The Digital Twin and Industry 4.0: Fischertechnik Model Factory at the Institute for Automation Systems
The concept of Industry 4.0 continues to be a driver for further digitalization in the automation industry. At the center of this topic is the collection, transmission, and evaluation of a wide variety of data generated during the life cycle of an industrial process. This includes, for example, the phases of planning, commissioning, and operation as well as maintenance and repair. The goals pursued with the help of this data are, for example, process optimization, condition monitoring or predictive maintenance of individual parts or entire industrial plants.
A digital twin can generally be understood as a digital image of a real object such as a machine, a plant, a workpiece or even a process. Depending on the specific type of the digital twin, different kind of data must be collected and evaluated: For example, a database can act as a twin, a 3D model, an information model or even a combination of these elements. Users can interact with the digital twin by an interface or dashboard.
Different digital twins with various scopes, from a small component like a motor to the complete networked factory plant, can be implemented with the help of the Industry 4.0 model factory at the Institute of Automation Systems. The model factory serves as a demonstrator for relevant Industry 4.0 technologies, including the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), cloud technologies, distributed control, and smart sensors.
In several student projects, different virtual models of the factory for various plant components have already been created, and many other ideas are still waiting to be implemented. Current topics in the field of Industry 4.0, such as networked, secure communication using OPC UA, connecting the plant to cloud services, visualization of operating parameters with external dashboards, or concepts for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance, can be tested in practice at the model factory.