Matrix production: an example for Industrie 4.0

What is needed in the age of Industrie 4.0 is versatile solutions that can compensate for peak capacity utilization or bottlenecks in resources. Matrix production may become a decisive competitive factor through configurable production cells, the transfer of parts and tools using automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and the separation of logistics from production.

Industrie 4.0: flexibility through matrix production

Increasing customization in times of Industrie 4.0 is changing production. Volatile markets make the profitable manufacture of small batch sizes ever more important. Increasingly, the challenge is to produce an ever greater number of variants and models of a product in variable quantities. One cause of this is the increased degree of customization in the automotive industry, for example.

In the future, the matrix production concept will enable extremely versatile production on an industrial scale and networked throughout the entire process chain. The system can automatically convert itself “on the fly” to changing product types – without wait times and without lost production time. It will thus become possible to implement the manufacture of customized series as an integral part of Industrie 4.0 without limitations in the context of industrial mass production.

The principle of matrix production

Matrix production is based on categorized, standardized production cells. These can be arranged in virtually any number in a grid layout. All cells are equipped with product-neutral equipment and product-specific basic functions.

Inside the cells, there are turntables for the setdown of parts, tool locations and robots which perform the relevant process. These production cells can be individually expanded with process-specific equipment. Welding, adhesive bonding, punching, brazing and clinching: almost any process can be integrated.

Applied Industrie 4.0: example of a standard cell in matrix production.

Workpieces and tools are transported by automated guided vehicles (AGVs). These navigate to the individual cells using a SLAM navigation algorithm. A robot picks up the workpieces on arrival in the cell.

These workpieces are then machined using intelligent robotic applications, such as jigless bodyshop technology. One robot holds one part while a second robot holds the other part. Both parts are locked together to form a unit which is then welded by the third robot – the so-called process robot.

The workpieces are stored in the warehouse. The dedicated tools, on the other hand, are located in the tool store.

Digitally networked value creation chains are turning Industrie 4.0 into reality.

Separation of logistics and production

The autonomously navigating AGVs can pick up and transport the different workpieces or tools using individually configurable load handling attachments. Logistics processes and production are separated from one another in matrix production – a central requirement of Industrie 4.0. This concept means that with variable parts logistics the system is always able to respond flexibly to peaks and to divert to other cells.

It can also involve additional cells or remove cells from the process. The value creation chain is not interrupted. The logistics processes are logically linked to production by means of software.

With the concept of highly flexible matrix production, KUKA is systematically fulfilling the requirements of Industrie 4.0 in industrial manufacturing.

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