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Karlsruhe Research Factory: Industrialising Production Processes Quickly

Ceremonial opening of the development and demonstration centre - Minister President Kretschmann: "Research factory will be important future laboratory for companies."

Transferring theoretical knowledge quickly into profitable industrial applications and services: Under this guiding principle, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are conducting joint research in the Karlsruhe Research Factory at KIT's East Campus. The digitalisation of production and the possibilities of artificial intelligence are the focus of the research work, which is based on close cooperation with industrial partners. The new building of the development and demonstration centre was opened today (28.03.2022) by the partners together with the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann, the Minister of Science Theresia Bauer and the Minister of Economics Dr Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut as well as around 400 representatives from politics, science and industry.

In the Karlsruhe Research Factory, the wbk Institute for Production Technology of the KIT, the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT pursue the common goal of rapidly industrialising production processes - from knowledge-oriented basic research to practical optimisation and industrialisation in collaborative research projects to transfer to economic use at the Baden-Württemberg location.

Minister President Kretschmann emphasises relevance for Baden-Württemberg's economy

"The terrible war in Ukraine is currently also showing us how quickly requirements for production processes can change. But even beyond such extreme events, a great deal of flexibility is required from companies: When quantities fluctuate. When customers don't want an 0815 standard, but a custom-made product. Or when it is no longer just about building better and better cars - but about a completely new mobility experience," says Minister President Kretschmann. "For these challenges, companies need a laboratory where excellent research meets operational practice and where new technologies are developed and tested and quickly become ready for series production. Particularly in three important future fields for our state - electromobility, lightweight construction and Industry 4.0 - the Karlsruhe Research Factory will be such an excellent laboratory."

Transfer and integration into science policy

"As a protected space for cooperation between science and industry, the research factory offers an excellent environment for testing new approaches and bringing them directly into application. The Karlsruhe Research Factory will be a source of ideas and innovations that not only strengthen Baden-Württemberg as a research location, but also advance the participating companies. Baden-Württemberg will also be even more visible internationally as a source of impetus," said Theresia Bauer, Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Science, Research and the Arts, during a round of talks between science and politics. This is also crucial for the transformation in mobility and digitalisation in Baden-Württemberg: "In the research factory, companies and researchers will work together on key topics for the future competitiveness of our economy. The factory thus strengthens the unique industrial ecosystem in our state and thus contributes to successfully mastering the challenges of transformation. Our goal is for Baden-Württemberg to remain a leading industrial innovation and production location in the future," says Dr Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Baden-Württemberg's Minister for Economic Affairs, Labour and Tourism.

Science and industry: working together for success

The close cooperation between science and industry is crucial here, emphasised Professor Holger Hanselka, President of KIT: "The Karlsruhe Research Factory is a blueprint for joint success. Through close cooperation with industry, we are merging the most promising approaches into innovative solutions for manufacturing companies and mechanical and plant engineering." In this context, the scientists see the digitalisation of production and the potential of artificial intelligence as important building blocks for success. "Artificial intelligence (AI) processes are used to significantly shorten the time-to-market so that companies can be successful in their target markets much sooner," says Professor Raoul Klingner, Director of Research at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Concrete objectives and solution approaches of the Karlsruhe Research Factory

"The world in which we live and work is not stable, but volatile. Agile, versatile production concepts and the rapid empowerment of processes have the potential to maintain value creation in Baden-Württemberg in the long term," says Professor Jürgen Fleischer, head of the wbk Institute for Production Technology at KIT during a keynote lecture. Professor Jürgen Beyerer, head of Fraunhofer IOSB, emphasises: "By means of temporarily additional instrumentation with sensors and actuators as well as machine learning, we can get to know processes faster, regulate them effectively, make them productive at an accelerated rate and optimise them, even if we don't yet understand all the influences and correlations at first." Professor Frank Henning, head of the Fraunhofer ICT adds: "Lightweight construction concepts make it possible to use materials efficiently and contribute to achieving climate and sustainability goals - both in stationary and mobile applications, such as electromobility."

Electromobility, lightweight construction and Industry 4.0

The Minister President and the ministers as well as the other participants were able to get their own impression of current projects in the research fields of electromobility, lightweight construction and Industry 4.0 as well as the central production-related challenges for companies: shorter product life cycles, individualised products and the increasing use of new technologies. In the context of electromobility, research is being conducted on highly efficient electric traction motors, high-performance batteries with variable cell formats and the cost-effective production of fuel cells. In the area of lightweight manufacturing, additive manufacturing processes, the resource-efficient use of materials and the production of hydrogen tanks are the focus of current research work. In the research field Industry 4.0, on the one hand the potentials of continuous digital process chains and artificial intelligence are being researched across domains, and on the other hand concrete technical solutions such as the concept of value stream kinematics are being developed that allow these potentials to be implemented in a real production environment.

Financing

The total construction costs of the project, which is efficiently managed by the planning and construction departments of the KIT and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, are expected to amount to approximately 17 million euros (net). The KIT was provided with a gross construction budget of approximately 9.6 million euros by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts for the construction of its part of the building and its initial equipment, which will probably be undercut. A joint net construction budget of 8.5 million euros was made available by the federal and state governments for the construction of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's part of the building. Of this, 3.5 million euros come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union and 2.5 million euros each are borne by the federal government and the Ministry of Economics, Labour and Tourism of Baden-Württemberg. In addition, there are 1.15 million euros for equipment for the Fraunhofer Institutes, which is financed in equal parts by the federal government and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics, Labour and Tourism. The state also provided the land for the construction project.
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