Fraunhofer study report describes AI use, data technologies and new business models for production

Press Release /

How can existing production processes be redesigned and optimized by using digital methods? When is it worthwhile for companies to intervene in such processes and change them using digital technologies? The "International Center for Networked, Adaptive Production ICNAP", a consortium of three Fraunhofer Institutes from Aachen, presents current research results on digitalization in industry in a recently published study report. The report summarizes practical research on the use of artificial intelligence in production, machine-integrated real-time communication based on 5G networks and the monetization of industrial data; and is now available for free download.

Digital networking in the sense of Industry 4.0 is intended to make process chains more efficient, flexible and sustainable. More and more companies are therefore looking for ways to digitize their production, but the selection of suitable measures often requires in-depth technological background knowledge. The goal of the "International Center for Networked, Adaptive Production ICNAP" is to develop this knowledge together with companies on a scientific basis and to support the partners on their way to digitization.

In one-year projects funded by the ICNAP Community, Fraunhofer researchers have addressed the pressing questions surrounding the digitization of production. In five practical studies, they have produced results that they are now making available to interested companies free of charge in the recently published "ICNAP Study Report 2021". The topics covered range from maximizing the benefits of existing data to the use of machine- and sensor-integrated real-time communication and artificial intelligence applications.

Use and monetize data effectively

During production, large quantities of sensor and machine data are generated that can be used to generate added value for companies and customers in development, production or with product-related services. One of the five ICNAP studies describes how companies along their value chain can best use and ultimately monetize the insights gained from analyzing industrial data. Within the framework of a case study, the authors give examples how the time required to ensure the desired product quality can be significantly minimized with suitable strategies.

Real-time communication prevents component errors

Errors that occur during production can be registered by suitable sensors, but they can often only be evaluated after the process. For expensive components in particular, it is therefore desirable to compensate by corrections by means of adaptive control while the process is still running. However, this requires real-time communication between the sensor and the machine controller. In several research projects, researchers have investigated which technological infrastructure is suitable for real-time data transmission. 5G networks and edge cloud systems can offer promising approaches here.

Guidance for the integration of artificial intelligence and extended reality into production processes

Artificial intelligence (AI) or extended reality (XR) have the potential to make work easier for employees, such as machine operators, and thus make production more effective. In two further study reports, the researchers describe how trained machine learning models can be deployed in production and how extended reality applications can simplify the interaction between people and production equipment. The results are step-by-step instructions for successful integration into existing production processes.

The study report is available for free download at:

Working together in the ICNAP community to find solutions

ICNAP is an association of the three Aachen Fraunhofer Institutes for Production Technology IPT, for Laser Technology ILT and for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, as well as other experts from industry and research. It was founded with the aim of establishing an open research platform and industrial test environment in which innovative approaches to digitization in production can be developed and evaluated under realistic conditions. The ICNAP community currently comprises more than 20 partners who are working together to determine which new approaches to solutions in information technology can actually bring about the transformation to Industry 4.0 and what requirements need to be met in the process.