design and digital manufacturing back to focus areas
Inventing the future of manufacturing
Digital technologies are making a dramatic impact on manufacturing, enabling a greater variety of products at lower volumes and lower costs. Examples include additive manufacturing (e.g., 3D printing), reconfigurable production lines, integrated design and manufacturing, and collaborative design. Not only will these technologies usher in a new wave of mass customization and personalization, but we will also see significant shifts in how products are developed, made, and delivered to retailers and consumers.
A whole new ecosystem is arising, which will include social design, social funding, flexible and distributed supply chains, and more. This shift will ripple through the industry and likely threaten today’s vertically integrated, large-scale manufacturing industry—much as the PC revolution threatened the mainframe computer industry.
PARC is uniquely qualified to advance a broad, unified vision of digital design and manufacturing across hardware, software, and process technologies, and build public-private partnerships in open innovation to execute that vision.
PARC has a long and rich history in developing cutting-edge technologies in intelligent systems ranging from model-based planning and scheduling, preventive and predictive analytics, automated reasoning, and controls and optimization to printed and flexible electronics to new fabrication methods using co-extrusion and Xerographic assembly. PARC is also leading multiple projects within DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program aiming to create a next-generation, end-to-end design and manufacturing system.
PARC's key enablers
Virtual simulation technologies increasingly enable the creation of designs that satisfy the customer’s functional and performance requirements and provide detailed models and analysis data such that designs can be verified to be "correct" before they are ever built physically. PARC specializes in developing simulation based design tools that can be used to verify and validate the technical performance, reliability, and safety of complex cyber-electromechanical systems.
PARC has been chosen, as a member of a team led by the Applied Research Laboratory at The Pennsylvania State University, by DARPA to help lay the groundwork for the second phase of Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB) program. The program is focused on shortening the time it takes to design and manufacture complex military ground vehicles by enabling automated manufacturing planning and execution across a distributed manufacturing organization. iFAB is part of DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program, which PARC has been a part of since 2010.
Model-based reasoning enables more flexible configuration, faster response times, coordination over larger systems, agility to changes in systems, and more. PARC specializes in systems that interact in real-world (as opposed to cyber-only) environments; large-scale and modular systems; on-line, real-time, and continual-input approaches; and integrating high-level planning and diagnosis with lower-level coordination and control.
Integrated Planning and Control
Over the last several years, PARC has developed a unique set of methods and tools for integration of model-based planning with control algorithms. The resulting PARC innovation, known as Plantrol, allows high-level planning functions to modify control behavior in real time through a lightweight negotiation protocol known as “Plantrol Contracts.” PARC’s patented Plantrol approach has found applications in diverse areas such as high-speed digital printers, manufacturing systems, and transportation systems.
PARC's work on large-area electronics dates back to the 1970s and continues to evolve. PARC recently won the prestigious FlexTech Alliance Innovation Award for its work on printed and flexible electronics. Printed electronics and other additive manufacturing techniques can be used by the new massive, distributed network of manufacturers that will arise and who will be able to work together to create a dynamic supply chain for complex products like vehicles, airplanes, and consumer electronics, and then shipped directly to end customers through third-party distribution channels.
PARC is developing a revolutionary new printer system for making electronics and smart materials. The system aims to enable macroscale applications of nanotechnology, which are currently not possible to build. The ability for engineers to controllably arrange millions of objects into functional systems will form the basis of a major new manufacturing capability. For more details see project page.
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