For textile manufacturers who work with technical textiles or other high added value products, one of the most expensive operations, with a direct impact on the final price of the product, is setting up the machines that comprise the assembly line.
Companies that produce extremely high quality textile products with rigorous controls change the type of product they manufacture frequently or every day (some companies manufacture over a thousand different products a year). Therefore, technicians must use trial and error to adapt parameters to the new product and calibrate and reconfigure the machinery continuously. A lot of time, energy and raw materials are invested in this process, which affects the price that the client pays and thus reduces a company’s competitiveness.
MODSIMTEX will create new technology that will lead to 75% less time and raw materials and 7% less energy being used in the process of setting up machinery when a product is changed. This technology, which is based on sophisticated and complex software linked to artificial intelligence systems, can be directly incorporated into any textile company’s assembly line.
The MODSIMTEX project has a total budget of 4.6 million euros, of which the European Union will provide 3.3 million and the UPC’s INTEXTER will directly manage 1.7 million. The rest of the funds will be provided by the other eleven European partners. The project will take three and a half years to complete and was recently approved by the European Union within the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development.An example of an application
Paper bed coating must have very precise characteristics, because it is changed extremely frequently depending on the type of paper that is used in the rotary printing machine. The machines that make this special kind of coating are enormous, extremely heavy and have to be reconfigured every time the coating they manufacture is changed. The trials needed to reconfigure the machines waste many tons of fabric. The energy consumption and loss of work hours during this process are equally unproductive.
One company that makes this product is Heimbach, a partner in the MODSIMTEX project. Heimbach may change the configuration of its machinery as often as one thousand times a year. When the company implements in its production process the intelligent system developed in the MODSIMTEX project, it will be able to deal with all the variables by computer and incorporate them directly into the production line, which will save tons of raw material, energy and work hours that are wasted in trials and errors. Heimbach could save 7% of the total cost of the manufacture of each of its products, a percentage that is highly significant in this type of industry, as it represents millions of euros a year.
This technology could also be used in companies that manufacture geotextiles, such as the stiffeners that are used in the construction of transport and communication infrastructures. Such products also need large amounts of raw materials and constant change and adaptation to the requirements of use.
According to the project coordinator, José Antonio Tornero, an INTEXTER promoter and researcher, the system could be applied to any product in any production process in any company, even in the fashion sector.A multidisciplinary project
In addition to leading and coordinating the project, INTEXTER works in its own field of technological expertise—spinning—with a team of six people composed of Tornero, Francesc Cano, M. Carme Domènech, José Fresno, Javier Casado and Víctor Fernández. The UPC is also researching the artificial intelligence component of the project, with the participation of the Knowledge Engineering and Machine Learning Group (KEMLg ), which is based in Barcelona.Fund allocation and project partners
INTEXTER occupies a total surface area of 3,900 square meters in different locations: its main headquarters, in the middle of the university campus; the Technical Institute of the Terrassa Campus (in the former Sabadell-Terrassa community); and the Leitat Technology Center. In these sites, nine laboratories work on three basic research lines: textile chemistry, textile mechanics and the environment.
INTEXTER was established 54 years ago, under the auspices of the School of Industrial Engineering of Terrassa (now ETSEIAT). The Institute forms part of the main international research networks in the textile sector, including the European Group for the Development of Textile Research (GEDRT), the European Network of Textile Research Organizations (TEXTRANET) and the Association of Universities for Textiles (AUTEX).
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