At HP’s newly minted manufacturing research centre in Singapore, robots stationed at assembly lines perform the repetitive and highly precise task of piecing together tiny components that make up a print head.
In another room next door, a so-called “cobot”, or collaborative robot that works alongside people, is being tested to see how it fares in handling tasks as delicate as swirling a glass of water.
These are just some of HP’s “smart factory” capabilities being showcased at the Smart Manufacturing Application and Research Centre (Smarc) that the US personal computing and printer giant hopes to roll out across its global production lines in a bid to improve its supplies manufacturing processes.
Besides the use of robotics, HP will also analyse data from every stage of the manufacturing process at Smarc’s internet of things (IoT) lab – from processing of raw materials to actual performance at a customer’s location – to determine when maintenance is needed.
Predictive maintenance and quality models will also be developed to optimise HP’s supply chain, improve production quality and increase cost savings, while 3D printing will be used to prototype and make parts that are needed only in smaller quantities.
Steven Lee Conner, HP’s head of supplies operations, said the capabilities developed out of Smarc, located at the new HP Singapore campus, were expected to improve productivity by at least 20% across HP’s print manufacturing ecosystem.
The launch of Smarc comes at a time when Singapore is shoring up its capabilities in advanced manufacturing, where the government has committed S$3.2bn (US$2.4bn) in research and development (R&D) under its Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan.
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Speaking at the launch of Smarc on 13 December 2017, Singapore’s minister for trade and industry, S. Iswaran, said the country aspires to be the hub for innovation in advanced manufacturing, and aims for all manufacturing facilities in Singapore to be “best-in-class compared to their global operations”.
He added: “To support systemic industry transformation, we launched the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index in November 2017. Companies can use the index to evaluate their current standing, and map out possible next steps in adopting advanced manufacturing technologies and processes.”
Smarc, manned by a team of engineers that oversees over 50 manufacturing lines across the world, was the brainchild of Jamie Neo, a seasoned HP engineer in Singapore who has been analysing telemetry data on printer usage to determine the quantities and types of ink cartridges to be made.