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The shell is in place, the cranes are dismantled

After all, it is about 100m from the rear KIT/lightweight construction hall to the front, two-storey Fraunhofer hall.

We thank all planners, project managers, site managers and contractors that we survived this phase unscathed. Here are a few impressions from 24th April .2020 with current views of the halls. The interior work has begun.

View into the KIT/lightweight construction hall
View into the Fraunhofer-Halle, ground floor
View into the industry 4.0 hall on the 1st floor

Laying of the foundation stone for the "Karlsruher Forschungsfabrik" fires vision of self-learning production

Supported by digitization, artificial intelligence and machine learning, science and industry are working together to transfer new, challenging production processes from the drawing board to operational practice in the shortest possible time: this is the vision of the Karlsruhe research factory. In the presence of more than 100 guests from industry, politics, and science, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) today celebrated the laying of the foundation stone for the joint project. From the end of 2020 on, researchers and company representatives intend to start work in the research factory.

(Participants from left to right: Dr. Otto Fritz Bode, BMBF; Prof. Jürgen Beyerer, IOSB; Dr. Olaf Sauer, IOSB; State Secretary Katrin Schütz, MWBW; Prof. Frank Henning, ICT; Ministerialrat Ulrich Steinbach, MKBW; Prof. Holger Hanselka, President of the KIT; Prof. Alexander Kurz, Vice President Human Resources, Legal Affairs and IP Management of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft; Prof. Jürgen Fleischer, wbk at KIT; Prof. Renate Schubert, Chairwoman of the KIT Supervisory Board; Dr. Frank Mentrup, Mayor of the City of Karlsruhe; Michael Ganß, KIT Executive Board).

After the ground-breaking ceremony in December 2018, the project which is important for the innovative strength of Germany as a business location has reached its second milestone: After the laying of the foundation stone on July 25, 2019, on KIT Campus East, the Karlsruhe Research Factory - a development and demonstration center for the factory of the future - is on its way to completion. From the end of 2020 on, new production technologies can be planned, tested, and transferred to industry much faster than before. "The Karlsruhe Research Factory creates the unique opportunity to research the future topic of intelligent production on real processes in a practical way," said KIT President Professor Holger Hanselka. "Together, the partners KIT and Fraunhofer contribute their comprehensive expertise in the fields of artificial intelligence, mechanical engineering, process technology, sensor development, and sensor integration to create added value for strong, innovative companies.

 

Professor Alexander Kurz, Executive Board member of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft for Human Resources, Legal Affairs, and Exploitation, praised the broad, cooperative approach: "With this joint project, KIT and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft pool their research in Karlsruhe in the field of future, innovative production technologies and methods. The concept of involving industry as well as the further development of research and academic education is best implemented with the joint approach".

 

State Secretary Katrin Schütz from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Employment and Housing emphasised the benefits for the regional economy: "The Karlsruhe research factory will become a beacon for the innovation location Baden-Württemberg. In order to further consolidate our status as the number one innovation region in Europe, we must bring new technologies into operational application as quickly as possible. The research factory will considerably accelerate this process".

 

"The Research Factory will break new ground in several aspects," added Ulrich Steinbach, Head of Department at the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts. "It is an excellent example of the joint research of KIT and the Karlsruhe Fraunhofer Institutes. For example, research is being carried out there on how to achieve high-quality results at a very early stage - even when the manufacturing processes required for a new product have not yet been fully understood. In this way, we are laying another foundation stone for new technologies from Baden-Württemberg.

On the way to agile production

With this ambitious goal in mind, two strong research institutions have jointly initiated and will jointly operate the Karlsruhe Research Factory: On the one hand, the KIT with its wbk Institute for Production Engineering headed by Professor Jürgen Fleischer, on the other hand, the Fraunhofer Society with its Institute for Chemical Technology ICT - represented in particular by its deputy head and holder of the professorship for lightweight construction technology at the KIT Institute for Automotive Systems Technology Professor Frank Henning - and its Institute for Optronics, Systems Engineering, and Image Exploitation IOSB headed by Professor Jürgen Beyerer, who also holds the professorship for Interactive Real-Time Systems at the KIT Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics.

 

At the laying of the foundation stone, the three mentioned scientists and Dr. Olaf Sauer from Fraunhofer IOSB as coordinator of the project on the part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft explained how the research factory is to achieve the set goals by means of "AI-integrated production": "State-of-the-art digitization methods, artificial intelligence, and machine learning enable us to plan and test new production technologies much faster and, above all, to transfer them to industry at an early stage. In joint collaborative projects with industrial companies such as "SMiLE - System Integrative Multi-Material Lightweight Construction for Electromobility" or "MoPaHyb - Modular Production Plant for Highly Resilient Hybrid Components", KIT and Fraunhofer have already gained a wealth of relevant experience. The aim is to achieve agile production, i.e.: High-quality products already come off the assembly line while the associated production process is still being optimized. The goal of agile production is to significantly shorten the "time-to-market" - sometimes by several years. This enables innovative companies to place new products on the target markets much earlier than before. The scientists at the research factory want to find out how this can be achieved and, together with industrial partners, transfer it into applications. In line with their claim "Optimising established processes - strengthening immature processes", they are focusing on the maturation of a production process on a laboratory scale, the start of production on the machine on an industrial scale and, finally, the continuous monitoring and improvement of ongoing production. All three phases are monitored in the research factory using methods of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The KIT and Fraunhofer researchers are driven by the vision of not only making individual production steps agile, but also expanding entire process chains into an internally communicating, self-learning system.