The future is formed through cooperation

Where the future is con­cerned, Pilz not only looks to exchange with cus­tomers, but also works inten­sively with research ini­tia­tives. But the secret recipe for suc­cessful research is not digi­ti­sa­tion …

For Bernd Neuschwander, Wednesday is “ARENA day”. That’s when he moves from his actual work­place in the “Advanced Devel­op­ment” depart­ment at Pilz, to the “ARENA2036” at Stuttgart Uni­ver­sity. On site, in the large hall at the research campus, between robot cells and vir­tual reality work­sta­tions, an engi­neer from the pro­duc­tion tech­nology depart­ment of a large auto­mo­tive sup­plier comes up to Bernd Neuschwander: “You make safe automa­tion! We have an idea for an auto­mated guided vehicle system in our pro­duc­tion. Will you give us your opinion on it?”

Pilz conducts research in ARENA2036

ARENAARENA stands for Active Research Envi­ron­ment for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Auto­mo­biles. Resource-effi­cient, com­pet­i­tive pro­duc­tion models are intended to emerge by the year 2036, the 150th anniver­sary of the car. Pilz has been a member of ARENA2036 for nine years, actively working on a variety of projects. “In ARENA2036 we dis­cuss future trends and new pro­duc­tion methods, and then imme­di­ately test them for prac­ti­cality within projects”, Neuschwander explains. “Direct exchange between tech­ni­cians, engi­neers and devel­opers is the key ben­efit – no hier­archy, just deal directly.”

IIn the fluid pro­duc­tion project at ARENA2036, pro­duc­tion resources are divided into loca­tion-flex­ible mod­ules. That way, dynamic machine sys­tems such as shelf access units can be cre­ated for the pro­duc­tion of the future. © ARENA2036

For example, Bernd Neuschwander col­lab­o­rates in the fluid pro­duc­tion project, which is con­cerned with the devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of a human-cen­tred, cyber-phys­ical pro­duc­tion con­cept. “It sounds abstract, but in prac­tice it means that all pro­duc­tion plants are ini­tially broken down into flex­ible mod­ules. These can then be com­bined to form dynamic units, entirely according to need.

The human plays a key role, as an active shaper of their pro­duc­tion envi­ron­ment”, Neuschwander explains. The vision: plat­forms on which cars are assem­bled and con­fig­ured. These plat­forms move freely within the hall. Other plat­forms con­taining sup­plier parts or nec­es­sary assem­blies are docked and undocked as part of the pro­duc­tion process. Human and robot work together, without a safety fence.

Can machinery safety be digitised?

Adapt­ability also plays a major role in the project SDM4FZI. The solu­tion approach: to define pro­duc­tion exclu­sively via soft­ware and there­fore make it dynam­i­cally adjustable. In this way, the project part­ners wish to create a purely dig­ital pro­duc­tion fac­tory, in order to achieve max­imum adapt­ability. “The safety of the machinery must also be part of this com­pre­hen­sive soft­ware”, says Matthias Schweiker, a col­league of Bernd Neuschwander, who is researching the future of machinery safety in this project, for Pilz.

“We are working on tool-sup­ported CE con­for­mity, in other words the digi­ti­sa­tion of machinery safety, net­working and secu­rity, and on devel­oping the dig­ital admin­is­tra­tion shell for safety para­me­ters.” The team has been working in defined work pack­ages since October 2021. The main focus at the moment is in cre­ating stan­dards. The project will be com­pleted at the end of March 2024.

With its research partner Smart Fac­tory KL, Pilz is testing “Shared safety” – Real-time safety. © Smart Fac­tory KL / Fotos: Smart Fac­tory KL/A. Sell

Machinery safety in real-time

The Smart Fac­tory KL in Kaiser­slautern is the other key research partner for Pilz. Here too, Pilz is col­lab­o­rating on the automa­tion solu­tions of the future – including safety. To ensure that the pro­tec­tion of human and machine remains guar­an­teed at all times.

With regard to safety, dynamic sit­u­a­tions in future pro­duc­tion envi­ron­ments must be checked and enabled in real-time. The key­word here is “Real-time safety”. In the future it’s con­ceiv­able that var­ious machines – or gen­eral assets – will share safety devices. The term here is “Shared safety”, a con­cept that Pilz is testing along with its part­ners in the Smart Fac­tory KL.

ARENA2036 and Smart Factory KL strengthen their cooperation

ARENA2036 and Smart Fac­tory KL wish to work together closely in future: The first joint project, Project ARENA‑X, is devel­oping a demon­stra­tion and test envi­ron­ment for the use of data spaces. In these data spaces, all com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pating in the value-added process are to be able to exchange data safely.

“The data-space-based envi­ron­ment serves humans: it cre­ates the oppor­tu­nity to demon­strate, try out and test. New knowl­edge for safe automa­tion can emerge as a result, com­pletely in the spirit of Manufacturing‑X”, says Susanne Kun­schert, Man­aging Partner of Pilz. Kun­schert is also a member of the board of ARENA2036. “Data spaces are the solid foun­da­tion for dig­ital col­lab­o­ra­tion. They can be con­nected, and com­bine the knowl­edge of avail­able ser­vices from a mul­ti­tude of pro­duc­tion envi­ron­ments.”

At the Han­nover Messe Indus­trie 2023, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of ARENA2036, Pilz (Susanne Kun­schert, centre) and Smart Fac­tory KL, signed a mem­o­randum of under­standing to begin their col­lab­o­ra­tion in the project Arena‑X. © Julian Hörndlein (Smart Fac­tory KL / Photos: Smart Fac­tory KL/A. Sell)

Data space creates degrees of freedom

In Kaiser­slautern, where Smart Fac­tory KL is based, a model truck is being man­u­fac­tured in a shared pro­duc­tion, so far at three loca­tions. In the research sce­nario, cus­tomers can assemble a lorry via a product con­fig­u­rator. In future, a pro­duc­tion model from Pilz, which is located in ARENA2036 in Stuttgart, will be part of the pro­duc­tion archi­tec­ture, as it is incor­po­rated into the Gaia‑X data space at the Smart Fac­tory KL in Kaiser­slautern.

For example, the con­fig­u­rator offers the option of “Yellow driver’s cab”. Once clicked, pro­duc­tion in ARENA2036 should start. The first step is to “pro­duce” the driver’s cab in Pilz yellow in the 3D printer; it then under­goes quality con­trol using an AI algo­rithm. It is then ready to trans­port to Kaiser­slautern, where it can be installed in the model lorry.

In future, a pro­duc­tion model from Pilz, which is located in ARENA2036 in Stuttgart, will be part of the pro­duc­tion archi­tec­ture, as it is incor­po­rated into the Gaia‑X data space at the Smart Fac­tory KL in Kaiser­slautern.© ARENA2036

“The poten­tial relo­ca­tion of man­u­fac­turing processes and adjust­ments, as well as safe data exchange in data spaces, create new degrees of freedom for pro­duc­tion”, Bernd Neuschwander explains.

DBut why do Bernd Neuschwander, Matthias Schweiker and other col­leagues reg­u­larly head to ARENA2036, when there are dig­ital data spaces for exchange? Neuschwander does not have to think for long: “The defining moment in joint research and devel­op­ment activ­i­ties is, and always will be, the face-to-face meeting. That’s where cre­ativity is devel­oped, which is very valu­able. The future is formed through coop­er­a­tion.”

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