Hannover Fair Previews the Smart Factory

The organizers of the world's largest and most comprehensive manufacturing exhibition, Hannover Messe, presented a preview of its upcoming 2014 edition on Feb. 11 at the Radialsystem V hall in Berlin.

The fair will be held April 7-11 in more than two dozen huge exhibition spaces in Hannover. The preview allowed members of the press to get an early look at some of the event's major innovations and exhibitors.

The presentations all focused on the theme "Integrated Industry—Next Steps" and the specific steps needed to bring the Smart Factory concept to life using the integrated tools of Industry 4.0, which is being touted as a "fourth industrial revolution" driven by Internet-connected devices.

"When people ask me to describe Hannover Messe in a nutshell, I say it's all about competitiveness," said Deutsche Messe board member Dr. Jochen Koeckler. "It's about people coming together to exchange ideas that will produce efficiencies, generate investments, and make them more competitive. These days, it's no longer about big companies eating small companies; it's about fast ones eating slow ones. However, to stay competitive, manufacturers need flexible, intelligent factories of the future in which machines, plant and products can talk to each other."

More specific steps for achieving the fair's Integrated Industry concept were presented by Prof. Dr.-ing. Detlef Zuehlke, scientific director for Innovative Factory Systems at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, which has been developing its Smart Factory KL program since 2005. "Just as we have smart phones with data available anywhere and anytime, and we're moving toward smart homes and smart cars, we're also going to need smart factories," said Zuehlke. "They'll be more flexible and agile to handle more varied products, and have shortened production steps, such as quicker setup and retooling times and modular components that are easy to plug and play."

Besides presenting full-scale models of how smart factories will operate, Hannover Messe's exhibitors will show many Industry 4.0 tools that can be used to make applications and facilities smarter. For example, one Smart Factory demonstration will consist of a five-module production line for assembling business card boxes with secure RFID tags. The integrated line consists of a quality assurance section by Lapp Kabel, laser engraving section by Phoenix Contact and three assembly sections by Harting and Bosch Rexroth. Each section will have smart machine components to coordinate tasks with the others, network via TCP/IP, Wi-Fi and RJ45 protocols, and follow Han-modular standards for plug-and-play connectors.

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