Smart Industry is the national and international trend of ensuring that the competitive position of the manufacturing industry of first-world countries can keep up with the emerging economies of, for instance, India and China.

Smart Industry integrates IT with production processes and products and focuses on advanced individual production. UT has a great deal of knowledge at its disposal and we want to position our campus as an incubator for advanced production processes by means of this proposal.

The manufacturing industry is crucial to Europe, the Netherlands and the Twente region. In order to ensure that this industrial sector maintains its position as a key economic pillar, the productivity of companies and the added value of their products will have to increase dramatically. The possibilities offered by existing techniques for this productivity increase – such as automation or lean management – have been largely exhausted. Developing new and innovative products and production techniques is the only way in which the battle against emerging industrial countries can be won. Smart machines and robots can communicate with each other, find faults themselves and repair them automatically. Mass customization will replace mass production, resulting in high-quality custom products. The intelligent factory will make an important contribution to economic growth and to maintaining and increasing employment. Such an intelligent factory requires a host of high-quality fields of knowledge, which UT certainly covers, such as methodical design, systems engineering, production engineering, production management, robotics, mechatronics, human-technology interaction, energy and materials. This will, however, require research in this field as well as a matching well-equipped laboratory.

What will we do?
We propose the design of shared facilities for Advanced Manufacturing in which smart (additive) production methods will take up a major part. The manufacturing process will correct and continuously improve itself (‘first-time, zero-defect manufacturing’). The smart factories of the future will need to manufacture products in a more flexible and efficient way, based on, among other things, data obtained from high-quality sensors and measuring systems. A smart factory is a production system that is flexible, uses resources efficiently and adapts itself intuitively to the people who work there. The laboratory for Advanced Manufacturing will provide facilities for various (additive) production methods, high-quality IT, sensor and measuring equipment, flexible robotics, equipment for the analysis and characterization of material and product properties, predictive maintenance and innovative production processes. Since the technology and fundamental knowledge relevant to additive production methods are still in the first stages of development, this has major potential for the realization of distinctive high-quality products and processes. The laboratory will focus on creating innovative products from, among other things, metals, ceramics, synthetic materials, composite materials and combinations thereof.

What is more, the TWENTE LAB for ADVANCED MANUFACTURING will be closely linked to the Smart Industry and National Science agendas and offer numerous opportunities for cooperation with CTIT, MESA+ and TPRC. The laboratory will be the incubator for innovative products and production processes on which great researchers, students and the industry will collaborate. It will be used for both educational and research purposes and can function as a shared facility. It will facilitate collaboration between the business community, UT and the Fraunhofer IPT Project Center for Design and Production Engineering in complex high-tech systems. Issues on TRL 1-8 can now be handled within one organization, making it a unique and key combination for the business community.

The laboratory proposed here fits in seamlessly with UT’s high-tech human touch, the High Tech Systems and Materials top sector, Horizon 2020 (Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, Factories of the Future, and Innovation in SMEs), the high-tech strategy of neighbouring countries, such as Germany’s ‘Industrie 4.0’, and the INTERREG grant programme. Moreover, it will provide the required cross-pollination between the research institutes, (regional) industry and European grant programmes, while at the same time meeting the needs of the major parties in the region: e.g. Ten Cate, Sensata, Demcon, Thales, Norma, Apollo, VDL ETG and Siemens, as well as such companies as Tata, Philips and Fokker.

What will it yield?

  • Raising Twente’s profile as the Smart Industry centre in Europe
  • A state-of-the-art facility centre in the field of Advanced Manufacturing
  • An incubator for innovative products and production processes
  • A dynamic environment in which students, researchers and the business community join forces
  • The creation of unique manufacturing industry and high-tech combinations
  • An increase in the chance of success for regional, national and European fundraising
  • Reinforcement of the collaboration between research institutes and regional, national and international industry
  • Guaranteeing regional employment in the manufacturing industry (see e.g.

Setting up a flexible laboratory for a reconfigurable factory that focuses on advanced production processes, such as 3D printing, is a very complex matter and requires a multidisciplinary design-oriented approach. In this project proposal, we are including a PDEng trainee who will work on designing this reconfigurable factory.

The main challenges for the reconfigurable factory are figuring out how shorter changeover times (zero programming), accurate positioning and robust production systems can be achieved for high-quality low-volume/high-mix production. The use of flexible robot systems will need to be combined with intelligent production preparation, and the interaction between people and technology (design process, machine and product) is a crucial factor in this regard.

The PDEng trainee will combine the latest state-of-the-art knowledge with regard to design, robotics, sensor systems, production processes and production management into one design for a reconfigurable factory at the TWENTE LAB for ADVANCED MANUFACTURING.