Mar 6, 2024

Ascon Systems implements first demonstrator for the research project “Plant 4.0”

Berlin is where Mercedes-Benz puts new technologies to the test. The ones that pass are destined for production facilities all over the world. Ascon Systems is here, too, with solutions for data orchestration and automation using digital twins. The initial demonstrator has put the capabilities of these technologies on display.

The financial success of manufacturers increasingly depends on how capable they are of reacting faster to changes in markets and technologies. That’s not possible without shorter product life cycles. 12 companies have now joined forces to research the ideal conditions for creating tomorrow’s flexible manufacturing solutions. The project title is “From conventional production plant to resilient competence plant through Industry 4.0 (Plant 4.0)” and it is funded by BMWK, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.*

Together with EKS InTec, Ascon Systems is implementing Work Package 2 on digital twins. The goal is to plan, commission, and operate production facilities using digital twins while also enabling changes, thus facilitating the resilience that modern manufacturing demands. The project team is generating the scenarios and specifications this requires and subsequently testing functionality. The latter is taking place at the Mercedes-Benz Digital Factory Campus (MBDFC) at the company’s Berlin-Marienfelde location. This is where the company tests new technologies with the goal of rolling them out to future production facilities all over the world. This can involve technologies for entire production lines, individual workstations, or cells. It can also apply to special assembly equipment such as automatic screwdriving systems or IT infrastructure components that operate as IIoT (industrial internet of things) devices.

The participants have adopted a very agile approach for the project and collected insights from applying the technology. Even though the project didn’t kick off until 2023, Ascon Systems has already completed its first demonstrator.

The test system setup includes up to eight automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that transport vehicle bodies along a predetermined route. The bodies travel to multiple manual and automated workstations in a specific sequence. With the help of lift tables, the auto bodies are raised to different heights to ensure good ergonomics for the people working at the station.

Ascon Systems has modelled the process and information flows using digital twins. The data generated by each trip of the AGV regarding its position and operating status are collected alongside their respective contexts and stored. Evaluations and analyses appear on a dashboard. Operators can individually adjust the height of the AGV’s lift table for each station using the corresponding digital twin. Changes to the process or parameters can be implemented on-site or remotely. With these initial steps now implemented, all the experience that has been gathered can be used to implement the Plant 4.0 living lab.

The next step will involve Ascon Systems coupling the digital-twin-controlled demonstrator with the car manufacturer's own digital ecosystem MO360. Remote, live-synced visualization and interaction then become possible, demonstrating the options and opportunities to increase both manufacturing flexibility and user friendliness through end-to-end digitalization.

* The project funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is detailed in the grant guideline “Digitalization of Vehicle Manufacturers and Automotive Suppliers” as part of the funding framework “Investing in the Future for Vehicle Manufacturers and Automotive Suppliers” with the support of project sponsor VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH. The project’s funding code for Ascon Systems is 13IK022G.

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