Versatile production systems for the automotive industry

The software-defined production should enable fast, flexible and efficient production in the vehicle and supplier industry in the future. (Photo: Anastasiya Sultanova, KIT)

The software-defined production should enable fast, flexible and efficient production in the vehicle and supplier industry in the future. (Photo: Anastasiya Sultanova, KIT)

Fluctuating demand, delivery bottlenecks, customized products: being able to produce economically even with dynamic changes poses challenges for the vehicle and supplier industry.

Fluctuating demand, delivery bottlenecks, customized products: being able to produce economically even with dynamic changes poses challenges for the vehicle and supplier industry. The software-defined manufacturing project for the vehicle and supplier industry (SDM4FZI) is developing solutions for fast, flexible and efficient production Companies bundle their competencies.

The aim of the SDM4FZI project is to flexibly plan, control and change individual components from production systems to entire factories by decoupling software and hardware. Automobile manufacturers should be able to switch between models and products more quickly and also produce more variants. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the project with a total of around 35 million euros.

The basis for maximum versatility is the strict separation between the hardware of the production systems and the controlling software. Software-defined manufacturing (SDM) works with digital twins, i.e. virtual images of the existing hardware, with the help of which the appropriate software can be automatically derived, tested and distributed. This saves development time, resources, energy and thus costs.

Versatile production through software-defined manufacturing

The software-defined manufacturing method used in SDM4FZI was developed by the Institute for Control Technology for Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW) at the University of Stuttgart and Bosch. Joint preparatory work laid the foundation stone for the project, which has now been initiated by the ISW and the wbk Institute for Production Technology of the KIT as part of the Innovation Campus Mobility of the Future (ICM).

The KIT scientists work in particular on the design of software and hardware in modern, digitized production. “In particular, we are investigating how the adaptability of production can be increased through a targeted decoupling of software and hardware, i.e. how production can be adapted to changing framework conditions,” explains Professor Gisela Lanza from the wbk Institute for Production Technology at KIT. The key here is the virtual mapping of the components and systems in production using so-called digital twins, as well as their interaction with digital images of products and technologies across the entire value chain. The wbk team is also investigating to what extent the quality assurance of complex manufacturing processes can be supported by the separation of software and hardware as well as the integration of functional models. In addition, the KIT researchers deal with the aspects of robotics and handling at the Institute for Materials Handling and Logistics Systems and at the Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics-Intelligent Process Automation and Robotics as well as with cloud integration and the connection to Gaia-X at the Institute for Applied Computer Science and formal description methods.

Reference architecture model and software-defined manufacturing-capable production OT

The University of Stuttgart, which is represented by a total of four institutes in SDM4FZI under the leadership of the Institute for Control Technology for Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW), is dedicated to the two SDM core technologies: reference architecture model and production OT (operational technology). "Digital twins represent the key element for the SDM concept", explains the head of ISW, Professor Alexander Verl. "They describe products, processes and production systems using data, information and behavioral models that arise over the entire machine or product life cycle" .

A uniform construction plan (reference architecture) ensures interoperability across the entire supply chain. An SDM-capable production OT makes it possible to distribute automatically generated software in real time and interoperably to the production systems. This requires a completely new infrastructure with open control architectures and end-to-end communication from the sensor to the cloud.

"The large number of project partners shows how important software is for the production of tomorrow," emphasizes Michael Neubauer, scientific coordinator from the ISW at the University of Stuttgart. "We are working on trend-setting approaches that improve the competitiveness of German companies." The solutions developed on the Arena 2036 research campus are to be carried by the institutes into the automotive and supplier industries.

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