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ARENA2036: fluid automotive factory of the future

The automotive industry is facing great challenges: what will the car of the future look like? KUKA is working on the fluid automotive factory of the future.

17 May 2019

ARENA2036: start of a new beacon project

The automotive industry is facing great challenges: what will the car of the future look like? And how can production be adapted to new and continuously changing requirements? In ARENA2036, the largest research platform devoted to this topic in Germany, experts from more than 30 companies and scientific institutions are working on joint visions for the value creation process of tomorrow. KUKA is on board as well. As a leading supplier of automation solutions, KUKA is now, for the first time, a partner in one of the major ARENA2036 collaborative projects in which fluid production methods for Industrie 4.0 are being developed and tested.

In the ARENA2036 research factory, fluid production methods for the automotive production of the future are developed and tested.

Exchange at the intersection of science and industry

Thanks to ARENA2036, one of the world’s most modern research factories for production, work and mobility was established at the University of Stuttgart in 2013. KUKA is one of the roughly 30 partners from various disciplines, including scientific institutions such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering (IPA), the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) as well as companies like Siemens, Bosch and Daimler. “The projects at the intersection of science and industry give us the opportunity to help shape the production of the future,” says Matthias Paukner, KUKA Project Manager for Automotive Technology Solutions. And they provide important impulses for KUKA’s own development work. “Thanks to the exchange with our partners, we already know today what the requirements of the industry of tomorrow will be and can react to them,” the project manager explains.

Goal of the “ARENA2036 fluPro” funded project

For the first time as of October 2018, KUKA has been involved in one of the major ARENA2036 collaborative projects. The goal of the “Fluid production (fluPro)” project is to make production increasingly networked and adaptable. A state-of-the-art hall with an area of around 10,000 square meters is available for research and development work. The focal point of the current lead project is a huge facility on the research campus, which is located on the premises of the University of Stuttgart. KUKA supports ARENA2036 with several robots of the type KR60, KR360, Cobot LBR iiwa, KMR iiwa and KMP1500. These robots are used in bilateral and multilateral research projects as well as in the “fluPro” funded project.

The projects at the intersection of science and industry give us the opportunity to shape the production of the future.

Matthias Paukner, KUKA Project Manager for Automotive Technology Solutions

Mapping dynamic machine structures

The “Fluid production” project aims to break production equipment into mobile modules so that dynamic machine structures in line with requirements can be mapped. In this manner, the currently common separation between value creation and logistics is to be eliminated. The result could be a new type of production system that manages with minimal specifications and enables decisions to be made shortly before the value creation is actually required.

Cost-effective series production of small batches

The cost-effective manufacture of small batch sizes is one of the central requirements of modern production. Thanks to its applications, KUKA is already supplying the right solutions today. Due to the advance of customization, the ever shorter product life cycles and the increasingly volatile markets, it will be even more important in the future to manufacture an increasing number of variants and models of a product in variable quantities. More than ever, the versatility of a production system will be of great importance. 

Quickly adapting production in ARENA2036

Today’s concepts for agile production methods are based on categorized, standardized production cells in a grid layout. The components are fed via turntables to the respective cell for processing. Here, cells can be individually expanded with process-specific equipment. In this way, production can be quickly and easily adapted to current requirements.

But what if it were no longer just the component that was moved within the production process?

What if the individual cells were also flexible? And what if human-robot collaboration (HRC) were also expanded here? “The results can be a decisive impulse for our future work,” says Matthias Paukner, KUKA Project Manager for Automotive Technology Solutions. But the project could also provide timely insights into individual sub-areas, such as HRC, mobile robotics or digital shadows

Augmented reality in systems engineering

Already recently in several bilateral and multilateral projects within the framework of ARENA2036, KUKA has focused on the question of how to design the production of the future in a more flexible and efficient manner. Within this framework, for example, work was carried out on using Augmented Reality (AR) in systems engineering. Modern technology can help to depict the construction and conversion of a production system in the early stages of planning using modern technologies:

AR offers the opportunity to identify improvement potential at an early stage.

For example, is accessibility sufficient for employees? Is the space optimally used or could improvements be made? These are questions that can be answered in augmented reality. The same also applies to any later conversions of the cells: a simulation using a realistic digital model saves time and money. 


“Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovation” funding program 

Projects within ARENA2036 are supported with funds from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) as well as from the European Union and other funding agencies. The “fluPro” project is funded by the BMBF as part of the “Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovation” funding program (02P18Q620) and supervised by Projektträger Karlsruhe (PTKA) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. “ARENA” stands for Active Research Environment for the Next Generation of Automobiles. The number “2036” was selected because the car will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in that year.