May 18, 2022

Consortium Designs Agile, a digital production system for electric motors

Automakers have their orders: Find a way to drive the future of electric vehicles.

This is a major challenge that requires an overhaul of the automotive production system. But this is a project for which Schaeffler’s Automotive Technologies division is strategically preparing.

German manufacturer of ball bearings for automotive, aerospace and industry, leads a group of 17 partners, including scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in a three-year project that will develop an agile and digitized production system with a modular product concept for innovative electric cars.

Bringing together universities and industry, the consortium will develop a solution to the question of how electric motors can be manufactured flexibly and economically. The AgiloDrive2 research project will focus on ways to make electric motor production more flexible, sustainable and affordable based on data-driven production technologies, agile process chains and intelligent control architectures, noted Shaeffler’s press release.

The results of the AgileDrive2 project will be translated into the production of scalable electric motors at a state-of-the-art plant currently under construction in Schaeffler’s automotive technology division in Bühl, Germany.

Agile production

The AgileDrive2 project was preceded by AgileDrive, an 18-month pilot project funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economy, Labor and Tourism and in collaboration with the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT). The initial phase used digital twins (virtual simulations of the digital counterpart in real time) to develop modular structures for electric motors and their production. Two demonstrators were manufactured as a proof of concept for the implementation of a new agile production system.

Electric motors are available in many configurations and their topology may depend on the type of electrified powertrain or technical specifications, such as winding type, installation space, torque, continuous output and behavior of functioning. Schaeffler has the ability to offer electric motors that extend to all degrees of electrification for hybrid modules, hybrid transmissions and all-electric axle drives with a wide power range from 20 to over 300 kW. .

“We respond to the variety of versions and the inconstancy of quantities with an agile production method, which we intend to develop and mutually validate in the AgiloDrive2 project”, explained Thomas Pfund, president of the E-Motors Business Unit at Schaeffler , in a press release.

The objective is to develop a versatile production system following a principle of product / production co-design which will promote close cooperation between the product system and the development of the production system. “Instead of rigid production lines, we will look for highly flexible, digitized and efficient technology modules that are easily scalable, allow flexible configurations and interconnections and can be established on a software basis,” said Pfund.

Connect and produce

The research team will focus on the development of a modular machine structure, which enables the reuse of production equipment in an efficient and sustainable manner. Digital twins will enable efficient production planning and accelerated commissioning, while AI solutions further increase product quality and digital qualification methods facilitate and accelerate employee training.

Schaeffler noted that the successful completion of standardized machine connections, hardware and software interfaces, and inter-manufacturer communication standards should help adapt to increasing complexity and enable rapid integration of systems in accordance with the approach. “Plug and product”.

Not only will these agile approaches make it easier to operate demand-based point-of-care production systems, but they will also enable economies of scale by reducing costs through the adaptation of data-driven processes across different sets of data. products and technologies, explained Professor Jürgen Fleischer, director of the wbk Institute of Production Science at KIT and scientific project manager at AgiloDrive2.

Sustainable mobility

The AgiloDrive2 project, composed of the wbk Institute of Production Science, the Institute of Electrical Engineering (ETI), and KIT’s Product Engineering Institute (IPEK), along with industry partners – is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) to the tune of $ 18.57 million (16 , 4 million euros) for a total project volume of 38.3 million dollars (33.7 million euros) over the next three years.

The project is expected to strengthen the international competitiveness of the German automotive industry by integrating electric mobility technically and economically, as well as propelling the industry towards sustainable energy and mobility.

The full list of participating partners is KIT, Schaeffler, e-mobil BW GmbH, 4D GmbH, Braun Sondermaschinen GmbH, Carl Zeiss Industrielle Messtechnik GmbH, FormiKa GmbH, Gehring Technologies GmbH + Co. KG, Koob Testsystems GmbH, KUKA AG, LTB Bachofer GmbH, Magnet-Physik Dr. Steingroever GmbH, pro-beam systems GmbH, SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG, Siemens AG, STAHL GmbH & Co. KG, TRUMPF Laser GmbH and WAFIOS AG.