Unique project cooperation between Finnish university and FMS company
Finnish university TUAS and the FMS company Fastems have leveraged SolidWorks to develop the world’s first fully funtional scale model of a FMS System.
Guests at the EMO machine tool exhibition in Hanover and a big metal industry exhibition in Russia last year had the opportunity to watch the world’s first 1:10 scale model of a fully functional flexible manufacturing system (FMS) from the Finnish FMS and robotics company Fastems.
The model is the result of a collaboration project between Fastems and the Technology Industry RDI-team at Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) in the Finnish city of Turku. Fastems asked the university to develop and produce a scale model, which is an exact copy of one of Fastems’ FMS systems.
“It is very important for us to engage ourselves in these kind of projects with companies to get a picture of what type of engineers and the skills businesses are looking for. It also gives valuable information about how we could do adjustments to our education programs,” explains project manager Jussi Liikkanen, TUAS, who has been heading mechanical side of the development project at the mechanical site: “The project has made it easier for Fastems to find the right employees in the future, because it has given them a great opportunity to meet our students and learn about their skills. The company also gets the opportunity to give their input to our education programs and raise its profile in the students’ awareness.”
Backbone provided by Enterprise PDM
The complete scale model of the FMS system was designed in SolidWorks based on SolidWorks models from Fastems. The students were divided into three teams for project management, development and production. The development team used SolidWorks for mechanical design, simulation and visualization. The backbone of the team’s work has been SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.
“The students in the design team used the PDM-system as their common collaboration tool for accessing project information and communication. The system insured that they always had easy access to the data they needed and that the information was always up to date,” explains Jussi Liikkanen.
Overcoming modeling and technical challenges
Like with all 3D CAD systems, it was not possible to just downscale Fastems’ existing SolidWorks models to one tenth of the size, so the students needed to rebuild the 3D scale models of the FMS system and its equipment from scratch.
“Fastems’ models were used only as the basis for the students’ design work. The visible parts of course had to look exactly like the original system, but the technical inside of the model is very different from the original and the big challenge was not just modeling but developing techniques to make for instance the mechanical elevator and forklift work properly in such a small scale,” Jussi Liikkanen points out. The result of the development work is a fully functional and lookalike scale model complete with control panel as in Fastems’ commercial systems.
SolidWorks Simulation ensures strength
The development team has been doing comprehensive simulations using SolidWorks Simulation to optimize the strength of the structures and simulate motion of the FMS system’s moving parts. “The reason we have been using simulation this intensively was partly because the structures of the scale model are so small that we needed to know if they were solid enough and furthermore to analyze the movements of moving parts of the system,” explains Jussi Liikkanen.
3D printing from SolidWorks models
TUAS has used SolidWorks to design the many sheet metal and machined parts that goes into the model. Furthermore a large part of the model consists of 3D printed components and the university has developed and built its own 3D printers that can print components in plastics and plaster respectively based on SolidWorks models. The relatively small 3D printed parts have been glued together to make up the complete structures of the model.
PhotoView 360 was used to produce a series of photorealistic renderings of the model, which has been used for communication with Fastems and later as marketing material. The students have been using eDrawings and email for the communication between the project management, engineering and manufacturing teams. The communication with Fastems during the project was mainly done by email and telephone occasionally supplemented with meetings at the university.