Intelligent approach to zero-defect manufacturing

EU-funded researchers are developing advanced technology for the manufacturing industry, aiming for zero-defect production of everything from aircraft parts to machine tools. Their work will increase efficiency, reduce waste, boost competitiveness and lower costs for European manufacturers, particularly small and medium companies.

Working on the IFACOM project, supported by the European Commission, the researchers are developing an advanced real-time process control system focused especially on high-precision, high-value and high-performance parts as well as custom-designed components. Combining artificial intelligence and innovative sensors, the system seeks to overcome the long-standing issue of production defects, which cost manufacturers millions of euros a year in waste, production reruns and part redesigns.

“Manufacturing defects are a huge issue for the industry. In some cases, 50% of production can end up as scrap because of defects, while in some complex manufacturing lines the rate of scrap can be as high as 90%,” explains Odd Myklebust, the IFACOM coordinator at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

Even slight variances in materials, components or production processes can cause an entire production run to be defective. It does not affect the quality of the parts reaching end users, as strict quality checks are conducted on all batches after production. But therein lies the problem: using current practices, thousands of parts can be produced at considerable expense before a defect is detected.

The solution developed by IFACOM is to check quality continuously during production, not only afterwards. To achieve that, the consortium of 15 academic and industrial partners from 5 EU countries is using advanced sensor and monitoring technology combined with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to detect and correct defects in real time, as they occur.