Matrix production: the visionary’s point of view

The future lies in the individuality and flexibility of production processes. Fixed production lines must be broken through. Thoughts such as these and questions such as “What needs are our customers confronted with?” or “What problems have they no solution for?” were the beginning of the development process towards smarter production – the development of the KUKA Matrix solution. We talked to Paul Thorwarth, KUKA Advanced Engineering Body Structures who has the idea for the future-oriented matrix production.

Origin of the idea

The guiding principle of his idea was flexible and product-neutral production in machine tool construction. “I thought to myself, the same must be true for systems”. For Paul Thorwarth it was quickly clear: “A change from fixed mass production to individualizable and flexible production requires a major rethink in the existing processes.” In order to make a factory versatile, it is essential to reconsider the processes between logistics and production. This results in the most important requirement for a new concept, the separation of logistics and production.

Tomorrow’s technology

Of course, it is not only necessary to rethink existing processes, but also to further develop the state of the art. “Artificial intelligence (AI) and fully automated intralogistics” are major topics here.
The cooperation with specialists from various departments made it possible to turn Paul Thorwarth’s vision into reality and to develop a versatile and flexible production solution with the KUKA SmartProduction Center.

The idea of product and cycle time neutral, highly flexible cells could be implemented by developing the KUKA SmartProduction_control software based on artificial intelligence (AI) and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). Controlled by the AI-based software, the brain of the new process, the AGVs collect tools from a tool store and transport them to the production cells to be set up. Subsequently, the AGVs drive to the centralized material store, decoupled from production, in order to transport components into the cell and on to the next cell after the process has been completed.

Thanks to the intelligent software, we always know where the moving AGVs are and which component they have to deliver to which robot. Nothing stands in the way of a flexible and quickly configurable production cell.

“Never lose faith in ideas, they can change the future”

Paul Thorwarth kept to his idea of a smart production and now it has a promising future ahead of it. Matrix production can offer a decisive competitive advantage through the entire networking of the value chain. Production becomes more flexible and economic efficiency is increased.

Do you want to know how completely different components can be manufactured on one and the same system and how this system can be retrofitted with further components within a short time depending on requirements? Then read our blog post Matrix Production Solution: When a vision becomes reality.

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