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 further explore process knowledge, scientists use sensors with edge-computing to get real-time analytical and comparable information via digital twins and process simulations.
In addition, the information is used to develop algorithms for self-learning machines and 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 using virtual machines or digital twins to program robots and set processing machines is optimized using Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).
At the LIT Factory, the complete product life cycle of continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite components is presented from a polymer processing perspective.
Starting with smart solutions to handle all raw materials such as thermoplastics and continuous fibres (glass, carbon, natural fibres, etc.), this includes also checking whether or not the required raw material is available and how it should be pre-treated (i.e. dried, etc). An intelligent conveyor system then ensures that the processing machines receive the right material at precisely the right time.
Uni-directional 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 during the process at an early stage.
Based on these tapes, a production line featuring several robots manufactures carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic lightweight components at the Smart Injection Hall. On this line, we pursue advances toward basic developments in producing continuous fiber-reinforced composite components featuring tailor-made properties for energy-saving applications in the automotive and aircraft industries. This enables, for example, the production of lightweight components for self-propelled aircraft that have electric propulsion for urban air mobility.
Once these lightweight components have reached the end of their product life cycle, we can extract the valuable raw materials. In the interest of a working recycling economy, there is a growing global demand call for more efficient, technologically mature recycling of re-usable materials - especially plastics - as well as increasingly stricter waste laws. JKU graduates and experts at the polymer technology department come together to pool knowledge and solve these tasks. This means base-knowledge R&D will be conducted at the Smart Recycling Hall to focus on creating a new type of plant for polymer recycling, etc. and to improve the degassing effect by using model-based approaches.