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The extended demo plant from the SmartFactoryKL partner network, which is essentially based on the three standards "RFID tag description", "OPC UA communication" and "hardware standardization", is being exhibited in a new layout and uses a flexible transportation system. As this system’s central elements are a robot platform and conveyor belts in the modules, the product – a customized business card holder – can be manufactured in various ways. This means production does not need to be tied down to one particular location. Once the product has been machined according to the relevant standards, the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) decides in the four modules where the product is to be transported for further processing, based on a notification issued by the integration bus via the plant topology.

Although the flexible transportation system is only moving the product around within a small area at HANNOVER MESSE 2017, it quickly becomes clear that, in real-life applications, this approach can be applied to different production lines, factory facilities or even separate locations. The product finds the correct module for the next processing step because it controls its decision cycle via the memory on the RFID tag and is guided by the IT structure used.

"We have the roundtable partnership involving industry and science to thank for this new application. It is because the partners collaborate on a level playing field, in keeping with the spirit of our initiative, that we have been able to successfully explore new research topics," says Prof. Detlef Zühlke, CEO of SmartFactoryKL and head of the Innovative Factory Systems research group at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). The partner companies for the SmartFactoryKL Industry 4.0 plant include Belden/Hirschmann, Bosch Rexroth, CISCO, EPLAN Software & Service, Festo, HARTING, IBM, iTAC, LAPP KABEL, Mettler Toledo, MiniTec, PHOENIX CONTACT, Pilz, proALPHA, SAP, TE Connectivity, TÜV SÜD, Weidmüller and Wibu-Systems.