10. October 2019
On RWTH Aachen Campus, the Demonstration Factory Aachen is the link between practice-oriented research and industry concepts. DFA implements innovations in the areas of production, logistics and assembly. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Hensen is Authorized Officer of DFA and tells in an interview what makes the Demonstration Factory unique and how it supports companies in their work within our ecosystem.
The Demonstration Factory helps companies in taking their production chains on the first important steps towards Industrie 4.0. What differentiates the Demonstration Factory from other manufacturing facilities?
The Demonstration Factory Aachen is unique in terms of concept and equipment. In partnership with FIR e.V., we are the first 5G competence center in NRW and therefore perfectly positioned to elevate Industrie 4.0 applications to entirely new spheres. Handling the production of prototypes and pre-series for customers from a variety of industries allows us to capture real production data in an Industrie 4.0-optimized industrial environment, which allow us to implement new ideas and concepts for use cases. We represent innovative solutions for logistics, manufacture and assembly lines of the future, which offers visitors a way to scrutinize their current processes and take appropriate measures to help and support their employees and increase productivity. Testing these solutions in a real production environment and allowing experts from various academic disciplines to come up with new ideas in this environment is of essential importance for industrial enterprises.
Why is the Demonstration Factory the focal point of interest for national, as well as international businesses? How many visitors frequent the Demonstration Factory per year?
Visitors can discover unique solutions at the Demonstration Factory Aachen, which are often not yet available on the market. In addition to tried and tested applications, we also demonstrate innovative beta solutions, which are developed by individual companies and then tested at DFA. Demonstration, in this case, doesn’t just mean putting something on display – we use these innovations in our production halls and put them through their paces. Our visitors can therefore have a look at what the future holds and assess their own company’s readiness for an Industrie 4.0 implementation. We welcome around 15,000 visitors at the Smart Logistics Cluster each year to experience Industrie 4.0 live in guided tours, at seminars and in workshops, where they can test processes first hand.
What other support does the Demonstration Factory offer enterprises beyond production chain optimization?
In addition to the demonstration of Industrie 4.0 applications and the optimization of value creation processes in companies, we also work closely with businesses represented on RWTH Aachen Campus, in NRW and all over Germany on a variety of products. We support businesses in the areas of development and construction by mapping their entire process chain and accompany these enterprises all the way to the ramp-up of series production. In collaboration with our on-campus partners WBA, RampUp-Factory and others, we are – unlike any other company outside this environment – uniquely positioned to employ a wide variety of production technologies. Our development of Industrie 4.0 solutions allows our partners to achieve significant productivity increases, which improves their competitive edge in a high-wage country like Germany.
How important is the RWTH Aachen Campus ecosystem for the Demonstration Factory?
The success of the Demonstration Factory Aachen locally and beyond is largely due to the fact that we are part of a unique environment on RWTH Aachen Campus, which absolutely promotes innovation. The on-site resources and capacities allow these new concepts to be implemented much faster. Ours is a unique ecosystem, which sets us apart from other research factories anywhere else. Here, we also benefit from the competences and passion of the people at the centers of the Smart Logistics Cluster – for example the Center for Connected Industry or the Center for European 4.0 Transformation and others like FIR e.V. and WZL, which continue to use the Demonstration Factory as their testbed for new solutions. The interplay of academics passionate in their fields of expertise and innovative, courageous industrial enterprises represents a great added value for all stakeholders and makes this location unique in Germany. In this overall concept, DFA is a central component and driving force for innovation.
And finally: What kind of primotype or prototype would you personally like to be involved in building?
Through our involvement in the building of steel and aluminum chassis for StreetScooter and e.GO Life, we have shown in the past that we are a reliable partner in the development of new products and the manufacture of prototypes. We have also developed and constructed solutions for other industry sectors. It is very important to us to offer a broad spectrum of options – whatever the product – and to be recognized as a solution provider. We are, of course, very much focused on the new Silent Air Taxi. We see a lot of exciting topics in that project, for which we would like to add our particular competences.