PeneloPe is a H2020 Funded project launched in November 2020 and born as a new Industry 4.0 solution to develop a novel closed-loop digital pipeline based on the development of modular and reconfigurable production approach for the manufacturing of high-precision large-scale parts. This initiative is key to bring forward the future of the European manufacturing industry, as it is a strong asset for the European economy and an important driver of employment and prosperity.
We had the opportunity to chat with the PeneloPe´s coordinator, Félix Vidal Vilariño, Head of Robotics and Control Unit at AIMEN Technology Centre based in Galicia, Spain.
- What does the idea of PeneloPe come from?
Manufacturing of large-scale components is facing important challenges because current manufacturing methodologies rely on complex, highly manual, time-consuming and imprecise/inaccurate processes characterised by i) An increasing complexity in design and manufacturing setup representing up to 20-25% of total costs; ii) Limited production efficiency and product quality that impose recurrent reworks with subsequent longer operations; iii) Preservation of the industry-specific knowledge and skills.
As a result, novel approaches for a more precise, accurate, flexible and responsiveness manufacturing or large-scale components are needed in order to maintain competitiveness of EU top-class manufacturing supply chain in strategic sectors, such us aerospace, shipbuilding, metalworking, transport.
PENELOPE aims to develop a novel methodology for a more precise manufacturing of large-scale parts based on holistic data management and integrated worker-centric solutions to develop an end-to-end manufacturing solution across the entire manufacturing chain.
- What does PeneloPe bring to the EU manufacturing industry?
PENELOPE will support and enhance the transformation of EU industry, especially for the manufacturing of large-scale components. Therefore, we are offering to the European companies dealing with the manufacturing of large-scale components the opportunity to stay at the leading edge. Let me explain: to reach the EU excellence in the manufacturing of large-scale parts, products’ performance, quality or zero-defect manufacturing, customization (specially for low-volume/one-of-a-kind manufacturing schemes, that are the typical in the manufacturing of large-scale components), delivery time and lifecycle services —i.e. in situ maintenance and repair— must be ensured.
For that, PENELOPE will implement a digital manufacturing approach leveraging the potential of Internet of Things (IoT), simulation models, digital twins, heterogenous data-exchange, Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms, robotics and user-centric tools for developing a data-driven pipeline, linking product-centric data management and production planning and scheduling, for defining a more precise, responsiveness and productive manufacturing strategy from initial design.
Apart from, for a flexible and responsive production, one of the key-pillar is related with the development of user-centric solutions in which skilled workforce remains as key driver. To do that, PENELOPE takes advantage on the latest developments on VR/AR, exoskeletons, mobile and/or collaborative robots, etc., building a modular and flexible workshop.
- What do you hope the EU will learn from this project?
PENELOPE will be built upon advancing and innovative technological solutions. The developments resulting from PENELOPE project relies on cutting edge technologies such as simulation models, Digital Thread, Digital Twin, online control & inline inspection, data analytics and AI tools, a broad range of worker-centric tools (VR/AR tools, exoskeletons, mobile robots, etc.) towards the future module, flexible factory 4.0.
- What are the big challenges that the PeneloPe consortium is facing/is going to face during the project development?
You should think that manufacturing and repairing of large-scale components is a complex process. PENLOPE will develop an integrated methodology ensuring the manufacturability, quality and high-precision for the manufacturing of large components from the initial concept design. The goal is to link heterogenous data from both process and product lifecycle by gaining knowledge from the manufacturing to obtain a continuous model of the process, as well as assisting in a more precise design and manufacturing of the next large-scale components.
- PENELOPE encompasses representative large-part manufacturing in four EU strategic sectors, addressing both one-of-a-kind (Oil&Gas, Shipbuilding) and low-volume manufacturing (Aeronautics, Bus&Coach). Why these specific sectors where selected?
Energy/Oil&Gas, Shipbuilding, Aeronautics and Transport are strategic sectors in Europe. In this regard, these sectors are represented by worldwide and top-class manufacturing companies such us AIRBUS, FOKKER, MV WERFTEN, ALSTOM… as well as linked supply chain companies. European companies are able to achieve superior quality and precision, while the integrated design and process development allows the fast deployment of products highly customized for unique customer needs. However, increasing complexity on the design of these large-scale components, regulation compliance, together with increasing quality and accuracy requirements are pushing the limits on the EU manufacturing sectors, and often customers are seduced to choose standard products from foreigner competitors, mainly Asian, due to lower manufacturing costs. In this regard, the future of these EU companies relies on the development of modular and flexible equipment together with the development of holistic data management by connecting engineering, management and production for a more responsiveness and precise manufacturing of these large-scale components. Thus, digitalization, knowledge and innovation are key pillars in which EU companies must invest if they want to maintain competitiveness against other foreigner competitors, such us Asia and US.
Finally, this manufacturing approach would be applied to other strategic value chains for European economy such us energy, railway, metalworking, and construction.
- Has the current situation with the COVID-19 crisis, affected the development of the project?
No yet, even though some Partners have explicitly informed us about the impact from the COVID-19 outbreak, as PENELOPE is just starting, and we hope this situation will return to a normal point there is no delay or affectations. Apart from that, PENELOPE has two different branches: the physical in which we test the developments and solutions (affected with the restrictions) and the digital one (even with a potential lockdown we can progress in this part). But we hope we’ll recover a normality very soon.
- Who can benefit from the PeneloPe solution?
If the questions is how this new technology will affect our daily life:
1. Regarding the citizens, PENELOPE will change the way in which ships, planes, buses, etc. are made. It will even change the energy sector. It could trigger a shift of paradigm in the society. Actually, the expected results are:
- Reinforcing Industrial Competitiveness, growth with better jobs and new skills
- Leveraging private investment and innovation capacity
- Reduction of the environmental impact and the safety hazards
- 20% reduction of scrap generated by the industrial process
- reduction of up to a 22% of energy consumption.
- 25% on scrap reduction,
- better usage of raw materials (up to a 15%) and reduces waste management
2. Thinking in the SMEs, they can also benefit from: PENELOPE contemplates the creation of a network of technological centers which will offer services oriented to SMEs or Mid-caps. Before being market, it will be offered and managed a network services by free through an Expression-Of-Interest Call (EOI) by FBA: to validate the network operation, services and acceptance. These services will be offered at no cost for the selected applicants. These services will be served on a revenue-basis (guaranteeing sustainability beyond the project). The expected SMEs which will apply to the EOI Call and the success results, will be used to convince authorities in the added value that their co-investment may generate.
- What are the next steps to be taken for the project development?
PENELOPE is developing and implementing this technology at the same time. The results will be tested implementing a two-fold approach:
- First level: deployment of a network of Didactic Factories (DF) at RTOs providing services in the European industry ecosystem.
- Second level: deployment of application-driven pilot lines at four industrial End-users in oil&gas, shipbuilding, aeronautics and bus&coach.
At this stage, we are in M9, all workpackages are active. We are starting to develop the solutions and exploring the most adequate approach to tackle all the challenges. The solutions will be implemented at the Didactic Factories first. This will reduce the gap with the final pre-industrial demonstration in real-scale pilot lines, validating the PENELOPE developments and ensuring the interoperability to produce an agnostic, flexible and modular solution.
- Final question: Is it challenging to be the project coordinator of such a big EU project?
Yes, of course. To align efforts and resources to accomplish the PENELOPE project itself is the biggest challenge. So, we really need to perform their job in the most efficient way. But, it is also an opportunity to put together all this expertise in achieving a common objective and the results will be implemented and validated at industrial level. So, it will be relevant for the industry and for the society as well. In terms of management, the project PENELOPE is the biggest challenge that I had to face so far: a European flagship project, involving 31 partners from 9 countries of more than 20 million euros. So, it is challenging, demanding and time-consuming but also very, very stimulating.