Singapore-Finland partnership to develop technology capabilities for manufacturing factories of the future
Nov 19, 2013

Singapore, 19 November 2013: The Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) inked a Memorandum of Understanding to promote Research and Development (R&D) in technology innovation and new capabilities development for the Factories of the Future (FoF). The initiative aims to build FoF technology innovation and capabilities of the respective research entities to help manufacturing enterprises in Singapore and Finland to advance their technological competencies and address manufacturing challenges.

Ageing populations, climate change, consumer empowerment, and resource constraints will continue to challenge the manufacturing industry globally. The manufacturing industry is at an era where internet connectivity, big data analytics and flexible automation will revolutionalise production. Characteristics of the FoF concept such as high volume, complex mass customisation, flexibility and productivity will no longer be a contradiction but a norm. Given the current economic climate, it is essential to keep Singapore’s manufacturing base strong so that it is globally competitive. In areas such as Western Europe and Finland, many companies engaged in mass production are moving their activities to China and India. R&D is an essential tool to mitigate the migration of such high value manufacturing coupled with product design activities.

To advance collaborative research capabilities and technologies that will enable sustainable, intelligent, high performance and advanced manufacturing for FoF, R&D projects in four research areas have been identified. These are Sustainability; Internet of Things (IoT); Additive Manufacturing and Virtual Instruction Tools in Manufacturing:

Sustainability:Manufacturers are increasingly challenged by environmental issues. Europe’s “Climate Action and Renewable Energy Plan” targets to save 20 per cent of energy consumption through energy efficiency, increase the share of renewable energy use to 20 per cent and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 20 per cent by year 2020. Under Singapore’s Energy Conservation Act in 2013, companies in the industrial and transport sectors that consume more than 15 GW hours of energy a year are required to submit energy efficiency improvement plans. To address these, the research focus includes:
· Tools and methods for the development and management of sustainable industrial systems;
· Sustainable materials and process technologies with superior technical, environmental, and economical performances;
· Intelligent energy management systems for factories; Alternative technologies for resource intensive manufacturing processes;
· Technologies for environmental-beneficial and economically-viable recovery of waste materials;
· Recycling development including economics of recycling, as well as
· Sustainable and smart material design.

Internet of Things (IoT): The overall aim is to use IoT and InfoComm Technology to increase the productivity of manufacturing, maintenance, logistics and other processes. Information sources from Radio Frequency Identification systems, wireless sensor networks and new IoT technology with increasing sensing, actuation, computing and networking capabilities can help to complete sophisticated manufacturing tasks, services and maintenances more efficiently and effectively.

Workers empowered by IoT technology are able to connect in real-time to information on material, machine and process status using data sources ranging from knowledge bases and Internet resources to machine diagnostic information and in-situ collected measurements. This will enable future factory systems to sense, predict and adapt to variability and fluctuation in equipment, process and system-level performance. The research areas include:
· Machine-to-machine self-monitoring and auto-correction;
· Condition-based maintenance solutions enabled by IoT;
· Smart interaction of shop-floor operators, machines, environment and information and
· High resolution production, real-world visibility, among others.

Additive Manufacturing: Additive manufacturing is suitable for the manufacturing landscape of Finland and Singapore due to the high value, low-volume knowledge-based manufacturing typical of both countries. Additive manufacturing enables products to be rapidly and innovatively designed and built in metals, polymers, or ceramics that are customised, intricate, and functional directly from Computer-Aided Design file without the traditional need to remove material through cutting, grinding and moulding processes. Research will focus on:
· Industrial scale possibilities to utilise additive manufacturing in production;
· High performance additive manufacturing methods;
· Design and manufacturing of advanced metallic materials;
· Optimisation of additive manufactured structures and components; and
· Business models for manufacturing industry.

Virtual Instruction Tools in Manufacturing: In the future factory, work sequences and operations in production can be planned in a virtual environment with the support of user-friendly programming. In the execution of tasks on the production floor, the operators can be supported by virtual instructions generated by portable computers. In an “Augmented Reality (AR)” environment, real and virtual objects and instructions are linked to assist workers in production. With AR technology, complex work sequences can be carried out by workers guided by a virtual expert through real-time simulation and visualisation. Digital models of human operator and robot optimised kinematics shall be developed for tasks planning and visualisation. Also, factory sensor networks, ergonomics and factory safety shall be developed and tested in virtual environment before real implementation.

Dr Lim Ser Yong, Executive Director of SIMTech commented, “The collaboration provides a synergistic pathway to strengthen the technology base of the local manufacturing industry to sustain its future relevance and global competitiveness so as to anchor high-value complex manufacturing in Singapore. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, well-known for its multi-technological applied research providing high-end technology solutions and innovations, is an ideal partner to forge technological capabilities for Singapore’s manufacturing industry to be future-ready.”

Dr Risto Kuivanen, Vice President of R&D in VTT said, “This collaboration is significant as SIMTech has wide expertise in the fields of production and manufacturing engineering. The Nordic model of production combined with Singapore’s provides good possibilities for totally new solutions to our common customers. We expect that this collaboration will create for both partners Intellectual Property Rights, which can be utilised directly in industry.”

Media Contacts

Ms Lee Swee Heng
for Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology
(65) 6793 8368

Dr Risto Kuivanen
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Risto.Kuivanen@vtt.fiTel. +358 40 511 6699

SOURCE / The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)