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Manufacturing’s Smarter Digital Future to be Showcased at LIFT

LIFT has announced that it has begun developing a Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase at its Corktown facility in Detroit in conjunction with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Siemens Digital Industries to provide a demonstration sandbox for manufacturing companies and economic developers to explore smarter manufacturing technologies.

The Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase, a full-scale digital model of the tabletop Mechatronics System currently used by students in the LIFT Learning Lab, will educate, stimulate, and support large and small manufacturing companies along with students. In alignment with LIFT’s mission to drive American manufacturing into the future, the project will increase local awareness of smarter manufacturing and Industry 4.0 systems, processes and advancements.

The Showcase is being funded through an Industry 4.0 Regional Programming Grant from the MEDC while the complete digital thread throughout the LIFT facility is being enabled using software provided by Siemens, a LIFT Platinum member.

“Through our support for innovative industry solutions like LIFT’s Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase, we are setting the global standard for success in Industry 4.0 and becoming a welcoming place for companies across all industries to do business,” said Natalie Chmiko, Vice President of International Trade and Pure Michigan Business Connect at the MEDC. “By working with partners such as LIFT to develop and deploy these unique approaches to adopting Industry 4.0 technologies, we are ensuring the ideas, people and companies of tomorrow can continue to find their home here in Michigan.”

Trained and mentored by the Siemens Digital Industries Software team to operate the company’s NX and Process Simulate software from its Xcelerator portfolio, the LIFT technology team developed a digital twin of the tabletop mechatronics system and was able to improve process efficiency, reduce process cost, maximize capital equipment utilization, and effectively manage floor space.

The full-scale version of the system will allow small and medium-sized manufacturers, as well as students, to follow the digital thread from the tabletop system to a 3D digital twin to 2D component designs to the full-scale version.

LIFT’s digital twin research and development is a facet of ‘smarter manufacturing’– the connection between materials, manufacturing processes, systems, and talent– and will be shared with the national manufacturing ecosystem.

“Smarter manufacturing is the future of our state and national economic security and resiliency,” said Nigel Francis, chief executive officer and executive director, LIFT. “This project will encourage manufacturers to explore what is possible with smarter manufacturing, thanks to the MEDC and Siemens.”

Siemens joined LIFT as a Platinum-level member in 2020, and provided the institute with its Xcelerator portfolio, Factory Automation technology and Digital Enterprise solutions. Siemens and LIFT work together to address the current skills gaps between industry needs, academic-enabled capability and solution-awareness-adeptness inhibiting business optimization.

”Siemens is a natural partner to enable LIFT’s important mission at this time of rapid renewal in U.S. manufacturing.  This Digital Twin Smart Factory showcase puts real-world technologies into the hands of manufacturers as they look for smart ways to expand their digital transformation on the plant floor,” said Raj Batra, President of Digital Industries at Siemens USA. “And for students, LIFT offers a great lab to develop practical skills using the same software and tools used by manufacturers globally.”

Benefits of the Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase

Through simulation, the Showcase will allow LIFT to help increase preparedness and adoption of smarter manufacturing technology, particularly among small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs), by identifying efficiencies and opportunities to reduce cost in advance of new technology implementation.

The Showcase will provide manufacturers with insight and real-life examples of:

– Simulating smart factory and virtual commissioning;

– Reducing complexity of large-scale models and eliminate unnecessary applications to maximize floor space in a production environment;

– Improving components’ life expectancy using virtual representation of physical assets, and processes that mimic the physical system before assembly;

– Initiating process verification and validation, using virtual commissioning prior to system installation, to significantly ‘ramp up’ production;

– Facilitating process verification and validation prior to physical system installation;

– Developing scenarios to foresee future processes and existing manufacturing systems;

– Implementing Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence machine learning;

– Reducing operational costs and risks, prior to physical implementation, by validating process intent through various iterations of manufacturing and control systems.

The Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase is expected to be completed at the LIFT facility in the first quarter of 2022.

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