“E³” stands for the three central areas of study where Chemnitz scientists are looking to turn visions into real technological innovations in the coming years: Aside from Energy and resource efficiency in production through development of new machines and technologies, the concept includes the idea of an Emission-neutral factory as well as rethinking the way of Embedding people into the manufacturing process.
Using a VR-based and interactive 3D model of the new “E³-Research Factory Resource-efficient Production“, visitors of the joint stand will get the chance to look inside the model factory and explore possible solutions for these core challenges for the very first time. Exhibits on how to safe energy and resources will be shown at the stand of the Fraunhofer Group for Production.
Taking production into the future using the E³ concept
The E³ approach has been developed at the Fraunhofer IWU. Based on shifting the dictum of production from “maximize profits with minimal expenditure of capital“ towards “maximize value with minimal input of resources“, scientists seek to turn energy- and resource-efficiency in production into an competitive advantage for the German industry.
By rethinking future production, the E³ approach includes relevant and important societal mega trends, such as increasing costs for energy and resources, demographic changes, changing requirements for mobility, and international competition. Together with industrial partners, solutions for concrete problems in manufacturing are being researched.
The concept has been transformed into a “Fraunhofer Lighthouse Project“ in November 2013. In these types of cooperation, several Fraunhofer Institutes combine their experience and skills in order to work on common societal challenges. The Lighthouse project “E³-Production“ includes a total of 12 Fraunhofer Institutes in the areas of Production, Materials and Components, Surfaces and Photonics, Information and Communication Technologies, and Life Sciences.
In order to transfer scientific results into industrial applications more quickly and raise the overall awareness in key industries, four demonstrators and pilot applications are being developed in Germany until 2016.
From vision to competitive advantage:The “E³-Research Factory Resource-efficient Production“
After a construction time of two and a half years and an investment of about 20 million euros, one of these demonstrators is in its final start-up phase. The “E³-Research Factory Resource-efficient Production“ at the Fraunhofer IWU in Chemnitz will focus on new technical innovations, engineering processes and factory planning designs. Together with industrial partners, solutions will be studied and tested in three main fields of research: “Powertrain“, “Car Body Construction“, and “Energy Management 2.0“.
Ultra-short process chains
The design and implementation of ultra-short process chains is the area of focus in the competence area “Powertrain“. By replacing manufacturing and machining processes with more resource-efficient technologies or by saving process steps, scientists can reduce energy use, material consumption, and overall process time. Potential savings will be investigated and demonstrated on a sample production line for a gear shaft, which is responsible for the transmission of rotary motion and torque from the engine to the transmission of an automobile.
More flexible and intelligent car body construction
The competence area “Car Body Construction“ focuses on the future of automotive manufacturing. In close cooperation with Volkswagen AG, scientists have replicated an assembly line for a car door, similar to what is used in series production. They are researching how energy, time, and costs can be reduced under realistic conditions. One of the scientists' visions is to design a completely flexible body construction operation, meaning a production line that could be rapidly reconfigured for any number of different models. Furthermore, the development of software tools and training concepts for supporting the technical staff are topics of research.
Energy self-sufficient and emission-optimized production
The vision of the third competence area “Energy Management 2.0“ is to shift a factory from an energy consumer into a more active player on the energy market. Based on the volatility of energy supply, more flexibility in the demand can help industry not only save but earn money. Therefore solutions for a more intelligent load, storage and forecasting system need to be developed and tested.
Rethinking the embedding of people in production
A fourth important research focus is to rethink the role of people in future industrial production. Challenges arise as a result of demographic trends, increasing automation, and the new opportunities offered by information and communication technologies. Age-appropriate production environments, new designs for human-machine interaction, and strategies for re-integrating people into the production process are some of the key questions being addressed in the model factory.
The intelligent factory
In order to uncover and leverage existing potential savings, processes needs to be observed in their entirety in manufacturing companies, and manufacturing steps will first have to be broken down into individual increases in efficiency: starting from individual processes, and proceeding to process chains all the way to the factory level. A holistic analysis and optimization depends on the availability and utilization of information about all necessary resources as well as material and energy flows in the factory. This data is being collected in the “Control Center“ of the E³ Factory. Scientists can visualize and assess this data in real time using 3D presenters. The information can also be called up throughout the production environment using mobile end-user devices.
“Successful implementation of our vision of future production requires that the professional world as well as the broad public is sensitized to the challenges and solutions“, Dr. Welf-Guntram Drossel, Acting Director of the Fraunhofer IWU, says. “That is why we understand the E³-Research Factory Resource-efficient Production as an open and flexible research field for new technologies and processes. Together with partners from industry, we can establish and demonstrate promising innovations to strengthen German industry.“