Even if it often doesn’t seem like it: The manufacturing industry shapes all facets of our lives. But the process that a product takes from its beginnings on the factory floor to finally ending up in a kitchen drawer or on a shelf is now so efficient that it seems almost invisible. Apart from the occasional truck on the motorway, one might think that supply and delivery chains are kept running as if by magic – a fact that testifies to the growing importance of Industry 4.0 and the digital processes on which it is based. And yet: the industry has by no means reached its technological peak.
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With the wealth of data being collected as a product is designed, manufactured, sold, and even eventually returned or disposed of, centralized feedback loops between different stages of manufacturing are beginning to form – a development that, among other things, is the basis for the emergence of digital Created twins and model-based systems. In theory, the combination of these technologies could lead to the emergence of a uniform system of interconnected production phases that exchange information, learn from each other and thus continuously improve.
Today’s manufacturing processes naturally require a focus on the individual part being designed or manufactured – be it an engine component or a wind turbine gearbox. In a mechanical system, however, such individual parts always interact with other parts. Against this background, tools are required that are able to recognize changes in the structure of a component and calculate the corresponding effects on the design of other parts and, if necessary, on the behavior of the overall structure.
In the course of Industry 5.0, systems will emerge that take such dependencies into account and enable optimization at system level. Currently, automated optimization processes basically only take place at the component level; Systems have to be largely configured manually. The real-time linking of heterogeneous data sets would provide the prerequisites for automated optimization of comprehensive, complex systems and thus ultimately for much faster product development.
As technology converges toward the standard, cross-platform communication and compatibility will play more important roles. With the arrival of 5G, the technical prerequisites are in place for the age of hyperconnectivity – an age that could herald an even deeper interaction between systems, people and devices.
One technology that has seen a real boost during the pandemic is the digital twin . The coming decade could bring about digital twins able to collaborate and interact in different contexts. The result would be a network that could function as a kind of parallel internet.
The increasing emergence of smart cities and automated transport systems will mean the collection of a wealth of extremely rich, meaningful data. Keeping them from the public would be a waste, but protecting intellectual property will be more important than ever in this context. Blockchain technology could help here and enable a secure exchange of information between digital twins.