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Fredrik Sikström, docent i produktionsteknik

“Many sectors are already using artificial intelligence in their manufacturing processes, and I believe there is also enormous potential for AI in the engineering industry. Our research team is investigating where and how to make best use of AI technology in controlling and monitoring processes for metal-based manufacturing. We’ll know more in a few years,” explains Fredrik Sikström, senior lecturer in production technology.

Today’s traditional automation processes are usually designed for high volume production. For the engineering industry to shift to more digitalised production with new, sustainable manufacturing techniques, such as additive manufacturing, the processes need to be fully automated.

“We’re examining whether and how production systems can resolve problems on their own with the help of AI technology, even when unforeseen problems arise during manufacture. If, for example, a joint is wrongly welded, a rapid decision needs to be made about what action to take – should the item be scrapped or amended.

“We’re testing a number of ideas and comparing AI with other traditional automation techniques to see which technology is best suited to different tasks and requirements.”

In a recently completed project, the researchers investigated how deformable mirrors can facilitate the control of production processes that involve laser welding. Read more about the Adopt project.

AI has made huge advances in many areas beyond manufacturing with metallic materials, which is why new partnerships are being established between successful AI researchers and the university’s researchers in industrial production processes.

“University West is home to some of the world’s leading research into production technology and it is incredibly exciting to now be conducting research along with AI researchers from several other universities and research institutes. Two separate research worlds are learning from each other and developing new applications together.”

Compared with the human brain, AI technology can handle much more data and more dimensions of a problem.

“If we can manage to find the right use for AI and make the technology simple to use and to adapt to the varied needs of the industry, this could bring major benefits for companies, in terms of more efficient, faster and more cost-effective production. Above all, it will remove monotonous, hazardous and un-ergonomic tasks from the workplace.”

The university’s research is being conducted in close collaboration with industrial partners in several fields across Sweden.

“This research is of incredible interest to many manufacturing companies – not least those that want to be able to produce short series and repair components effectively, to a high standard and in a climate-smart way. This is fully in line with industry’s sustainability goals.”

An ongoing national project focuses on process control of additive manufacturing using lasers and wire. Another EU-funded project, Integradde, has the aim of contributing to more holistic automation and data processing for additive manufacturing. 

For further information: Contact Fredrik Sikström, senior lecturer in production technology with a focus on process control, University West