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AI real lab: KUKA paves the way for the factory of the future

Leveraging the potential of artificial intelligence: This is the goal of a cooperation of ten partners initiated by Fraunhofer IOSB-INA. The basis for this: data from a real laboratory. In June, production of what is probably Germany's smartest cup starts at the SmartFactoryOWL – with a KR CYBERTECH from KUKA. This not only takes plastics production a step further, but also provides a glimpse of the factory of the future.

18 June 2021


Real labs drive innovation in Germany. At SmartFactoryOWL, a real lab for artificial intelligence (AI) in Lemgo, Fraunhofer IOSB-INA is researching the industrial data economy of tomorrow together with KUKA and other partners. The central question: How can industry make better use of AI technologies?

Smart cup is created in the real lab

To this end, the AI real lab collects data streams from systems and processes and makes them freely available to AI developers and companies on a platform. In June, the SmartFactoryOWL will become an experimental field: The fully networked and AI-supported production of a reusable cup made of a biological plastic that does not require any petroleum will start. The special feature: Not only is the material used for production made from renewable raw materials sustainable, but so is the recycling cycle specially organized by CUNA Products GmbH.

The reusable cup from CUNA shows that technical innovation and environmental protection can harmonize
In the production line, a KR CYBERTECH from KUKA removes the cups from the injection molding machine and then holds them up to a laser, where the cups are labeled. The robot then places the returnable cups on a conveyor belt.
Ten partners have been jointly developing digital and sustainable plastics production at SmartFactoryOWL since June

Sustainable and data-integrated production

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the AI Reallabor with two million euros. The SmartFactoryOWL has already been bringing companies and research institutions together since 2016 to test solutions for the factory of the future in real interaction scenarios. "When Fraunhofer IOSB-INA approached us with the request, I was excited about the potential," says Bernd Besserer, Global Key Account Manager and Team Leader Regional Sales DACH at KUKA. "Technological use cases give us valuable experience to drive Industrie 4.0. And on the other hand, AI providers get real-world data that they can use to develop and improve custom-fit solutions for industry."

Nissrin Perez, project manager of real production at Fraunhofer IOSB-INA, is also convinced that the open data basis means great progress for the German plastics industry. Even more: "We want to understand and localize errors and causes in production processes. For this, components and plants need a common, interoperable language. The basis for this is laid by the data streams that we will collect in the future as part of 'Collaborative Condition Monitoring'."

The "KI Reallabor" project, which has been funded since 2020, researches the industrial data economy of tomorrow

Technological use cases give us valuable experience to drive Industrie 4.0.

Bernd Besserer, Global Key Account Manager and Team Leader Regional Sales DACH_2 at KUKA

About Fraunhofer IOSB-INA Lemgo: Fraunhofer IOSB-INA was founded in October 2009 as the industrial automation site of the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation. The Lemgo site with its current 95 employees focuses on systems engineering for intelligent automation systems in the fields of intelligent sensors, industrial communication, cyber security, big data, machine intelligence and human-machine interaction.

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