Planning and building products and production plants simultaneously

Mar 21, 2014
Digital engineering not only shortens development times but also reduces costs and ensures that designs are more fully developed. It is also a building block for self-controlled, interconnected manufacturing of the future. Credit: Dirk Mahler

Fraunhofer researchers have developed and built new production plants in record time for the specialty chemicals company LANXESS and many other companies. Methods of digital engineering allow research and development for the planning of products and manufacturing to proceed simultaneously. Visitors to the Hannover Messe from April 7 to 11 can learn how this works.

In early 2010, LANXESS decided to enter a new field of business, water purification: A production facility for Lewabrane reverse osmosis membrane filter elements was supposed to be built by the fall of 2011. Together with the company's experts, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg designed and had the manufacturing technology ready for production in just nine months. Afterward, they built a second, fully automatic and, therefore, more complex plant in just one year. Part of this plant – scaled down – will be on display for the first time at our booth at Hannover Messe.

Simultaneous Development and Functional Testing

Small and medium-sized companies that manufacture one off and small series especially profit from the advantages of digital engineering, namely far shorter development times, lower costs and more highly developed designs. Researchers from the Fraunhofer IFF have made it their mission to enable machinery manufacturers to use these methods in their companies.

"We reorganized what has been the usual workflow when developing and implementing custom machinery, for instance," explains Prof. Ulrich Schmucker, manager of the Virtual Engineering Business Unit at the Fraunhofer IFF. "Previously, the design engineers would start, and then the electrical engineers would join in, followed by the programmers and finally the commissioning engineers. With our new methods, everyone works together from the start. The programmers can already start developing software before the machine exists. This step usually doesn't come until the end, once the equipment has been built and connected." This is possible since both the product and every single step of the process are simulated on a computer. The researchers link all of the digital data available.

Cost Effective Custom Development

"We develop custom solutions for whatever clients need," stresses Schmucker. The Fraunhofer IFF's development methods are especially useful for the manufacture of custom maschines and small quantities. Small and medium-sized companies like SM Calvörde, which manufactures rolling stock among other things, Schiess AG, which manufactures machine tools, AEM – Anhaltische Elektromotorenwerk Dessau GmbH, which manufactures large generators, and many others have already successfully implemented systems with Fraunhofer. This research has been funded by the state of Saxony-Anhalt, internal resources and industry projects.

Schmucker uses the trade fair exhibit to explain the system: "The machine moves virtually here on the monitor on the wall just like the real machine behind this model. The special thing is: The virtual system, not a film, is running here on the screen. It is operated by the original controller, that is, a controller exactly like the one in LANXESS's membrane technology production facility in Bitterfeld."

Maintenance, Repair and Training

"We use the development data not only for planning and construction but also for maintenance, repair and training," says Schmucker, describing more of the system's advantages. "One example: A machine stops; one sensor has slipped out of place. But which of the 800 sensors isn't functioning? The technician immediately sees the location of the malfunction on his or her tablet and can order a replacement part directly. This is possible because all of the machine is available digitally."

Operator training can also start before a system exists – specifically, on the real controller as well. Future users are trained in its operation on virtual equipment at the institute or at their company. The operator interface is identical with that of the future machine. Instead of the machine, only the virtual copy on the screen moves.

Explore further: E3-production—sustainable manufacturing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Virtual engineering leading to faster results

Sep 06, 2012

Together with the specialty chemicals company LANXESS, Fraunhofer researchers have engineered and built a system in record time, which produces reverse osmosis membrane elements for water treatment. Virtual ...

Milling and drilling in cyberspace

Dec 07, 2009

Machinists, NC programmers or mechatronics engineers -- trainees in engineering jobs often have to master complex equipment. In the future, trainees will practice and learn milling, turning, drilling and programming ...

E3-production—sustainable manufacturing

Mar 20, 2014

Scarce and expensive raw materials, rising energy prices, climate protection and demographic shifts leave industrial production with a lot to contend with in the coming years. In the 'E3-production' lighthouse ...

Virtual plant planning, retrofitting and maintenance

Jul 02, 2012

Process plants have useful lives of thirty to fifty years, during which time they are routinely retrofitted. Virtual reality software simplifies and helps keep track of retrofit planning and testing. Fraunhofer ...

Real-time simulation of textiles

Mar 20, 2014

Fashion designers, pattern makers and tailors produce new collections using computer programs. The Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD in Darmstadt is working with partners on connecting ...

From a distance: New technique for repair work

Feb 20, 2014

Numerous German companies are operating globally these days: They develop products domestically, but production is done in other countries like China, Brazil or the Czech Republic. If maintenance or repair ...

Recommended for you

Study says upgrading infrastructure could reduce flood damage

Oct 29, 2014

The severe flooding that devastated a wide swath of Colorado last year might have been less destructive if the bridges, roads and other infrastructure had been upgraded or modernized, according to a new study from the University ...

Walk through buildings from your own device

Oct 29, 2014

Would you like to visit The Frick Collection art museum in New York City but can't find the time? No problem. You can take a 3-D virtual tour that will make you feel like you are there, thanks to Yasutaka ...

'Ambulance drone' prototype unveiled in Holland

Oct 28, 2014

A Dutch-based student on Tuesday unveiled a prototype of an "ambulance drone", a flying defibrillator able to reach heart attack victims within precious life-saving minutes.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.