Adaptable production systems for the automotive industry

Adaptable production systems for the automotive industry

Software-defined manufacturing enables faster model and product changes and more diverse variants - Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology to provide 35 million euros in funding

Fluctuating demand, supply bottlenecks, individualized products: Being able to produce economically even in the face of dynamic changes poses challenges for the vehicle and supplier industry. Solutions for fast, flexible, and efficient production are being developed by the Software-Defined Manufacturing for the Automotive and Supplier Industry (SDM4FZI) project, in which a total of 30 companies are pooling their expertise under the leadership of Bosch and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the University of Stuttgart as scientific partners. Among others, computer scientists of the unit"Intelligent Process Automation and Robotics (IPR)" contribute findings on the aspects of robotics and handling.

The aim of the SDM4FZI project is to flexibly plan, control and change individual components of production systems through to entire factories by decoupling software and hardware. Automobile manufacturers should thus be able to switch more quickly between models and products 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 adaptability 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.

Transformative production through software-defined manufacturing

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

The KIT scientists are working in particular on the design of software and hardware in modern, digitized production. "In particular, we are investigating how the mutability of production can be increased by 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 of Production Technology at KIT. The virtual representation of components and systems in production by means of so-called digital twins and their interaction with digital images of products and technologies along the entire value chain are of central importance. The wbk team is also investigating the extent to which the quality assurance of complex manufacturing processes can be supported by the separation of software and hardware and the integration of functional models. In addition, KIT researchers are dealing with the aspects of robotics and handling at the Institute of Materials Handling and Logistics Systems and at the Institute of Anthropomatics and Robotics-Intelligent Process Automation and Robotics as well as with cloud integration and the connection to Gaia-X at the Institute of Applied Computer Science and Formal Description Methods.

Reference architecture model and software-defined manufacturing-enabled 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 Engineering of 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 by means of data, information and behavioural models that emerge over the entire machine or product life cycle."

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

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

Further information on the SDM4FZI project:

Further information on the Innovation Campus Mobility of the Future: