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Smart Automation Laboratory

Practical research and development in the factory of the future

“Industrie 4.0” has become a ubiquitous term to describe research topics concerning product and production innovations. Specifically, “Industrie 4.0” includes the objective of self-controlling production with the decentral coordination of all production system units. Flexible reconfiguration is realised on demand. The Smart Automation Laboratory serves as an environment to practically implement aspects of “Industrie 4.0”.

“Industrie 4.0” describes the innovation leap from production systems to intelligent, connected systems. By connecting machines, equipment, workpieces as well as storage and transport systems over the Internet, the production is decentrally controlled and, if necessary, flexibly reconfigured. At the same time, the cross company connection of business and production processes enables comprehensive engineering and the creation of value-adding networks. The aim of the Smart Automation Laboratory is to research aspects on implementing “Industrie 4.0”. In this way, changes related to “Industrie 4.0” are made visible and the possible effects are demonstrated.

The laboratory consists of two production cells (a lathing machine and a milling machine), a 3D-printer, a material flow system, an assembly robot and other robots which connect the production cells and the assembly robot with the material flow system. All the units of the production system are equipped with a local computer system which monitors and controls its part of the production system and provides a communication interface. Each component is connected by these local computer systems to achieve an automated coordination of the system using a dynamic peer-to-peer network. As a result, the order processing in the production system can be automated and units of the production system can be independently interconnected and configured (Plug & Produce).

The research currently focuses on decentralised production control. The entire production system is controlled by the involved units themselves. On the basis of customer-specific product models, the machines, storage and transport systems coordinate themselves. In order to enable this self-control of the production system, a new quality of product data is necessary. The laboratory offers a unique opportunity to examine the effects of “Industrie 4.0” on employees and to consider their needs when engineering the systems.