The thesis outlines the present day demands being placed on manufacturers of discrete
goods. The conclusion reached is that economic pressures and changing consumer
demand are increasingly demanding manufacturing to be, among other things, both more
cost effective and 'flexible'.
Traditional ('human-centred') methods of manufacturing and the role of the manual
worker in achieving production flexibility are assessed. The conclusion reached is that
duplicating the physical dexterity and decision capabilities of the human with robotic
type machinery is technically complex and unlikely to provide the most cost effective
route to manufacturing automation.
Production systems built from modular subsystems are investigated as an alternative way
of achieving flexibility, albeit through reconfigurability. The thesis advances the modular
concept and speculates on the possible benefits that could be achieved if a production
systems were built in a totally modular manner.
In particular the requirements of actuator systems for modular production systems are
discussed. Subsequent work focuses on control systems for modular actuators and in
particular the design of a 'generic' motion controller. Methods of achieving profile
control are appraised and a prototype actuator and microprocessor-based controller is
designed and built to test and evaluate a model-based control scheme.
Performance comparisons between the model-based control scheme and a feedback
control scheme are detailed and the wider implications of the model-based approach,
within the context of the modular production systems approach to manufacturing, is
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.