20 February 2024
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"Artificial intelligence is going to play a big role in the manufacturing processes of the future. Bigger than we can imagine today."
Today's society can no longer ignore artificial intelligence (AI). We see it in everything from applications in phone cameras to digital art. But AI reaches further. Anyone walking around Brainport Industries Campus (BIC) will get a taste of how it is also being applied in the manufacturing industry. "Factory machines will become more robust, safer and more efficient because of it in the future. More than we can imagine today," says Paul Cobben of the High Tech Software Cluster at BIC.
The manufacturing industry, responsible for almost a fifth of the Dutch economy, is digitising. Whether it involves smart robots or digital twins, AI applications are taking the production environment to the next level. This is because AI enriches and processes data from factories, improving efficiency and ultimately increasing yields. Moreover, it contributes to making the industry more sustainable. Think of significantly less waste of material and energy saving of production machines.
At BIC, the manufacturing industry comes together to bring such innovations to life. Companies there learn from each other and work directly with each other. Thus, optimal use is made of knowledge and skills present in the ecosystem.
The High Tech Software Cluster in particular, one of the Smart Industry Fieldlabs in which partners experiment with new technology, helps manufacturing and production companies digitise their production processes and create smart products. Together with other Smart Industry Fiedlabs, focusing on themes such as robotics and 3D printing, it conducts research in the Digital Factory on data-driven innovations, in which AI thus plays an indispensable role.
Cobben, who besides being a member of the cluster is also a sector developer manufacturing at KPN and has a 5G field lab for the manufacturing industry at BIC, looks at AI mainly from the point of view of connectivity.
"For a well-functioning AI, you need a robust 5G network, which we at KPN built here within Brainport Industries Campus. This is because an AI needs to be fed with as much data as possible to make the best possible decisions and needs to be constantly connected to other machines and systems to retrieve information. Local processing of the data also plays an important role. "To this end, we have set up a so-called local edge computing environment that works together with the 5G network to make data available to industrial automation very quickly."
Such a factory with connected AI systems works as follows: Machines in the future will increasingly be controlled from this local edge computing environment, where all logic is virtualised and centralised. This will make both the machine and the central environment more robust. Moreover, much more complex models can be applied, ideal for optimising the production process. Think of improved orchestration between production subprocesses and insight into the quality of the final product.
The application of AI in the Digital Factory and other AI-related innovations at BIC offer further benefits. For instance, they contribute to achieving sustainability goals. In 2019, together with over 150 parties from the Brainport region, the campus expressed its support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) drawn up by the UN. AI-driven, and thus energy-efficient, factory machines that waste less also contribute to achieving the ambitions. The building is also 100 per cent gas-free, fully powered by renewable energy and the materials used in BIC come from healthy ecological cycles.
Sustainability is also a key focus of BIC Exploitation and its tenants.
''We see that people from many organisations are talking and seeing the importance of sustainability. However, at BIC we also like to show concrete examples so that it is also tangible for everyone. AI is a good example of loading various SDGs including industry, innovation and infrastructure.''
Erik Veurink, Campus director
Inside and outside BIC, KPN is already working with partners to set up smart factories through AI, such as with Alcohem, focused on pesticides and fertilisers. KPN helped the company realise a connected smart fly trap that is deployed in the food industry. Smart algorithms can instantly recognise which fly it is and which stock is potentially at risk. Remote maintenance of the device is also now possible, as the trap is directly connected to the 4G network.
At BIC itself, there is also plenty of innovation with AI. For instance, HTSC member Cordis SUITE has developed a machine platform in which behavioural models of machines are the basis for production applications. Advanced AI models can, for example, determine whether future situations occur that cause the machine to jam.
At BIC, KPN is also working with hardware and AI start-up Calumino, which developed a new thermal camera. This will be connected to the 5G network at BIC, allowing the algorithms on the camera to interact with algorithms on the edge server. In this way, the camera can identify people anonymously from various positions.
AI, low-code machine platforms, augmented reality and 5G networks will ultimately work together to ensure that factories reach the next level in the future, Cobben concludes.
"With how fast developments are going in all these areas, it is now hard to imagine exactly what those digital factories will look like. Based on our concrete use cases, anyone can see what impact these technologies will have on an organisation. I would therefore like to invite companies and organisations to visit the HTSC at BIC."
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