Reply is the place to meet an incredible variety of enthusiastic, passionate, ideas-driven people, who want to make a difference and an impact.Would you like to know more?
Providing interfaces capable of ‘communicating’ with all phases of a production process and paving the way for an effective industrial automation system: this is the aim of the digital twin, an innovation that has the potential to radically change the design, production, sales and maintenance of complex products in multiple sectors. An innovation made possible by edge computing powered by Concept Reply Germany, which has been active for years in the field of the IoT and end-to-end solutions focused on industrial processes.
Concept Reply has developed and implemented digital twin solutions in various areas in the last years. Among the most interesting and promising ones is a project to industrialise and digitise additive manufacturing for automotive series processes (IDAM). The project - sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research - aims to transfer the technology of additive manufacturing with metals into an industrialised and highly automated process, such as that of the automotive industry.
Among the main advantages of IDAM is the possibility of making the production of parts more efficient and optimising processes in terms of costs and time by reducing the required manual effort and limiting wasted resources. Besides, this technology also opens up new possibilities for the so-called ‘mass customisation’ of automotive products, or the standard individualisation of the product, made possible by the availability of parts to be ordered without further efforts or heavy production line changes.
This process has the power to transform production operations while allowing the creation of lighter, stronger and more complex parts. In additive manufacturing, a physical object is created from a 3D computer-aided design model by combining the material layer by layer, to produce precise geometric shapes. By combining additive manufacturing with the IoT, it is also possible to make the production process smarter and more efficient, as well as producing superior quality components, as Reply’s experts point out. Moreover, thanks to a digital twin which runs on an IoT environment, it is possible to develop software that runs on a gateway and allows for the automation of several steps in the production process, as well as to connect several systems, store and distribute information and data.
During the project deployment, Concept Reply's experts are contributing to the creation of a performing IOT architecture, thanks to an edge gateway that allows for the connection of all the individual machines on the production lines and also thanks to the digital twin running on the edge gateway itself. An edge gateway system in the IoT field allows the secure connection of machines, the collection, storage, display and analysis of telemetry data, and facilitates the automation processes necessary for series production. The implementation of a digital twin is not only a real-time digital replication of the production line but also an evolving profile based on historical data and potential future states based on probabilistic simulations. Combined, this allows the monitoring of systems, automation of processes, and prevention of problems before they occur, development of optimisations and predictive power through simulations.
The development of a digital twin is of fundamental importance for the success of the IDAM project. The digital twin will become a hub for all data analysis and visualisation tools, facilitating communication between machines and the production line as a whole. It will also make it possible to integrate developments in the field of big data and AI with the aim of orchestrating the highly complex interaction between the different machines in the entire production environment. “Artificial intelligence is the catalyst to release the disruptive power of additive manufacturing. Leveraging digital twins for real-time IoT will further standardise the additive manufacturing process chain, reduce costs and shorten delivery times. We strive to manufacture industrial components under high-quality series conditions with resilient processes and robust production”, says Sebastian Blümer, Technology Manager Laser AM at GKN Additive and the leader of the IDAM work package for the ’Intelligent Digital Process Chain’.
The project goal is to be able to release more than 50 thousand components per year in the production of common parts and more than 10 thousand single and spare parts through a modular and highly automated production. Today, among other things, several machines have already been designed and the very first machine prototype has been built. Moreover, the first analysis regarding reuse of powder has been run, and researches regarding ramp-up/down of laser power for avoiding overheating has been performed too.
The aim of the project is not only to create a better production line for automotive manufacturers but also to generate knowledge on the implementation of edge gateway solutions. Such solutions could eventually be applied to production lines in many industries, as long as the connectivity of machines and processes, monitoring of assets and performance and a digital twin or machine learning applications play a key role.