Smarter Manufacturing Ideas to be Showcased at LIFT in Detroit

LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-backed national manufacturing innovation institute, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), and Siemens Digital Industries based in Plano, Texas, are partnering to develop a Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase at its Corktown facility.
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A 3D animation of the floor plan for LIFT's Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase. // Courtesy of LIFT
An animation of the floor plan for LIFT’s Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase. // Courtesy of LIFT

LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-backed national manufacturing innovation institute, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), and Siemens Digital Industries based in Plano, Texas, are partnering to develop a Digital Twin Smart Factory Showcase at its Corktown facility.

The installation will provide a demonstration sandbox for manufacturing companies and economic developers to explore smarter manufacturing technologies, working towards the goal of technological and economic advancement.

“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,” says Natalie Chmiko, vice president of international trade and pure Michigan business connect at the MEDC.

The 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.

It 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.

“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,” says Chmiko.

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. Digital twin research is a facet of smarter manufacturing — or better understanding the connection between materials, manufacturing processes, systems, and talent.

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.
  • Supporting the overall health of the economy by providing workforce opportunities to upskill and earn more while advancing their careers.
  • 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 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 after training from the Siemens software team in its NX and process simulate software from its Xcelerator portfolio.

“Smarter manufacturing is the future of our state and national economic security and resiliency,” says Nigel Francis, CEO and executive director at 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. The two work together to address the skills gap 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,” says Raj Batra, President of digital industries at Siemens USA.

“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,” And for students, LIFT offers a great lab to develop practical skills using the same software and tools used by manufacturers globally.”

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

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