This grant provides funding for the development of low cost supercomputers that can be distributed throughout the manufacturing shop floor using reconfigurable computers. A reconfigurable computer contains thousands (100,000) of logic gates on a chip whose interconnections can be instantaneously configured by writing to its internal memory to serve as massively parallel computers in which algorithms can be 'hardwired'. Therefore, a reconfigurable computer maintains the programmability of a conventional software-based computing system, yet enables phenomenal improvements in computing. The shop-floor supercomputer will be used for: (a) Distributed time-scaled simulation algorithms that eliminate complexity and overhead of discrete event simulations; and (b) Continuous distributed control algorithms for scheduling discrete-events that eliminate the computational complexity of combinatorial approaches. An experimental shop-floor supercomputer prototype will be constructed and integrated with an industrial ERP system. Novel architectures using reconfigurable computing and gigabit networks for accelerating distributed time-scaled simulation will be investigated. If successful, in the short term, this will lead to the development of a manufacturing co-processor for industrial ERP systems that addresses computational challenges on the manufacturing shop-floor. Such a chips to enterprise system would utilize the inherently massively parallel /distributed nature of simulation and control algorithms and take advantage of 'hardwiring' capability enabled by reconfigurable computing.

The resulting real-time adaptive time-scaling algorithms would utilize the synergy resulting from combining continuous variable distributed control algorithms and time-scaled distributed simulation. Speed-up and accuracy of simulations would be optimized to effectively utilize raw computing power and raw communication network bandwidth. The shop-floor supercomputer will enable ultra-fast distributed simulations (10,000 x real-time) for feedback control of discrete-event scheduling. The potential long-term impact of this work will be reshaping the future of computing and decision making on the manufacturing shop floor.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI)
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Janet M. Twomey
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Pennsylvania State University
University Park
United States
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