The UK’s first Cyber Factory training facility has been installed at Middlesex University London’s new Ritterman Building, coinciding with the £18m building’s official opening yesterday (February 2).
The Cyber Factory has benefitted from Middlesex University’s long-standing partnership with Festo, a leading international supplier of automation technology, and has been fitted with the latest technology for smart factories and the training equipment.
Professor Mehmet Karamanoglu, Design Engineering and Mathematics Head of Department at Middlesex University, explained: “We have partnered with Festo since the early ’90s and have kept that partnership active for over two decades. Festo is a dynamic, innovative and forward looking company, concentrating on the bigger picture.
“We are also grateful to Festo for bringing along some of their partner companies to enhance our provision, such as Siemens. All our automation labs are now fitted with technologies provided by Siemens. The benefit for our students, in working with such industry partners, is immense and will continue to have a huge impact on their employability.”
Since 2000, the University has reportedly invested more than £200m into its London Campus, with the Ritterman Building forming an important part of its ongoing investment in the student experience.
Head of Learning Systems at Festo Didactic (GB), Babak Jahanbani commented: “Festo and the University share a common goal to ensure that the key skills necessary to deliver the full potential of industrial automation are being developed alongside advances in the technology.
“As a result of our long-term partnership, Middlesex University is one of the best equipped centres for Festo Didactic and runs very successful engineering degree courses. This new training facility is the first of its type in the UK and will provide essential practical experience for the engineers of the future.”
The new building at Middlesex University houses a number of double-sided pneumatics and electro-pneumatics learning systems, PLCs, Modular Production Systems and a Process Automation System.
The training equipment supplied by Festo comprises a comprehensive six-station table top unit (two production cells of three stations), as well as two bridging stations that enable an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) to deliver the logistics / transport between the cells.
Fully automated, the Cyber Factory facility also features an energy monitoring system; RFID; a digital maintenance system; augmented reality; near field communication (NFC) – which enables any object equipped with a chip to exchange information directly without the need for a computer or communications network; and a manufacturing execution system (MES).
Essentially, this means that the Cyber Factory training facility is Industry 4.0-ready – where digitalisation is increasingly used to connect the real with the virtual world, blurring the technological boundaries.
Jahanbani continued: “By adopting Industry 4.0 more extensively, we could soon see factories where components can automatically “talk” to each other and the machines to share function and specification data, enabling us to create more complex products more quickly.
“It even makes batch size of one economical. Production lines will know when stocks are low and order more of what they need to continue making things, without human intervention. In addition, the smart factory will also constantly check for parameters like energy consumption and maintenance requirements, scheduling activity in the most efficient and cost-conscious way.”