Simplifying Digital Twins Industry 4.0

Fraunhofer IESE has developed software that will help companies make the transition to Industry 4.0. At the heart of this is the principle of digital twins. They could provide more flexibility.

Illustration of the digital twin

On the left you can see a real industrial robot. The right-hand side symbolizes the digital twin.

Photo: iStock / Fraunhofer IESE

Digitization poses major challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises in particular. It is not for nothing that it is referred to as Industry 4.0, following on from the three previous industrial revolutions. Above all, it requires software that supports flexible processes in a production process and at the same time is easy to integrate – even if the system includes very different machines. The Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering (IESE) and the company NetApp have jointly used the idea of ​​the digital twins for the BaSys 4.0 software.

A digital twin contains all the information about a real object in a nutshell , Researchers at IESE also call this twin an administrative shell and see it as a central pillar of the production architecture in Industry 4.0, because it could be a common communication interface. This is what your concept looks like: Each individual component of the production, which can be the machine, the product or the production employee, for example, will be equipped with such an administrative shell. This contains all relevant information about the respective component in digital form or refers to it. Relevant information is, among other things, basic properties, ie size, weight and energy consumption in a machine. In addition, formulas and simulation models are also conceivable that describe physical processes, such as the mode of operation of the machine. The digital twin also provides the information in a uniform form, detached from the actual object. Among other things, this means that it is easily possible to exchange devices with identical production capabilities and to use the digital shell for the new machine – making production more flexible.

Digital process data from production

At the Hanover Fair from 1 to 5 April 2019, the scientists want to use a model factory to show how the principle works. Fischertechnik’s miniature factory is managed via the BaSys 4.0 software. It is a so-called middleware, whose task is to provide for the exchange of data between two systems. In this case, she produces the digital twins and uses them as an interface to network the manufacturing processes. The system can be integrated into existing systems as well as into new devices. This allows production to be converted within minutes instead of months.

NetApp has contributed a reference architecture to this project, which collects, processes, and provides clients with quality data from ongoing production for further analysis can be made. In addition, the employees have full access to the process data. Last but not least, BaSys 4.0 offers ready-to-use reference components for rapid commissioning of new production lines.

BaSys 4.0 software is freely available

For BaSys 4.0, researchers are working with the concept of service-based manufacturing. Normally, the production process is controlled by Programmable Logic Controllers (SPS). Changing something in the process, however, creates side effects, so you have to make further adjustments. That’s different with service-based manufacturing. The introduction of a service is strictly separated from the production process and only connected to it via interfaces. In the so-called orchestrator, the threads converge. It calls the services that are needed for the manufacturing process.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the project BaSys 4.0. Fraunhofer IESE, together with 14 partners from research and industry, implements key concepts and standards of the Industrie 4.0 platform. The goal is the development of a basic system for production facilities that enables efficient and flexible production processes. BaSys 4.0 is an open-source software that is freely accessible.

More about Industry 4.0:

  • Fundamentals of Industry 4.0
  • Digital twins in real time
  • Internet of Things is gaining momentum