Hamburg, January 25, 2023 – There is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence in production, but it still arrives too rarely in practice. The WGP (Scientific Society for Production Engineering) wants to change that together with other manufacturing experts. “We are building a nationwide demonstration and transfer network that provides practical support for the implementation of example applications in industry,” reports Prof. Christian Brecher, spokesman for the WGP’s presidential committee and head of the WZL machine tool laboratory at RWTH Aachen University. His institute is coordinating the new ProKI initiative. “German industry has so far fallen short of its potential to make its production more efficient and flexible with AI. We want to enable them to use appropriate applications.” At ProKI, interested parties will not only find free advice at a total of eight locations in Germany, but also very practical examples and recommendations when implementing AI in their production lines.
In the funding projects already underway, “Learning Production Technology – Use of Artificial Intelligence in Production (ProLern),” it had become apparent that the AI solutions already in existence were hardly making it out of universities and into the manufacturing industry. “They are simply not well-known enough among entrepreneurs,” regrets Christian Fimmers, coordinator for ProKI at WZL Aachen. Nevertheless, people are well aware of the benefits of artificial intelligence for manufacturing. A survey of the 80 participants at the launch event in the forming sector in December 2022 revealed that companies primarily want to increase their productivity with AI. Second was a desire to reduce scrap rates, followed by scheduled maintenance. But the benefits of AI extend far beyond that, to optimized quality assurance and material characterization, or even minimizing process uncertainties and machine downtime. Following the launch at the end of last year, a so-called ProKI InfoPoint was established in Darmstadt in a second step on January 12, 2023.
Starting with forming technology
As part of this, the Darmstadt researchers, together with their colleagues in Dresden, will organize an information event every month at which users will each address a key topic in short keynote presentations. Afterwards, the participants can contribute and discuss their specific situations via the input. The focus will be exclusively on AI in forming technology, because the Darmstadt and Dresden experts are the experts in this field within the WGP. In January, for example, the focus was on how to convince employees of the benefits of AI applications. After all, even for experienced teams, the decisions made from artificial intelligence are not always comprehensible. This year, participants will learn, among other things, how to increase the availability of their equipment in a cost-optimal way, how to increase energy efficiency in forming companies, or how AI can master uncertainties in forming processes.
In the course of the coming weeks, the free format will be extended to other research locations with their respective focal points. In addition to forming, joining, cutting and coating in manufacturing will then be covered. They will be organized by those centers that have proven experience in the respective topic. Institutes in Aachen, Berlin, Darmstadt, Dresden, Hannover, Ilmenau, Karlsruhe and Nuremberg are involved. “In addition to the InfoPoints, however, all locations also provide demonstrators and test environments for manufacturing companies,” Fimmers emphasizes. “As I said, ProKI is mainly about transferring the new technologies into practice.”
Putting ProKI on its own feet
The projects will receive 17 million euros in funding from the BMBF until the end of 2024. “The interest in the first events was gratifyingly high,” Fimmers sums up. “There was a very positive response and numerous inquiries about our test environments and about further support in implementing the new technologies.” That is also the real purpose of ProKI: not just to talk about AI, but to bring existing solutions into industrial use. In any case, the project leaders hope that the project can continue in this way after the funding phase is over. It could help German industry gain a clear competitive advantage.
Cover Image: The ProKI network is transferring AI applications into use to help factory workers with highly complex manufacturing processes. Source: WZL, Peter Winandy
Image 2: Prof. Christian Brecher, Speaker WGP Presidential Committee, Head of the Machine Tool Laboratory WZL, RWTH Aachen University, Source: WZL Aachen
Image 3: Christian Fimmers, Coordinator for ProKI at the Machine Tool Laboratory WZL, RWTH Aachen, Source: private