fabbrica_evolutiva_riconfigurabileTitle: Generic Evolutionary Control Knowledge-based mOdule

Area: 2 – Evolutionary and Reconfigurable Factory

Call topic: 2.1 – Evolutionary and Reconfigurable Control

Coordinating Institute: ITIA – Institute of Industrial Technologies and Automation (Milan)


  • ISTC – Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (Rome)
  • IEIIT – Institute of Electronics, Computer and Telecommunication Engineering (Turin)

Industrial Interest Group: 

  • Magneti Marelli S.p.A. (Corbetta)
  • FF di Falconi V.&C. snc (Montirone)
  • Tecnint HTE S.p.A. (Osnago)

Abstract: The GECKO project proposes an adaptive control infrastructure based on control modules named GECKO Generic Evolutionary Control Knowledge-based mOdule. The production environment is modelled as a community of autonomous, self-declaring, heterarchically collaborating Gecko modules encapsulated in the physical mechatronic equipment. GECKO gathers the information from the environment, reproduces an abstraction of the shopfloor and interprets the production dynamics. This allows evaluating, configuring and tuning the Gecko capabilities on the requirements by automatically activating the control functions and implementing resource production and energy efficiency optimization strategies over time. Gecko software infrastructure is conceived as a number of interoperable components representing the Gecko skills (communication, recognition, capability assessment, control and optimization). The Gecko benefits will be demonstrated in the field of re-manufacturing of electronic components.


The topic addressed by the project GECKO has been selected by NSERC-Automotive Partnership Canada in order to be included in the “Concurrent Call on Automotive Manufacturing R&D”, which was launched within the bilateral cooperation agreement signed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) (Memorandum of Understanding for Scholarly and Scientific Cooperation). This agreement aims at promoting cooperation between Italian and Canadian researchers through the financing of joint cooperation projects.

Ideas and solutions:

This extremely articulated context constitutes a very promising chance for countries heavily operating in the production of instrumental goods, especially for Italy that plays a very strong role worldwide in the production of machine tools and complex solutions for manufacturing systems. Currently, traditional control systems based on centralized/hierarchical control structures exhibit good performance in terms of productivity over a restricted and specific product range. However, these large monolithic software packages require major overhauls of the control code – mostly manual – in case any sort of (even minimal) system adaptation and reconfiguration needs to be implemented. As a result, they are very inefficient to face the current requirements of flexibility, expansibility, agility and re-configurability required by advanced manufacturing system solutions.

GECKO control module represent a novel integrated system for supporting the development of modular, highly distributed and reconfigurable control applications. Openness, interoperability and international industrial standards compliancy have been considered as fundamental requirements to be guaranteed. The GECKO module hardware architecture is based on embedded industrial PC systems, integrating Linux-OS as a base execution framework, to guarantee openness and cross-platform portability. An IEC61499 based run-time framework have been implemented, providing utilities to agilely design, develop and reconfigure distributed automation systems. Besides, each GECKO module include an OPC-UA server, linked to the IEC61499 run-time system, for exposing (as software services) the capabilities provided by the controller, thus supporting dynamic discovery, assessment, configuration and interoperability. Besides, an optimization layer (including Gurobi optimizer) has been developed for the implementation of both discrete, continuous and hybrid model based control solutions.

Follow up:

Gecko module represents a first prototype of a next generation automation system integrating natively IEC61499 based distributed control capabilities, service oriented interface for cross-level interoperability and software facilities supporting advanced model based control system development. The Gecko solution has already been applied and validated within the project onto a pilot plant leaded by CNR-ITIA dedicated to flexible mechatronic products Re-manufacturing, with particular reference to products from the automotive sector (i.e. motor Electronic Control Unit, Robotized gearboxes, etc.).


GECKO control prototype is now being extended to achieve a fully operating automation device oriented to Industry 4.0 paradigm. The new control system will be capable to automatically elaborate the real-time data from the sensors and to fit the dynamic model to the run-time behavior of the machine/unit. Thanks to such “Avatar”,  reliable simulations of the machine/unit will be enabled (performed on board of the Industrial PC implementing the control system), supporting the realization of effective model-based control solutions.

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