To be able to control a fleet of heterogeneous machines an open communication and interfaces to control machine fleet is needed. Open machine interface and machine independent software for machine fleet control were developed. A communication framework called GIMnet, provides in addition to service based communication, a tool listing all the available services in the network. On top of GIMnet, a hardware abstraction and machine abstraction layer, named MaCI (Machine Control Interface), was developed and it is used to control and provide information from machines in a generic way. Multiple machines can be controlled through these systems. Machines inform dynamically the network about their abilities and information sources. By the open machine concept it is able to control a fleet of machines without knowing in advance the exact types or number of machines.
Furthermore, a multi-machine simulator was developed using these communication and control methods. The simulator enables development and easy testing of different methods of controlling machine fleets. As the simulator uses GIMnet and MaCI, the algorithms can be tested first in the simulator and then with real hardware without modifications. The simulator is capable of simulating dozens of machines in very large environments, thus fulfilling the needs of most work sites.
The level of automation is rising in multiple industries, with the focus changing from machine-level automation to the control of a fleet of machines. For example, work in harbours, is carried out by a fleet of machines. These fleets often contain machines from different manufacturers. An open communication and control system increases the possibility of operating a fleet of heterogeneous machines improving the efficiency and productivity. Designing, integrating and setting up an automated machine fleet is time-consuming and a business bottleneck. For this reason, tools that enable prior testing and verification of system functionality are essential for efficient multi-machine system design and implementation.
The developed open machine concept enhances automation by expanding from single-machine automation to the automation of a fleet of machines. This improves the machine efficiency and productivity reducing operating costs and shortening lead times. The multi-machine simulator speeds up multi-machine system integration and setup removing a time consuming business bottleneck.
The software library is published as open source and can be utilized by everyone that needs to control autonomous/teleoperated machines. The package contains also a dynamic simulator that can be used to simulate machines and environments. The software has been used and tested inside Aalto University for several years and multiple different kind of machines and multi-machine systems has been controlled. Successful teleoperation has been even realized between Finland and China. At the moment Navitec Systems is using the simulator for further development of fleet control software for automated machines.
The software can be downloaded from http://gim.aalto.fi/MaCI/Downloads
Matthieu Myrsky and Pekka Forsman, Aalto University
Navitec Systems Oy, Konecranes Oyj, Aalto, FIMA Forum for Intelligent Machines ry