Issue 60, March 2015
bullet Industry 4.0
bullet Smart Factory Concepts: Siemens' Amberg Electronics Plant
bullet Speedfactory: Researching Automated Custom Production
bullet The Next Wave of Mass Digitization of Cultural Artifacts with CultLab3D
bullet Interview with Mechanical Engineering Expert Prof. Dr. Vogel-Heuser on the Future of Industry 4.0
bullet Innovation: LBR iiwa - Enabling a New Generation of Human-Robot Collaboration
Industry 4.0 

What is Industry 4.0? How are cyber-physical systems (CPS) and the Internet of Things (IoT) driving this Fourth Industrial Revolution? And in what ways is this paradigm shift towards intelligent manufacturing fundamentally changing industrial production as we know it today?


Experts believe that Industry 4.0 will become a reality within the next 20 years, merging the physical and virtual worlds to provide efficient, individualized, and resource-friendly mass production. By using the IoT and CPS to connect raw materials with machines, products will begin to communicate directly with machinery, enabling products to ultimately control their own manufacturing destinies.


Three major technological revolutions have shaped production to date. The First Industrial Revolution emerged during the end of the 18th century in Great Britain with the advent of steam hydropower in mechanical production facilities. The Second Industrial Revolution then followed during the late 19th century with developments in electrical engineering powering the first assembly lines. The third wave of changes, or Industry 3.0, arrived during the mid-1960s with a new era of electronics and IT systems further optimizing and automating production. Industry 4.0., the newest period of transformation driven by cyber-physical systems, will introduce "smart factory" concepts that will radically transform industrial production value chains and business models.


The German government has put a variety of forward-looking policy and funding programs in place as part of its High-Tech Strategy to advance research and technology in area of Industry 4.0. Earlier this March, Johanna Wanka, Minister for Education and Research, and Sigmar Gabriel, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy, launched the exciting project "Industrie 4.0," a strategic public-private research initiative with 200 million euros in allocated funding.  


Imagine the day when products control their own manufacturing process and defects become a thing of the past - where incomplete products on assembly lines can communicate directly with machines about what services they need.

This futuristic vision is becoming a reality at Siemens' state-of-the-art production facility in Amberg, Germany, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit just last month. The electronics plant, which builds control components for factories of companies like BASF, BMW AG, and Daimler AG, is a prime example of Siemens' Digital Enterprise Platform. It represents a production environment that could become standard 10 years from now. 

The plant produces SIMATIC Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), the devices used to automate machines and equipment to save time and money and increase product quality. Siemens is the world's leading automation product supplier and the Elektronikwerk Amberg (EWA) plant is the company's model for cutting-edge smart factory concepts. Production is exclusively automated with Siemens' own control components. In other words, in EWA, SIMATIC produces SIMATIC. Human input is limited, with machines and computers handling 75 percent of the value chain on their own. 

Digitalization of all product and production data is mission-critical for streamlined interaction between man, machine, and the manufacturing execution system (MES). Each circuit board has its own unique barcode that lets it communicate with production machines. More than 1,000 scanners document all of the manufacturing steps in real time, generating about 50 million pieces of process information each day. This data allows every product's life cycle to be traceable down to the last detail. The factory boasts an impressive 99.99885 percent accuracy in production quality and a series of test stations detect the few defects that do occur.

EWA is Siemens' pilot factory for implementing Industrie 4.0 concepts. This in-house competency enables Siemens to develop innovative concepts for customers around the world. To watch a short video about the EWA plant and its approach to Industrie 4.0, please click here.

Source & Image: © Siemens AG


For decades, textile products for the fashion and sporting goods industries have primarily been manufactured under two conditions: Either mass-produced at a low cost or manufactured in smaller quantities with less automated settings and at considerable expense.

Today, as a result of globalization, product management, design, and production often take place on different continents. Optimization cycles or changes in appearance, textile properties and composition are time-consuming and require a high degree of flexibility from the stakeholders involved. This makes short product cycles and low-cost, small-series production nearly impossible. However, both functions are becoming increasingly necessary due to growing consumer demand for low-price product customization. Nevertheless, for the time being, this trend is neither economically nor technologically feasible based on the production processes currently available. 

The Speedfactory research project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) within the scope of the "Autonomics for Industry 4.0" program, aims to combine the various advantages of different production methods into one optimized approach. The project's end goal is to successfully reduce industrial micro-mass production down to a batch size of one. It also strives to minimize transactions between different continents. Shorter logistics channels, both physical and informational, in turn will offer German companies a competitive advantage, namely faster response times to both customer requests and fashion trends.

Under the umbrella of the Speedfactory project, the adidas Group is working to develop new products with intelligent technologies and then manufacture them in an automated, flexible manner that will enable the company to quickly meet consumer demands. adidas is currently focusing on customized footwear, while the company's project partner, Johnson Controls GmbH, is targeting the manufacturing of personalized car seat covers. Other research partners include fortiss GmbH, KSL Keilmann Sondermaschinenbau GmbH, and RWTH Aachen University. Speedfactory is scheduled to run until the end of September 2016.

Source & Image: © adidas Group




Ten years ago, initiatives to mass digitize 2-D documents, such as books, photos, paintings, and other works of art, spurred an exciting wave of new technology development. This movement allowed cultural documents, threatened by environmental influences or disasters, to be safely preserved in their current state and at the same time, made widely accessible for international research. 

Now these services are expanding into the 3-D realm, thanks to CultLab3D's state-of-the-art scan and illumination techniques that make it possible for millions of cultural artifacts to be scanned and archived in an industrial, cost-effective, and fast manner. The mobile digitization laboratory, developed at the Competence Center for Cultural Heritage Digitization at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD in Darmstadt, Germany, uses the latest generation of autonomous, compliant robots and automation systems as platforms for optical scanning technologies and dedicated conveyor solutions.

By using photogrammetric, image-based reconstruction techniques, CultScan3D is able to record the geometry, texture, and optical material properties of artifacts in high-resolution, taking only four to five minutes per artifact and reaching accuracy levels in the sub-millimeter range. With highly precise 3-D models, the former practice of shipping original artifacts for scientific research purposes will no longer be necessary, which will help avoid expensive loans, potential damage, insurance costs, ownership rights, and the need to produce physical replicas.

CultLab3D is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Its project partners include the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, Polymetric GmbH, Architectura Virtualis GmbH, Bionic Robotics GmbH, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

To learn more, watch these videos on the CultLab3D Pipeline and the CultLab3D Robot.

Source & Image: © Fraunhofer IGD  


In her interview with GCRI, Prof. Dr. Vogel-Heuser describes her vision for the factory of the future as well as her predictions for what role the Internet of Things will play in this age of integrated industry. She also elaborates on several cutting-edge research projects she is currently working on and discusses how human-machine interaction will change as a result of this fourth industrial revolution. Lastly, she describes what conditions position Germany to become a lead market provider of Industry 4.0 solutions and services in the future. To read the full interview, click here

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Vogel-Heuser's research focuses on the development and system evolution of distributed intelligent embedded systems in mechatronic products and production systems, with the aim of improving product quality, the efficiency and consistency of engineering activities, and operational availability. She currently serves as Chair and Director of the Institute of Automation and Information Systems for the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Technische Universität München (TUM).

After receiving her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, Prof. Dr. Vogel-Heuser continued her studies at the RWTH Aachen University where she received her doctorate in robot programming in mechanical engineering. She then acquired industry experience over a 10-year-period, including time as Engineering Director for the Siempelkamp Group. After various professorships (Hagen 1996; Wuppertal 2000; Kassel 2006), Prof. Dr. Vogel-Heuser assumed a professorship at the TUM in the Department of Automation and Information Systems (formerly the Department of Information Technology) in 2009.

Her research focuses on developing methods, descriptive aids, and tools for integrating the various perspectives of mechatronic systems (mechanical, electrical/electronic, and software) and phases in their life cycles and interactions. Her projects range from fundamental research in automation technology to the derivation of requirements from industrial applications and the development of prototype tools.

Image: © Astrid Eckert & Andreas Heddergott / TU München


KUKA, Europe's leading supplier of industrial robots and automated production systems, is welcoming the newest member of its robot family: the LBR iiwa. "LBR" stands for "Leichtbauroboter" (German for lightweight robot) and "iiwa" for "intelligent industrial work assistant." This precise, flexible robot with seven axes, modeled after the human arm, opens up new possibilities in automation as well as new fields of application for service and medical robotics. The robot can work safely with a human operator without the need for a safety fence, acting as the operator's "third hand." Furthermore, the user can manually guide the robot with his or her hand to program it right there on the spot.

The robot is equipped with mechanical systems and drive technology designed for industrial operation. This makes it possible to automate delicate and complex automation tasks in a manner in which the use of robots was previously inconceivable. The LBR iiwa is also the first robot to have safe torque sensors in every axis. Hence, its high-performance collision detection capabilities and integrated joint torque sensors make the LBR iiwa ideal for delicate joining processes and the use of simple tools. Furthermore, its lightweight nature, multiple axes, and streamlined design make it perfectly suited to confined installation situations and enables very easy integration into pre-existing production systems.

In 2014, the LBR iiwa received the Red Dot Award "Best of the Best" for excellence in design and business. In 2014, only 60 out of 4,815 product entries from more than 1,800 manufacturers from 53 countries won the Red Dot "Best of the Best."

From April 13-17, 2015, the Augsburg-based manufacturer will present the LBR iiwa at the integrated industry-themed HANNOVER MESSE 2015. To learn more about KUKA's newest robot, click here. To watch a video demonstrating human-assisted robotic learning, click here.

Source & Image: © KUKA Roboter GmbH