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The factory of the future is the subject of numerous research projects in science and industry. Future-oriented companies rely on automation, modularity, artificial intelligence and agility to remain competitive. In order to drive these topics forward in industry and research, students, trainees and employees need the appropriate know-how and awareness to deal with complex issues. This is precisely where the "Agile Production Simulation" learning concept presented by fischertechnik at HANNOVER MESSE 2024 comes in. It simulates processes such as quality assurance using artificial intelligence, the functioning of driverless transport systems and replicates automated processes in the smallest of spaces: From incoming goods to modular production and quality assurance. The accompanying didactics translate the hands-on simulated processes into future skills for learners and teachers. The digital twin of the model is also designed to significantly intensify the learning experience.

Flexibly combinable modules simulate reality

The Agile Production Simulation is a factory made up of flexibly combinable modules. The material flow begins at the incoming goods department for raw materials, continues via an automated high-bay warehouse, various production stations such as a milling or drilling station and finally via quality assurance with AI to the outgoing goods department. An automated guided vehicle system (AGV) with Omniwheels transports workpieces between the individual stations and ensures agile production processes that can be flexibly adapted to customer requirements. If necessary, the AGV can be charged at the charging station without having to swap batteries. In terms of digital traceability, each workpiece contains an NFC tag on which production data is written. The factory produces workpieces in different colors with different processing characteristics. Agile production enables product-specific production steps within a "lean" process without set-up times.

Everything under control thanks to digital interfaces

The Agile Production Simulation is controlled by a central controller (Raspberry Pi 4 Model B), which is networked with the controllers of the individual factory modules, PLC Siemens S7 1200. Different communication protocols such as the MQTT protocol (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) enable all modules to work together in a network. Cloud-based real-time monitoring provides dashboards for order control and for visualizing the factory status. Key figures such as throughput times or Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) can also be determined there. An online store simulates the ordering of workpieces by the customer. The moving camera can be controlled from anywhere via the dashboard to simulate the principle of remote maintenance.

The topic of AI & machine learning is also considered

The quality control module with AI makes the complex topic of machine learning tangible and illustrates its benefits in the production environment. Based on the concept of supervised learning, the machine learning part is implemented with the AI tool Tensorflow. The associated digital learning platform is based on a digital twin of the Agile Production Simulation and represents the didactic counterpart to the haptic model factory. The high-performance immersive learning environment explains the controls, actuators, sensors and functionality of the Agile Production Simulation.

Getting fit for the factory of the future

The Agile Production Simulation was developed in collaboration with experts from KIT Karlsruhe, the software company OMM Solutions GmbH and the University of Stuttgart. The system is delivered already assembled in a practical case. It offers a simulation solution for anyone who wants to get ready for the factory of the future.