A Pounds 5.1 million British-Finnish initiative is developing automated production lines whose machine tools are sufficiently intelligent to diagnose their own faults.
The European Union-funded scheme brings together engineers from the University of Wales in Cardiff, the technical universities of Lappeenranta and Tampere in Finland, and representatives of a variety of British and Finnish manufacturing companies.
The project was established in a bid to increase companies' productivity. Encouraging machines to monitor themselves automatically, thereby immediately pinpointing the location of the problem, means that the fault can be fixed and production restarted very quickly.
"When our project is completed next August we expect diagnostic and recovery time to be reduced by 75 per cent," said Cardiff's Andrew Davey.
Among British companies participating are British Aerospace and Rochdale-based machine tool manufacturer Holroyd. Holroyd is planning to incorporate the monitoring software in a new generation of machine tools, so that the diagnostic facility is available to users.