In the vision of industry 4.0, tomorrow’s factories will operate on the basis of digital production processes. The ability to produce more diversified and personalized products cost-effectively is no longer an unreachable dream. Manufacturers need a means of responding rapidly to customer demands in order to outpace their international competitors. Fraunhofer IGD's new technology known as “cyber-physical equivalence” could play a key role in making this possible. In the first instance, it creates a digital model of each stage in the production process, and transfers this model to the real production environment. At the same time, everything that happens in the factory is recorded as digital data and fed back into the virtual world. This opens the way for flexible manufacturing processes capable of producing one-off products and limited series on an industrial scale.
Smart production – paving the way to industry 4.0
In the past, designers had to painstakingly model new products by hand, one part at a time, whereas nowadays they usually create a digital model before making the real one. Visualization technologies connect the real world with the digital world and provide support for smart production control. The data can be accessed from anywhere using mobile devices such as tablet PCs or smartphones and visualized in an easy-to-understand form, adapted to the needs of each company and its employees. In this way, people and machines become interconnected. The term “cyber-physical equivalence” was coined to express the interaction between the real and the virtual worlds in a production process. Visual computing makes it possible to plan complex work environments and processes before they are implemented. Any discrepancies observed in the real-world process are recreated in real time in the digital planning model, where they are analyzed and solved by means of suitable adjustments.
Visual computing technologies play a key role here. “We want to provide effective support to people who work in complex production environments,” says Professor Uwe Freiherr von Lukas of the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD (Rostock branch). “To do so, we have to gather reliable workflow data, visualize this information, and make it accessible wherever needed – be it next to the milling machine or in a shipyard’s dry dock.”