Automotive industry

Adaptable production systems for the automotive industry

Software-Defined Manufacturing aims for fast, flexible and efficient production for the automotive industry and subcontractors. (Photo: Anastasiya Sultanova, KIT)

Fluctuating demand, supply bottlenecks, individualized products: being able to produce economically even in the face of dynamic changes poses challenges for the automotive industry and its suppliers. The Software Defined Manufacturing for Automotive and Supplier Industry (SDM4FZI) project develops solutions to ensure fast, flexible and efficient production. The project involves a total of 30 companies, which have come together to pool their expertise, led by Bosch and with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the University of Stuttgart as scientific partners. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs is funding the project to the tune of 35 million euros.

The goal of the SDM4FZI project is to decouple software and hardware to flexibly plan, control and modify everything from individual elements of production systems to entire factories. This should allow automakers to switch between models and products more quickly and produce a wider range of alternatives. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the project to the tune of around 35 million euros.

The basis for maximum adaptability is the complete separation of production system hardware and control software. Software Defined Manufacturing (SDM) works with digital twins – virtual images of existing hardware – which can be used to automatically derive, test, and distribute the appropriate software. This saves development time, resources, energy and costs.

Versatile production through software-defined manufacturing

The software-defined manufacturing method used in SDM4FZI was developed by the Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW) of the University of Stuttgart and Bosch. The project started with joint preliminary work and has now been initiated by ISW and KIT’s wbk Institute of Production Science under the Campus Innovation “Future Mobility” (ICM).

KIT scientists focus on designing software and hardware in modern, digital production. “In particular, we are studying how the versatility of production can be increased by a targeted decoupling of software and hardware, i.e. how this can be adapted to changing framework conditions”, explains Prof. Gisela Lanza of the KIT wbk Institute of Production Science. At the heart of this is the virtual mapping of components and systems in production using so-called digital twins and their interaction with digital images of products and technologies throughout the value chain. The wbk team is also investigating to what extent the quality control of complex manufacturing processes can be supported by separating software and hardware and integrating functional models. In addition, KIT researchers are involved in the fields of robotics and material handling at the Institute for Materials Handling and Logistics and the Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics – Intelligent Process Automation and Robotics, as well as in the integration cloud and connection to Gaia -X at the Institute of Applied Computing and Formal Description Methods.

Production OT with reference architecture model and software-defined manufacturing capabilities

The University of Stuttgart, which is represented by a total of four institutes in the SDM4FZI project which are managed by the Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW), focuses on both technologies SDM base: the reference architecture model and Production OT (Operational Technology). “Digital twins are a key part of the SDM concept,” says ISW Director Prof. Alexander Verl. “They describe products, processes and production systems using data, information and behavioral models developed throughout the life cycle of the machine or product. “

A coherent master plan (reference architecture) guarantees interoperability across the entire supply chain. SDM’s capable production OT enables the distribution of automatically generated software to production systems in an interoperable and real-time manner. This requires an entirely new infrastructure with open control architectures and continuous communication from the sensor to the cloud.

“The large number of project partners proves how important software is for the manufacturing of the future,” emphasizes Michael Neubauer, ISW science coordinator at the University of Stuttgart. “We are working on pioneering approaches that improve the competitiveness of German companies. The solutions developed on the Arena 2036 research campus will be transferred from institutes to the automotive and equipment industries.

More information on the SDM4FZI project:

More information (in German) on the “Future Mobility” Innovation Campus:

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