Independent access to space and the growing market of commercial satellite launch providers require Europe to remain competitive with its own production of a new generation of launchers. This includes reducing manufacturing costs for individual components as much as possible. To optimize production processes for the upper stage of Ariane 6, ArianeGroup joined forces with the Fraunhofer IPT in the BMWi-funded "SPOK" research project.
The aim of the project was to improve production efficiency and quality and to make manufacturing processes more flexible. Highly automated manufacturing processes, such as those used in the production of components for the Ariane 6 upper stage, are monitored by numerous sensors. The planning and control of these processes is highly networked and therefore allowed for the evaluation of determined production data based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Predictions of how manufacturing processes and tools behave in the production process could also be derived in this way.
In the SPOK research project, the project team first examined the individual stations of the process chain in terms of their suitability for AI use. At the same time, the project team weighed up which methods and models of AI were best suited in each case for the specific use cases in order to fulfill the goals set by ArianeGroup. An evaluation methodology developed within the project served to verify the extent to which the results of the AI application could contribute to increasing efficiency and flexibility in production while maintaining or even improving component quality.
On the basis of this information, the project partners jointly selected suitable test stations at which the developed concepts were extensively tested and tried out on the real application: A cause-and-effect analysis led to further optimization of the spray foam application process for thermal protection of the missile in a manner suitable for industrial use. In addition, a digital twin was generated during the implementation of the highly complex process chain, which helped to further improve the overarching analyses of the quality data.
The research project "SPOK – Development of a smart production concept" is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
Funding program: National Program for Innovation, Technology and New Mobility
Funding code: 50RL2050
08/2020 - 04/2022