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New description method enhances production equipment re-use

Production systems need to be adaptable, agile and reactive in order to respond to the changing requirements of production volume fluctuation, new products and machine breakdowns. In his dissertation, MSc (Tech) Niko Siltala studied formal ways of representing production equipment modules.

Modern modular production systems, such as Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMS), are applied in an effort to meet modern production requirements, such as adaptability and agility. The preconditions for the efficient re-use of production modules and sustainable systems include that the system is modular and that the production modules are thoroughly and accurately described. Niko Siltala’s dissertation focuses on the latter condition.

“As a part of my dissertation, I developed a formal description method that can be used to replace the old model, in which the entire production system was scrapped when the manufacturing needs changed. This new method enables saving and transmitting information on what the device can do, how it can be connected to other devices and systems and other detailed characteristics of each production device,” Niko Siltala explains.

Easier equipment comparison

The objective of the formal digital descriptions for production equipment modules is to provide a standardised model for defining production devices in a format that both machines and humans can understand. The descriptions are structured documents based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language) definitions. Using the language, device-specific information, parameter values and other characteristics of the device are entered in a structured document. This standardises the format for device descriptions, which, in turn, makes it easier to compare the production modules supplied by different equipment manufacturers and utilise the descriptions in system design.

“The module manufacturer is the producer of this formal resource description, as they have the best knowledge of the functionalities and characteristics of their module. After publishing this module information in a common format, the system integrators and end users can utilize these descriptions in their production system design and deployment processes. The design and integration processes can be easier and more efficient, and a lot of errors can be avoided, such as retyping, incomplete information, and so on,” Siltala notes.

Siltala’s dissertation proposes a three-level model for formally describing the production resources, which offers new opportunities for faster aggregation of an RMS by integrating modules and re-using or reconfiguring them as part of the new production system. The top level is intended to standardise interfaces and capabilities in order to facilitate system integration and the exchangeability of the production resources. This level is defined by the standardisation user group. The middle level is used to describe the resource types, and so it reports information on the capabilities, interfaces and other key characteristics of a physical production module. Such descriptions are created by the module manufacturer. The third level focuses on individual resource instances and reports on their current capabilities and characteristics. These descriptions are constantly updated throughout the module’s life cycle, e.g. after calibration results.

“Production system design and deployment procedures can be considerably improved by the availability and utilisation of formal, standardised, realistic and updated information about the production equipment. Design, simulation, validation and deployment practices can all benefit from formalised information about production resources. This advancement takes us towards enhanced system design processes and even auto-configurable production systems,” Siltala points out.

Public defence of a doctoral dissertation on Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The doctoral dissertation of MSc (Tech) Niko Siltala in the field of production automation entitled ‘Formal Digital Description of Production Equipment Modules for supporting System Design and Deployment’ will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Engineering Sciences of Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in room Pieni Sali 1 in the Festia building (address: Korkeakoulunkatu 8, Tampere, Finland) at 12 noon on Tuesday, 12 July 2016.

The opponent will be Professor Juergen Jasperneite (Fraunhofer Application Center Industrial Automation, IOSB-INA, Germany). Professor Minna Lanz from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Systems at TUT will act as the Chairman.

The dissertation is available online at:

Further information: Niko Siltala, tel. +358 40 536 6017,

News submitted by: Tiina Leivo
Keywords: science and research