Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Visiting the Smart Factory in Kaiserslautern
I had the chance to visit the SmartFactoryKL in Kaiserslautern. It was nice to see some ideas how the smart technology from the consumers' sector slowly finds its way into production scenarios: a chemical machinery allows to autonomously fabricate soap, based on SAP orders defining colors and numbers of soap units to be produced. Various parts can be remotely monitored, or configured, e.g. via bluetooth and mobile phone. Prof. Zühlke illustrated the various steps being taken from simplifying the control of machines by the control room through mobile communication in order to remove the strong coupling between worker and machine. However, the challenge in the production scenarios clearly is the lifetime of machines spanning up to thirty years - compared to the 2 year life-time of a mobile phone.
The driving vision here is the digital fab where all units can be controlled via web-servers (SEMPROM). The journey towards that vision goes via remote control (factory of bits), remote programming (factory of functions) and the real/virtual integration (factory of things - where parts of the factory could be simulated in 3D).
Afterwards we had some discussion on how these developments would effect the job market and, thus, also cause changes im training and education. There is a German project elaborating this topic.