Fraunhofer IPK

Institut für Produktionsanlagen und Konstruktionstechnik

Digital Transformation - Englische Ausgabe 2017

Perceptibly Securing Factory Processes

Intuitive Interactions between Virtual Reality and Digital Twin

The digital twin is the computer-generated simulation of the real manufacturing facility. Reality and its digital twin mirror each other. Creating this digital twin is prerequisite to the self-organization of production systems. Added planning and simulation tools make the digital twin even more useful. The digital twin enhances the transparency of processes and is a vital tool for the development of cyber-physical systems.

Technologies used in virtual reality (VR) render digital product models to scale, ready for further analysis and collaborative development. Using these technologies shortens the time required for product development processes and helps to catch errors early on in the process. Most importantly, users have an opportunity to interact with virtual models. Intuitively and naturally, they experience the dimensions and the behavior of components, machines and facilities. 

Within the projects of the Berlin Center for Digital Transformation, experts of Fraunhofer IPK work on connecting the technologies used for virtual reality projects and for the creation of digital twins. The plan is to develop a virtual interaction platform to back up the RC code of robots and to create an adaptive worker assistance system. Virtual reality has great advantages. For example, it allows engineers to observe the traverse paths of robots at the workpiece. This is beneficial, because for safety reasons direct observation at the real production line is not an option. Moreover, without the costs of building actual structures, it is possible to test, validate and optimize the worker assistance features. In addition, the VR System will be multiple-user ready and allow remote assistance. 

As visualization occurs in real-time, the digital twin must be enhanced with continuous data and information updates. The digital twin mirrors the actual condition of the production facility and, in addition, performs functions, which would require a great deal of operating expenses for calculations and/or hardware, if they were implemented by a real control. In this way, the digital twin benefits the real facility or replaces real sensors with virtual ones to reduce costs and failure probability.

Fraunhofer IPK has already developed the demo cell »Smart Factory 4.0«, which serves as the basis for further research and is used to test the concept of the comprehensive robot showcase. The team has built a manufacturing line using the demo cell and is now able to model, test and optimize the different facets of Industrie 4.0. They demonstrate the information technology-related interactions, the potential of  cyber-physical systems and the use of digital twins in an industrial application. The goal is to develop strategies for digital transformation at the interface between research and application.

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Elisabeth Brandenburg

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