01. March 2021
UAR Innovation Network: An Important Innovation Partner for Local Industry Leaders
The members of the UAR Innovation Network maintain around 800 partnerships with companies from business and industry. One longstanding partner is Fronius International GmbH which makes use of the Network’s expertise to take developments further that hold great promise for the future.
“At our research and development facility in Thalheim bei Wels we employ over 600 people,” explains Harald Langeder, chief technology officer at Fronius International GmbH. “That shows how important this sector is for us – no wonder, since we’re a future-oriented firm and are constantly working on tomorrow’s technologies. In research in particular it is often the case that many small parts combine to form a much larger whole. That’s why we often collaborate with outside partners and welcome the research strategy pursued by Upper Austrian Research GmbH for the province of Upper Austria.”
The projects being worked on cover a wide range of topics, from cognitive assistance systems for welding to intelligent power grids or complex metal components from the 3D printer.
Efficient interaction and support in welding
One important area of innovation is the further advancement of human/machine interaction and its application in welding technology. One of the research objectives here is the development of cognitive assistance systems. These should be able to provide effective support to welding engineers. In association with the Pro2Future research centre from the UAR Innovation Network, a “cognitive” welding helmet is being developed. Fronius is also one of the centre’s five shareholders.
Manual welding is a complex procedure requiring absolute concentration and considerable skill. The increasing customization of products and processes in times of batch size 1 often makes precise instructions or close supervision of work steps necessary. At the same time, customers from industry are having increasing difficulty finding qualified specialists.
The helmet not only protects the welder during work but also provides all the requisite information along with detailed step-by-step instructions. The welders receive the particular instructions they need and can adjust the welder settings without having to use their hands. Data is transferred wirelessly to and from the welding system. That means that the engineers always have their hands free to do the work. What is more, the helmet increases employee safety and the quality of the work because the system also detects any sign of fatigue. A prototype has been developed and is already being demonstrated and trialled in production settings.
Intelligent power grid for green electricity
Cooperation with research centres from the UAR Innovation Network is also taking place on photovoltaics. For example, research is being carried out with Software Competence Center Hagenberg (SCCH) on an intelligent power grid to enable optimal use of green electricity. In future it should be possible to link up countless private power generators by means of photovoltaic systems, heat pumps, e-boilers and electric car batteries, as well as energy providers, to create an intelligent power grid. A platform of this kind requires an intelligent control system as well as the appropriate optimized storage systems and batteries.
Because photovoltaic systems depend on the weather, their energy output can fluctuate. SCCH’s particular contribution to the project is its expertise in developing forecasting methods that precisely predict how much electricity photovoltaic systems will generate the next day and how high consumption will be. These predictions serve as the basis for creating models for the ideal distribution of the available electricity across the grid.
Extraction of power from a pool of storage batteries will also be controlled, by intelligent tools. Because prices on the energy markets constantly change over the course of a day, artificial intelligence is to be deployed in order to optimize the electricity price in the grid. This will substantially reduce energy costs.
Metal components from the 3D printer
For some years now, Fronius has also been carrying out intensive work on additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. In welding the method is called wire arc additive manufacturing, WAAM for short. In the consortium which is carrying out the new COMET research project “We3D” and is led by LKR - Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrum Ranshofen from the UAR Innovation Network, Fronius is one of the partner companies researching ways of using this new technology in other areas of industrial practice.
WAAM is seen as a future key technology in the manufacture of sophisticated geometries that meet the highest standards of stability in batch size 1 and small series production. With this technology, aluminium, magnesium and titanium 3D components can be manufactured in a way that ensures high quality and at the same time reduces the amount of materials, energy, costs and time required. A welding robot produces the component by placing rods of aluminium, magnesium and titanium alloys over each other in several layers. The increasing complexity of the parts to be welded, and consequently of plant design, means that ever greater demands are being placed on welding equipment. Key factors in meeting these demands are the sensor systems and the path planning software for the robot.
(c) Land OÖ / Tina Gerstmair