Austrian and international research and company partners use different data disk forms to analyze processes. The polymer processing machines and plants are equipped with intelligent robot systems and peripheral equipment. Communication takes place using the most recent manufacturer-independent and standardized information models (OPC-UA - Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture). To the further explore process knowledge, sensors use edge computing to provide real-time information to analyze and compare with digital twins and process simulations.
In addition, the information is used to develop algorithms for self-learning machines or assistance systems to support complex processes applying methods such as transfer learning or using neural networks. Individual systems are also connected as intermediate elements to a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for machine and production data acquisition to control, guide and monitor production. The data consistency from component and tool design (CAD), process simulation (CAE) and the use of virtual machines or digital twins to programming robots and setting processing machines is optimized by using Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).
At the LIT Factory, the complete product life cycle of continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite components is presented from the point of view of polymer processing.
It begins with smart solutions when handling all raw materials such as thermoplastics and continuous fibres (glass, carbon, natural fibres, etc.). This includes checking whether or not the required raw material is available and how it must be pre-treated (i.e. dried). An intelligent conveyor system then ensures that the processing machines receive the right material at precisely the right time.
Unidirectionally fibre-reinforced tapes are made from the raw materials at the Smart Extrusion Hall. The research topics here include optimizing the manufacturing process with regard to energy efficiency and tape quality as well as the final product's in-line inspection in order to eliminate faulty products from the process at an early stage.
Based on these tapes, a production line featuring several robots produces carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic lightweight components at the Smart Injection Hall. On this line, advances toward basic developments in producing continuous fiber-reinforced composite components with tailor-made properties for energy-saving applications in the automotive and aircraft industries are pursued. This enables, for example, the production of lightweight components for self-propelled aircraft with electric propulsion for urban air mobility.
Once these lightweight components have reached the end of their product life cycle, the valuable raw materials can be extracted. In the interests of a functioning recycling economy, growing global demand and increasingly stricter waste laws call for more efficient, technologically mature recycling of recyclable materials, particularly plastics. The expertise of JKU graduates and the entire polymer technology department is required in order to solve these tasks. To this end, basic developments will be carried out at the Smart Recycling Hall on a new type of plant for polymer recycling, etc., designed to improve the degassing effect by using model-based approaches.