Is the production technique good

The future of production technology

Image: Fraunhofer ILT

Dear reader,

The SARS-CoV-2 virus and its effects pose major challenges for numerous economic sectors. Economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast a significant slump in gross domestic product (GDP) in Germany this year; worldwide, they expect economic output to decline by 3% this year (https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/04/14/weo-april-2020). For many manufacturing companies, this inevitably gives rise to new questions about the future of production technology. The question of the conditions under which companies will be able to develop and manufacture products successfully in the future has never been more pressing.

The 30th Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium, which we had to postpone due to the corona pandemic and which will now take place in Aachen on June 10th and 11th, 2021, focuses on how the resilience of companies can be strengthened, how they can manage better to deal with drastic crises and loss of production and how they can be profitable again in a short period of time. In addition to the discussions about the current crisis, there are other important debates in connection with climate change and the energy transition, as well as their effects on future production. Where it was previously a matter of manufacturing ever more economically, we now have to find ways to use raw materials and energy optimally. Digitization and Industry 4.0 offer good and important approaches. Companies must be able to adapt quickly to changes. They can do this particularly well when they have the necessary data for analyzes and forecasts.

The important role of digitization is also reflected in this edition of wt Werkstattstechnik online, whose articles focus on laser material processing, grinding, fine machining and surface technology and present new, optimized approaches. The contributions consider various steps along the entire production chain: They range from data-based methods for predicting process results to optimizing production processes and extending the service life of various components to the identification of future trend topics.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will play another important role in the production of the future. Neural networks recognize patterns and deviations and could soon take on repetitive yet demanding tasks. But AI can do even more: Edge AI-based predictions of process results make a valuable contribution to efficient, sustainable production, and an automated image processing and real-time analysis of the cut part quality using neural networks also offers great advantages.

We often hear from companies that, although they are quite open to innovation, they don't really know how to use digital components and how to best use the advantages of Industry 4.0. In this issue we are therefore presenting various approaches to solving the problem: some are aimed at processes, others at hardware, and others at technology organization and management. Companies that want to gain initial experience in the field of digitization, for example, offer a modular sensor system the possibility of collecting and evaluating data without great effort. Possible applications can be found in assembly, production and intralogistics as well as in value stream analysis.

I am pleased that we were once again able to win numerous interesting articles for this edition of wt workshop technology online. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all authors for their contribution. We hope you enjoy reading and that you will be inspired by the articles. Greetings from Prof. Thomas Bergs

Prof. Dr.-Ing. As a member of the board of directors of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, Thomas Berg's MBA heads the process technology department and holds the chair for manufacturing technology at the WZL machine tool laboratory at RWTH Aachen University. Image: Sarah Thelen