Production to Become Flexible and Interconnected


Production Engineers at RWTH want to speed up the transfer of innovative research and development to industrial application.

  Individuals operating a robot arm Copyright: © Peter Winandy After a learning phase, a production robot at the Manfred Weck-Haus is capable of mounting components. In the photo, it presents a bunch of flowers to its operators.

The term Industrie 4.0 represents a new era of manufacturing which is characterized by self-optimizing, connected production machines: Components such as rollers and motors are able to communicate with the production facility and detect by themselves when repairs are needed. Driverless transport vehicles are capable of detecting what materials and parts are required at the production line and automatically deliver them from the warehouse.

The fourth industrial revolution intelligently interconnects humans, machines, and industrial processes. Using innovative technologies, it makes it possible to efficiently customize products for individual customers. As Professor Fritz Klocke, co-director of the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL, explains, “Companies which want to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace must decide what role they want to play in Industrie 4.0.” Klocke, who is spokesperson of the "Production Engineering" profile area, coordinates the University's Industrie 4.0 research activities.

Within the profile area, which was established under the German Excellence Initiative, researchers are developing innovative production processes, production facilities and the required measuring technology. Moreover, all system components are interconnected to exchange data and information. In a demonstration factory, the new technologies can be tested in a realistic production environment. According to Klocke, this makes it possible to “speed up the transfer of product and technological innovations, business models, and production concepts into industrial practice." In this way, the market leadership of German companies can be safeguarded.

Turbomachinery and the Future of Construction

The project houses “Turbomachinery Manufacturing” and “Production for the Construction of Tomorrow,” both of which receive funding from the Excellence Initiative, have been established to support production engineering research at RWTH. The turbomachinery project house implements the guiding principle of networked adaptive production: research on materials, structural mechanics, aerodynamics, manufacturing and operating behavior is conducted within an interdisciplinary consortium. Production processes of reliable high-performance turbomachines place the highest demands on manufacturing technologies. Turbomachines are indispensable key technologies in our modern industrial society: jet engines of large aircraft, exhaust gas turbochargers for low-emission automobiles, steam turbines for the generation of electricity – all these rely on the application of turbo machines.

The project house works in close collaboration with industrial partners – the Aachen researchers are involved in the ambitious European Clean Sky 2 research project, for example. WZL and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, in particular, contribute to the development of a low-emission jet engine. In collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT and the Chair for Laser Technology LLT, these institutes established the International Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing ICTM. Jointly with 27 high-profile industrial partners, ICTM conducts integrative and interdisciplinary top-level research concerned with the production and repair of turbomachinery.

The project house "Production for the Construction of Tomorrow" develops new approaches for the planning, production, operation and recycling of sustainable buildings. Based on RWTH’s core competencies an interdisciplinary consortium is being established in this research area. The project house focuses on the industrialization of construction with the help of product standardization and enhanced prefabrication based on improved manufacturing processes and technologies.

Further research topics include the sustainable recycling of building materials, components and buildings. Interdisciplinary research aims to increase energy and material efficiency in construction, whereby an important contribution will be made to the social challenges of climate protection and resource conservation.

Internet of Production

The Aachen Production Engineering institutes are involved in large-scale projects concerned with the Internet of Production, implementing the real-time availability of information at any time and at any place. The sum of all data generated provides large-volume “digital shadow” of production. As Professor Klocke explains, “this makes accurate and continuous analysis of data possible – digital patterns can be detected and utilized as a prognostic tool to support production-related decisions.

”Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises” – this was the guiding theme of the 29th AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium earlier this year. More than 1,000 representatives from industry, science and politics attended the conference on trends and innovations in the Industrie 4.0 paradigm. Fittingly, at the conference, the 2017 recipient of the Aachen Engineering Award was announced: In September, former WZL director Professor Manfred Weck will be presented with the award.

Source: Press and Communications