A distributed framework for the control and cooperation of heterogeneous mobile robots in smart factories.
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The present consumer market is driven by the mass customisation of products. Manufacturers are now challenged with the problem of not being able to capture market share and gain higher profits by producing large volumes of the same product to a mass market. Some businesses have implemented mass customisation manufacturing (MCM) techniques as a solution to this problem, where customised products are produced rapidly while keeping the costs at a mass production level. In addition to this, the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) enables the possibility of establishing the decentralised intelligence of embedded devices to detect and respond to real-time variations in the MCM factory. One of the key pillars in the Industry 4.0, smart factory concept is Advanced Robotics. This includes cooperation and control within multiple heterogeneous robot networks, which increases flexibility in the smart factory and enables the ability to rapidly reconfigure systems to adapt to variations in consumer product demand. Another benefit in these systems is the reduction of production bottleneck conditions where robot services must be coordinated efficiently so that high levels of productivity are maintained. This study focuses on the research, design and development of a distributed framework that would aid researchers in implementing algorithms for controlling the task goals of heterogeneous mobile robots, to achieve robot cooperation and reduce bottlenecks in a production environment. The framework can be used as a toolkit by the end-user for developing advanced algorithms that can be simulated before being deployed in an actual system, thereby fast prototyping the system integration process. Keywords: Cooperation, heterogeneity, multiple mobile robots, Industry 4.0, smart factory, manufacturing, middleware, ROS, OPC, framework.