factory’s ability to adapt to changing production circumstances (changeable factory). How, for example, could a new piece of machinery with new features be integrated in the already existing system in order to improve overall factory output? In this scenario, it is assumed that the production is halted during the time in which the new machinery is installed.

The part of the project which concerns itself with dynamic architecture, however, InSystems will look into possibilities to make e.g. a robot part of a pre-existing fleet without the necessity to shut the entire production process down temporarily, possibly by using a simple mechanism such as Plug & Play. Once integrated, the robot seeks imports the information it needs from other fleet members. Within another project aspect called “adaptive systems”, methods and techniques for the creation of decentral task management are being developed.

Another core area of the CrESt project is the topic of context monitoring. For InSystems’ purposes, this means research on technical optimisation of transport robots in order to let them function without any problems even if their surroundings change drastically. In factories, inventory and plant layout may often be subject to change, and thus, the robots need to be able to gather enough information about their changed surroundings as fast as possible so they do not cause accidents.

Therefore, it is a project goal to enable individual robots to learn faster and furthermore gather information about its battery status and more. The entire fleet management is supposed to change: Instead of one central system controlling the fleet, the robots themselves should now determine which one of them is best suited to carry out which task.

There are currently three employees tasked with the CrESt project at InSystems. CrESt’s kick-off happened on the 22nd of march 2017.