An essential element of the research work is represented by a digital twin of the manufacturing plant: the researchers can thus depict all processes of the factory virtually . "Only when you can simulate changes to product processes and run through alternatives in advance can you optimally design the processes," explains Prof. Detlef Gerhard , Head of the Faculty of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.
The plant is at the Technology Center Seestadt ; the costs of around EUR 4 million are being shared between the federal government , TU Wien, and participating companies. Austria is currently pushing forward tests of smart factories, primarily with a view to individualized products, and has already put corresponding pilot factories into operation at TU Graz (EUR 2 million) and Johannes Kepler University Linz (another EUR 2 million).
One goal of the Vienna factory is to realize production with a batch size of one, but at the same cost as with large-scale production. The fact that researchers have decided on 3D printers is not least because of their complexity: 3D printers combine mechanical components, electronics and software and can be manufactured in many different versions – these are challenges that the research is making progress on. The hopes are that the results can in turn be transferred later to producing completely different products.