06. March 2020

Industry 4.0 - Cooperation Agreement between RWTH Aachen and UAR

The chamber district of Aachen has an international reputation as a city with outstanding technological expertise and stands for pioneering research and innovation in the production engineering sector. It was against this background that a delegation from Upper Austria headed by economy and research minister Markus Achleitner undertook a fact-finding trip to Aachen from 3 to 4 March 2020. The trip included discussions with representatives and top scientists from RWTH Aachen, Aachen University of Applied Sciences and Fraunhofer Institutes during which possible areas of cooperation were also explored.

“Upper Austria is the number 1 industry province and as such the economic motor of the whole country,” explains economy and research minister Markus Achleitner. “Global competition and climate change are presenting us with huge challenges. To support our industry the technological lead in pioneering fields such as the digital transformation, Industry 4.0 and sustainability must be increased. The new business and research strategy #upperVISION2030, with its defined fields of action and specific measures, maps out a clear path. Besides the ongoing expansion of Upper Austrian research competencies the strategy also aims to intensify discussions with innovation leaders at international level and expand cooperative research partnerships.” With this in mind, the strategic focal areas of the province were at the top of the itinerary for the fact-finding trip, with particular attention being paid to the subject of Industry 4.0 with its various technological foundations. The itinerary was put together and accompanied by Upper Austrian Research GmbH (UAR), the lead company for research in the province of Upper Austria, in cooperation with the Commercial Section of the Austrian Embassy in Düsseldorf.

 Research needs room
The first day saw the delegation visit the Melaten campus of the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH Aachen University). RWTH Aachen, with over 45,000 students, is the largest university offering study programmes in technology in Germany and, at number 30 in the engineering and technology sector, occupies a top position in the world university rankings (Times Higher Education). In Aachen, one in five residents is a student. Under the motto “Research needs room”, the RWTH Aachen campus, which consists of the Melaten, West and Mitte sites, is being expanded over an area of 2.5 km² – one of the biggest projects of its kind in Europe. The campus appears extensive, but the distances are short. Research, science and industry are closely connected and housed under a single roof. Over 400 companies are already hard at work on the RWTH Aachen Campus, including Austrian industrial concerns such as voestalpine, Primetals and Trumpf.

Digitally integrated production
The Melaten campus area of RWTH Aachen is home to the Production Engineering Cluster which is to be established as one of Europe’s largest research labs in the fields of production engineering and Industry 4.0. The e.GO Life electric town car, for instance, was developed by this cluster – along with the showroom in the foyer. Research in the Production Engineering (ProdE) profile area focuses on digitally integrated production. Industrial firms are working closely with institutes and departments such as the machine tools lab. For decades, this lab has been synonymous all over the world with successful and ground-breaking research and innovation in the production engineering sector. Particularly close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT), which is also based on the campus and has a workforce of around 450, has been established here.

 A kind of Google for production
RWTH Aachen’s successful participation in the German national excellence initiative underlines its role as a leading university of technology. Overall, three excellence clusters have been set up at RWTH – one of them dealing with the topic of the Internet of Production (IoP). The aim is to transfer the digital network of the internet and its information opportunities to tomorrow’s production world and to create a kind of Google of production. The basis of this is the so-called digital shadow – a digital image of a company. Data-based decisions are becoming increasingly important for companies. Among the institutions working on creating the template for this kind of connected and adaptive production is Projekthaus ACTurbo – Aachen Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing which, as the name suggests, is focusing its efforts in this area on the manufacture of turbomachinery. The data-driven optimization of these technologies not only has positive effects on efficiency and costs; studies also show that it could, for example, reduce the CO2 emissions of aircraft engines by as much as 30%.

Closer cooperation between Aachen and Upper Austria
Points of contact with RWTH Aachen already exist through research institutions in the UAR Innovation Network and the JKU. RWTH Aachen is a scientific partner of LCM’s Symbiotic Mechatronics COMET K2 centre. In cooperation with RISC Software and the RISC Institute, CAD applications for the future are being created as part of the GRAPES H2020 project. Cooperation with the JKU exists on other European research projects. The visit aims to intensify cooperation in production research between Aachen and Upper Austria in future. “Because its research focuses on similar fields, and because of its geographical proximity, the Aachen region is a strategically important innovation partner for research institutions in Upper Austria,” says Dr. Wilfried Enzenhofer, MBA, CEO of UAR.

An instructive demonstration of Industry 4.0
Aachen University of Applied Sciences has approximately 14,000 students, 230 professors, 300 lecturers and 700 employees at its Aachen and Jülich sites. It is therefore one of Germany’s biggest universities of applied sciences and describes itself as one of the most research-oriented in the country too. In the Industry 4.0 model workshop at the Institute of Applied Automation and Mechatronics (IaAM) modern industrial concepts are vividly demonstrated and the opportunities offered by the digital transformation explained to SMEs in particular with the aid of fully automated machinery, driverless transportation systems and robotics solutions. A prerequisite for connecting machines and processes is acceptance of the new technologies on the part of users. Issues such as user-friendliness, data security and control over one’s own data consequently play a central role in the approach and research work at Aachen University of Applied Sciences. With the FabBus, the University offers a mobile 3D printing experience. The bus has been converted for training purposes and fitted with modern 3D printing technology and demo stations. It brings the possibilities offered by additive manufacturing right to the doorstep of companies and training institutions.

 4-time world champion in the RoboCup Logistics League
For over ten years, robot football teams from all over the world have been competing in the annual RoboCup. The spectacle is followed by thousands of scientists. The world championships now also include other competitions in which the mobile robots battle it out. One of these is the RoboCup Logistics League. Teams of up to three mobile robots must autonomously set up and optimize the material flow for the manufacture of products, which also involves solving complex logistical tasks. The contest takes place on a course with the teams facing each other in direct competition. The Aachen team Carologistics with scientists and students from RWTH Aachen and Aachen University of Applied Sciences is the reigning world champion in this discipline – a title it has already won four times. Among the team’s sponsors is AGVR GmbH. In the 2019 final in Sydney, the team came up against opponents from Austria – Team Grips from Graz University of Technology – and emerged victorious. Carologistics intend to defend their title this year too. The research work done in these teams will shape the future possibilities of a smart factory.

Connected and efficient mobility
Put towards the airport is the Aldenhoven Testing Center, a modern, interdisciplinary testing centre for mobility solutions and autonomous vehicles. Twelve track elements allow simulation of almost every real-life traffic situation as well as system and vehicle trials. Thanks to coverage by Europe’s most modern mobile communications test field and other radio standards the vehicles’ connectivity in traffic can be comprehensively displayed. With the Digitrans project, Upper Austria has also paved the way for the future as a valuable partner for mobility solutions. DigiTrans GmbH is setting up a model region for automated freight traffic and the use of autonomous utility vehicles and special vehicles which is intended as a living lab for automotive companies.

(c) Denise Stinglmayr / Land OÖ