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Factory of the future will think for itself

Factory of the future will think for itself

09.09.2009

Self-organizing production (SOPRO) will revolutionize the goods manufacturing process in the future. Machines and workpieces, which communicate with one another by means of a chip, learn from one another and allocate their work automatically. This will ensure that production processes become more flexible, more efficient and more environmentally-friendly. The special show entitled SOPRO will be one of the main highlights of productronica 2009, the world’s leading trade fair for innovative electronics production. The partners in the SOPRO Project will give an idea of the intelligent factory of the future on stand number B3.265 in Hall B3 from November 10 to 13, 2009.

Knowledge transfer between science and industry

“As a trend-setting event for the industry, productronica 2009 is the ideal platform for providing deeper insights into a technology which will sustainably change Germany as a production location”, says Eckhard Hohwieler from the Fraunhofer-Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology (IPK), scientific coordinator of the SOPRO Project. “As a scientist, I greatly appreciate the practical transfer of knowledge between research institutes and industry. This knowledge transfer is also a decisive factor in the development of self-organizing production since it turns theory into practice.“

A consortium of Fraunhofer Institutes and the Technical University of Berlin led by the Fraunhofer-Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology (IPK) develop so-called process e-grains, the key element in intelligent production within the framework of the SOPRO Project. The Productronic and Micro Technology Associations as well as the working group Modular Microsystems within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) coordinate the cooperation of industry and research institutes.

e-grains control the intelligent factory

Process e-grains are small electronic cells which automatically communicate with one another and learn from one another. For example, a machine equipped with an e-grain can inform conveyors and workpieces that an alternative system must be employed, if it is used to capacity or is out of order. The parts are then transported to another machine and report with their own e-grain which work has to be performed on them. Decisions that ensure the smooth running of the production process in a factory can therefore be taken within fractions of a second. This reduces costs and saves time.

Dr. Eric Maiser from the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) emphasizes: “SOPRO has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. Already today, continuous miniaturization , especially in the field of microelectronics, requires automatic production processes in order to make products affordable for all. Now, SOPRO links individual automatic processes, which helps to avoid fabrication defects at an early stage. In addition to economic aspects, more efficient processes create ecological advantages since production can be carried out using less energy and less resources. This is vital to all modern industries.” Furthermore, logistics within and supplies to the production plant could be working fully automatically in the future. There will be greater demand for well-trained specialists for installing, planning and monitoring such factories. Thus, SOPRO means a step forward in the development of the German manufacturing industry, improving its position in the international market and securing jobs.

During the special show on SOPRO at productronica, a demonstration of simulated processing stations will illustrate the principle of self-organizing production in the intelligent production process. Employees involved in the SOPRO Project will provide information on the developments and the utilized technologies. Guided tours of the stand will also be offered. During the productronica Innovation Forum, SOPRO experts will describe in detail the idea of self-organizing production based on the potential of e-grain technology and its potential application areas in production engineering.

“Production 2.0” in around 20 years

The SOPRO Project started in March 2008 and will run until February 28, 2011. It will then lead into a joint program with industrial partners. The objective of the participants from industry and research - whose main areas of interest are microsystems technology, information technology and production engineering – is to create a totally intelligent factory. In their work, the project participants are primarily concentrating on methods for adapting and changing the stored information and tasks of the process e-grains (reconfigurability), robust radio communication in harsh environments and the formulation of module concepts so that radio sensor nodes can be inexpensively embedded in the production environment. The project also accounts for socioeconomic aspects. The development of self-organizing production is still in its infancy. According to experts, however, production plants could change fundamentally in 20 years thanks to e-grains.



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