Communications within a computer integrated manufacturing environment

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Virginia Tech

In a computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) environment, efficient data exchange and real-time error recovery are required in order to provide a flexible and reliable system. Adoption of a distributed processing network, with several locally intelligent devices, helps satisfy these requirements of CIM. Distributed processing necessitates that computers have the ability to communicate with the following: users, intelligent machines and devices, and with other computers themselves.

In a flexible manufacturing system (FMS) involving processing and interactions between several devices, communication problems often occur. This project is directed at providing test and debug capability for the various devices within the FMS described below. Additionally, it provides a demonstration of the various interactions between the devices, both in a primitive and an integrated state. For the primitive state, software tools to test the functional status were developed. These tools make the lower level communications transparent to the users, who need be concerned only with their operation.

Briefly, the FMS under consideration is comprised of three function based workcells - for the machining, assembly and material handling functions of the system. Each workcell has under its domain equipment needed to achieve its respective function. The devices in the system include IBM robots, DYNA CNC machines, a conveyor, a programmable logic controller (PLC), and other cell controllers. The FMS is to be used as a demonstration vehicle for students, to teach fundamental principles of system integration and control.