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Optimizing an ongoing production process is very difficult, but that is exactly what three Fraunhofer institutes are working on. In the new Fraunhofer high-performance center "Networked, Adaptive Production" in Aachen they are building a completely networked production environment where researchers can develop new diagnosis and prognosis techniques for manufacturing. The goal is to enable the production of sophisticated products in many different industries.

"We are applying digitalization and networking to real manufacturing", said Thomas Bergs, general manager of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT . "We outfit the plants with numerous sensors that continuously transmit measurement data to a database wirelessly via the upcoming 5G mobile communication standard." The data is stored in a specially developed cloud named "Virtual Fort Knox" where it is processed and analyzed by custom-designed algorithms and apps.

A special feature of the high-performance center: All production and sensor data for each product is stored individually in a Digital Twin. In the event of failure, workers look at the process history and extract the data that caused the error, thus optimizing the process.

To demonstrate the diversity of networked, adaptive production, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT , the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME collectively built within the performance center six facilities for pilot applications, including one for extracting medicine from plants. Tracking and analyzing product history plays a special role in the breeding of plants, too.

The Fraunhofer IME grows plants under controlled conditions and then biochemically alters them so that they produce medicines. They then harvest the plants and, in the final step, extract and isolate the active substances. However, plants grow at different rates and produce different levels of active substances, so it is useful to track the history of the plants in order to analyze precisely the growth conditions and production rates of these substances.

"This is how we can determine under which conditions the plants are especially productive and then adjust the ongoing process accordingly," said Johannes Buyel from Fraunhofer IME . "We conduct extensive big data analyses to find and monitor the right parameters that influence production of active substances."

Fraunhofer researchers present their concepts for networked, adaptive production at HANNOVER MESSE from 23 to 27 April 2018 at Stand C22 in Hall 2. The display is especially interesting for industry representatives who want to network their own technologies in the high-performance center or further develop them in the direction of Industrie 4.0. "The potential of networked, adaptive production has no limits. We want to form partnerships with various industries," said Bergs.