Fraunhofer IPK

Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology

Model-Based Engineering

The key challenges for virtual product creation are the increasing complexity and ever greater quantity of data. We develop virtual tools with intuitive user interfaces, find solutions for digital functional ­models and digitalize your production processes, leaving you free to focus on what’s truly important – your product.


Second Life is a relatively new innovation where we can lead parallel lives in a virtual universe. Virtual product models have a much longer history. Module by module products are completely digitally designed. The CAD system gives the exact position of welding joints and critical material stress, and product functions are checked by the engineer using a virtual model. Digital prototypes are increasingly coming to resemble their physical counterparts. All this is made possible by IT technologies which facilitate the engineer’s work while also easing the strain on the company’s development budget. Yet while the geometric layout of a product no longer poses any problems, the same cannot be said when it comes to the smooth interaction of all its assembled parts. CAD data are not designed to spring to interactive life. In particular, mechatronic products and their cross-domain development cycles pose huge challenges to IT experts. Our Model-Based Engineering department fine tunes and perfects existing solutions and creates new avenues of approach where traditional methods have led to a dead end.

Model-based engineering puts the development spotlight squarely on virtual product models. These models carry all the information needed for the generation, analysis and documentation of the product. Typically they are networked to a very high degree, specifications, functions and components come together to form a complex system. Product models are the basis for modern communication structures in development processes – which can come as descriptions, abstract notations or visual representations. Just how diversified model-based engineering can be is shown in the following examples:

Smart Hybrid Prototyping – tangible experience of the product during its development cycle

Many companies would dearly love to eliminate physical models altogether. This is hardly surprising as digital product models save both time and costs. As a pre-requisite virtual models need to enable the simulation of key product characteristics and functions already during development. For instance, if a mechanism is put in motion in a virtual model, its motion sequence must correspond exactly to the motion sequence a physical model would show. Even though this is possible in a reasonable number of cases, in highly integrated products the model is simply too complex to allow for it. For such products we have developed »Smart Hybrid Prototyping« technology in which we combine virtual elements with real elements and link them with high-end visualization and intuitive interaction techniques.

Automatically digital

If a product or installation functions parallel to reality in a virtual environment, its status and the room it offers for improvement can be analyzed in the simulation. Such features would be extremely difficult to identify in a real-world system, particularly one in full operation. Digital simulation is worth a lot of money in terms of repair and maintenance measures when damage due to unexpected problems may be reckoned with. We use reverse engineering techniques and 3D data processing for automated product and installation digitalization and status diagnosis – even in contexts where no prior digital product data is available.

Immersive Physics-based Product Modeling

Product development is not some rigid ossified procedure – first and foremost it’s creative work that needs to be supported with user-friendly tools. We offer an immersive virtual development environment in which the product developer can use ergonomic instruments, pens and surface tools to intuitively model objects, change them, coat them with material and manipulate them. Our »Immersive Physics-based Modeling« system demonstrates the possibilities inherent in tangible user interfaces and real-time simulation: Lines and surfaces come to form bodies that can be pressed and pulled and which behave as though they really are made of real material.