Secure, flexible, intuitive: the production of the future

Nearly every second job in Germany depends on the production of goods. Mechanical and plant engineering is still one of the greatest strengths of German industry today. How can this pioneering role in the economy and the prosperity in this country be secured in times of increasing global competition and finite resources? New technologies are needed: Industrie 4.0 makes production smarter as well as more flexible, individual, efficient and sustainable. 

The German digital association Bitkom expects sales growth of more than EUR 7 billion this year through Industrie 4.0 solutions. According to Bitkom, the strongest increase in demand for Industrie 4.0 can be seen in the mechanical and plant engineering sector. In this segment, sales of Industrie 4.0 solutions already amounted to EUR 1.2 billion in 2016, and an increase of 23 percent is expected for 2017.

 In the lighthouse project E3-Production, 13 Fraunhofer institutes worked on an energy and resource efficient production.
© Fraunhofer IWU /
In the lighthouse project E3-Production, 13 Fraunhofer institutes worked on an energy and resource efficient production.
Mobile assistance robots such as ANNIE could be used in industry and commerce.
© Fraunhofer IFF
Der am Fraunhofer IFF entwickelte mobile Assistenzroboter ANNIE erlaubt eine direkte Kooperation von Mensch und Maschine.

The Fraunhofer "E³-Production" project, with the goal of energy- and resource-efficient production, started in November 2013. In 2017, the thirteen participating Fraunhofer Institutes and their network partners presented the results of their cooperation with four demonstrators: they integrate complex individual solutions from product development, process optimization, production planning and production control of the energy-optimized factory as well as the ergonomically designed production to complete application-oriented solutions.

The specific added value of digitization in production is the focus of the two projects "Presswerk 4.0" and "Maschine 4.0" of the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU. Their goal is improved quality and greater efficiency in production as well as longer machine life. "Presswerk 4.0" illustrates the advantages of networked production based on scenarios: for example, image processing algorithms analyze components for faults; real-time feedback to the plant control system reduces fault-related downtimes by up to 50 percent. In addition, opportunities have been developed to flexibly adapt production to the market and customers, as well as a data hub that helps to systematically generate new production knowledge. 

"Maschine 4.0" – a forming press and its digital twin – shows the advantages of digitization at the Hanover Trade Fair: The seamless monitoring of process, machine and tool opens up the possibility of significantly increasing the availability of machines, extending their service life, and significantly shortening the training periods of tools.

ANNIE, the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF's research platform for mobile manipulation, accelerates the planning process of applications of human-robot collaboration for complex production scenarios. With cognitive abilities, robots will no longer perform predetermined work steps in preprogrammed motion coordinates, as is customary in today's industrial robotics. Instead, complex tasks will be transferred to them, such as collection and delivery services or joining and inspection processes. These tasks are then planned and performed independently, usually with the assistance of sensors. In addition to the use of the latest hardware and software, the ANNIE platform demonstrates developments in perception, navigation, security, software architecture and interaction. 



Presswerk 4.0


Optimal management of energy consumption is particularly important for the (bio) chemical industry.
© Norbert Michalke
Optimal management of energy consumption is particularly important for the (bio) chemical industry.

Machines and systems as the core of Industrie 4.0

Processes in the chemical or biochemical industry are often very energy intensive. The energy eaters particularly include heating and cooling elements as well as electric motors for blowers, pumps or agitators. In collaboration with several application partners from the chemical industry, "FlexChem"  is developing methods to predict the power loads of production facilities and their electrical system components and to avoid heavy power fluctuations. The necessary software algorithms have been developed by the Fraunhofer IFF, while the knowledge of chemical process engineering has been provided by the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes. Dr. Daniela Pufky-Heinrich  says, "When the software analyzes and predicts peak loads, consumers such as heaters or agitators can be used more efficiently." This reduces costs and helps to ensure grid stability in the development of renewable energies. 

With foxySPEC , researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT and Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB have developed a mass spectrometer that enables the simultaneous measurement of up to 30 components in both gases and liquids. The data analysis which is connected with the mass spectrometer and which occurs by means of intelligent control software allows the system to always respond in real time: for example, to increase the concentration of a substance or to lower the temperature. As a result, manufacturing processes no longer have to be interrupted, and raw materials and resources are processed efficiently. This enables the automated and flexible control of complex biochemical manufacturing processes. The technology can be used not only in all industries that involve chemical processes (such as in pharmacy or food production) but also in environmental monitoring. "FoxySPEC makes sensitive chemical manufacturing processes fit for use in Industrie 4.0 environments," says Dr. Matthias Stier, scientist and engineer at the IGB. For its development, Stier's team received the 2015 Founder's Award of the Science4Life e.V. initiative.

In the ARENA2036, bodies are driven to their production station.
© Marcus Frenken
In the ARENA2036, bodies are driven to their production station.

Driver automotive industry

The role of automotive engineering as a driver and pioneer in forward-looking production facilities has once again been confirmed by the Bitkom study. At a billion euros, car manufacturers and suppliers are reporting the second-highest expenditure on Industrie 4.0.

Together with the research campus of the BMBF [German Federal Ministry of Education and Research], the University of Stuttgart recently launched ARENA2036, an international research campus under the umbrella of which a consortium of science and industry researches and tests future-oriented topics in production and lightweight construction. On an area of 10,000 square meters on the University Campus in the district of Vaihingen, an adaptable, highly flexible production facility that combines mass production with the manufacturing of individualized products is being built as a model. For this purpose, the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA have brought DLR as well as a number of industrial partners, including Daimler, Siemens, Bosch and KUKA, on board.

Thomas Dietz, Project Manager of the ARENA2036, emphasizes the aspect of diversity and variance. The fabrication of the future will no longer be homogeneous and linear. An example of future automotive variance is the drive: "A model will have different variants in the future: hydrogen, electric, petrol or natural gas drive." The materials include new plastic compounds, natural fibers and carbon. Above all, the desire for the individualization of production is increasing. "For a long time now, we have been seeing more and more niche models and individual variants." In the factory of the future, each product will go its own way and will only approach those production stations that suit its individual configuration, Thomas Dietz predicts. 



 For efficient production, data is linked to simulation.
© Uwe Bellhäuser
For efficient production, data is linked to simulation.
 How industrial production is ensured, the cybersecurity laboratory in Lemgo shows.
© Fraunhofer IOSB
How industrial production is ensured, the cybersecurity laboratory in Lemgo shows.

Intelligent electronics

One of the branches of Industrie 4.0 with the highest sales is that of electronics. According to Bitkom, the estimated turnover of EUR 817 million in 2017 would represent an increase of 22 percent compared to that of 2016.

Forschungsfabrik Mikroelektronik Deutschland (FMD), the largest cross-location R&D affiliation for micro/nanoelectronics in Europe, will provide relevant contributions in this regard. Jörg Amelung, Head of the FMD, highlights four respective technologies that will determine important areas of microelectronics manufacturing in the future: nanotechnology for the production of extremely compact components that are used in the construction of compact sensors for the Internet of Things. The integration of many small components in extremely compact microsystems. High-frequency technologies for optical high-speed transmission in computer networks or for networking machines. And fourth, power technologies for high-current applications. For e-cars, for example, the electric drive requires highly efficient switches that can provide all of the available power largely without any loss and within a fraction of a second. 

All of these technologies are being researched, tested and developed at the FMD. "A very promising development is the flexible networking and interconnection of different production plants and production islands. Even geographically separate production locations will be combined in the future in order to manufacture a product," says Jörg Amelung.

To become a reality, the digital industry requires fast Internet in real time. Fraunhofer now operates 5G test fields in Aachen, Stuttgart and Berlin. Highly dynamic infrastructures and service platforms are operated, for example, by the "Berlin Center for Digital Transformation" service center (Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS, Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK, Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM, Institute for Telecommunication, Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI). Application fields such as critical infrastructures, telemedicine, mobility and the city of the future as well as those for industry and production provide practical solutions for digital transformation in this regard. 

In the EU project TERRANOVA, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF and HHI are already working on a successor standard for 5G: terahertz radio solutions will be embedded in fiber optic networks with high data rates, and new frequency bands will be developed. Goal: a load-resilient communication infrastructure that is ready for the demands of the future. 


Forschungsfabrik Mikroelektronik Deutschland

Berlin Center for Digital Transformation