ITIA aims at expanding and promoting research activities in the manufacturing sector and at acting as a hub for the industrial world. Such objectives are pursued through a strategy which is based on the method of organizing research topics around the idea of factory, thus allowing to pervasively and homogeneously address all the relevant implied aspects. In the ITIA strategy, the factory is considered as a comprehensive set of enabling technologies, processes and products dynamically evolving in time in order to match many market needs and new production patterns. The use of a structured representation of the factory enables an integrated definition of the institute research areas and the proposal of structured scientific and technological solutions. The accomplishment of these solutions - involving the production systems, the technologies and the products across the entire factory lifecycle - relies upon pilot solutions of factories. Within the organization of research subjects it is particularly important to define the main areas of strategic competences which can contribute to the scientific and technological growth of the manufacturing sector, thus drawing the world of research closer to industrial needs.

In order to identify these areas of competences, ITIA has associated the following set of essential characteristics to the idea of factory. A factory should therefore be:

  • Intelligent and adaptive. On the basis of the data collected from the field, the intelligent factory will be able to interpret information and autonomously implement adaptive and repairing strategies by modifying its performance, operational patterns and behavior, with regards to different product typology and dimensions (from meso- to micro-scale).
  • Evolutionary in terms of both products and processes.The need for addressing rapidly evolving manufacturing and re/de-manufacturing demand and technologies will require the factory to be able to react to changes by modifying at the same time products and processes, thus modifying itself in an efficient and economically competitive way thanks to a series of hardware and software "enablers".
  • Sustainable during its lifecycle. The factory will be able to be sustainable across its lifecycle, by fully complying with energy consumption and emission commitments at all levels, and also from the economic and social perspective. Besides production processes, the factory will also be able to implement re/de-manufacturing processes in a synergic way, thus ensuring a reduction in the overall raw material and energy consumption together with a decrease in the emissions.
  • Built around people. Innovative factories will be strongly oriented towards the involvement of people (e.g. users,operators, stakeholders), who will be able to carry out complex high-added-value activities, by relying on advanced solutions of tools and devices. As a result, people and machines will have to cooperate in a synergic way, sharing activities safely and efficiently.

Built around people

The specific organization of competence areas and of the related research subjects is therefore based on a factory architecture that is structured according to two main dimensions. The first one refers to logic and physical levels composing the architecture itself from processing levels to control, up to logistic and production strategy ones. The second dimension concerns the analysis of the factory along its lifecycle, from the conception, design and physical development phases to its management and decommissioning. This allows to carryout solutions consisting in new-generation factories that have to be efficient over time, in order to be able to operate in complex and dynamic production contexts.
On the basis of the considered factory characteristics and the research areas, the main topics and the enabling technologies that are involved in the strategic architecture are highlighted here below.
With regards to the processing level, technological processes and related tools are implemented through new solutions of machines, robots and automation components able to effectively interact with the environment and with humans. ITIA aims at improving and further enhancing the study of these innovative enabling technologies intended for supporting production and re/de-manufacturing, whose purpose is the realization of highly-efficient and low environmental impact processes referring to both mesoscale and microscale products.
Referring to the factory control level, ITIA operates in the development of new automation solutions to be used for computational distributed and highly interrelated systems. The structural relevance of these technologies also concerns the factory evolutionary dimension, thus ensuring advanced levels of agility and reconfigurability over time.
At factory management level, ITIA promotes activities related both to resources' maintenance and monitoring and to production management, which, due to the variability of product families, could allow optimizing factory performance coherently with the production throughput, energy efficiency, product quality and system health targets.
The factory as a network hub For what concerns logistics and strategy level, ITIA recognizes the factory as a network hub. In the manufacturing sector new production dynamics imply a deep transformation of the supply chains together with the cooperation strategies. As a result, ITIA believe that it is necessary to propose new business models allowing meeting the market requests through innovative solutions in terms of products and services realized by the factory.
Transversely to different physical factory levels, ITIA promotes a set of enabling technologies aiming at the factory digital representation, in order to assess quality and performances, to identify optimization policies and new design solutions. These technologies, based on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), support the factory integration, by simulating products, processes, operating machines and whole production systems and offering a better fruition to humans involved. Human operators are in fact considered as the central factor of all levels and dimensions defining the factory. In a context characterized by factories where products, processes and technologies evolve through structured dynamics, human knowledge and human ability for interpreting complex production phenomena and identifying experience-based solutions, are crucial factors. As a result, ITIA strategically invests in enabling technologies supporting intuitive direct interaction between man and resources, as for instance new human-robot interface solutions, in order to enhance and multiply opportunities for the use of factory devices and tools. ITIA also invests in the formalization and re-use of these experiences through the semantic and ontological representation of information and knowledge. For the same reason the design and manufacturing of devices devoted to human interaction embodies a strategic form of investment for the technologies involved, namely mechatronics, control, sensors, safety and materials.
The strategic management of research activities is finally enhanced through an experimental approach aiming at contextualizing all the analyzed technologies. ITIA continuously invests in innovative factories as a means to implement and test the research results, to cooperate with industries in order to solve real production challenges and, finally, to support training by utilising the factory itself as a real laboratory. These aims are pursued through the development of physical factories whose characteristics embrace the innovative aspects previously described.