On April 18th, Dr. Wolf Wadehn spoke at the weekly seminar series for the CTIN4SPIRE program. Dr. Wadehn is the Director of Engineering at TRUMPF, Inc. in Farmington, CT, where his work focuses on establishing his company’s US subsidiary as a global competence center for remote service tools, machine connectivity, and data analytics. Dr. Wadehn studied mechanical engineering at the University of Munich and Stuttgart and completed his Ph.D. thesis on adaptive structures. In 2005, he started as an engineer for TRUMPF, where he worked on numerical calculations for 5-axis laser machines until he started his management position in 2015.
In his talk entitled “Smart Factories: Industry 4.0 in Sheet Metal Manufacturing”, Dr. Wadehn explained that his intention of his presentation was to disprove that manufacturing is “slimy and greasy” and only requires mechanical engineers. TRUMPF has been a family owned business since 1923, has 73 subsidiaries, and is comprised of 13,420 employees. The company specializes in using advanced machining and special laser systems for cutting, punching, bending, welding, marking, and other industrial applications. He described the company’s core competencies, such as innovative practices utilizing laser technologies and prioritizing “speedy” innovation, to segway into current technologies in the industry and what specialized smart factories of the future may look like. He handed out samples of laser cut material to the class, and explained the process of using a laser machine to perform specific tasks, such as cutting a material like the sample, which contained intricate small features. The sheet metal cutting machine will need to operate continuously throughout the process, and if it is not running continuously, manufacturing companies can lose thousands of dollars each day or each week, so uptime is crucial.
He finalized the talk by describing how smart factories can be used to maximize efficiency of production and to minimize cost, and outlined the equipment and technologies that can be found in a smart factory. Dr. Wadehn explained seven (7) components of a smart factory: 1. Connectivity and transparency, 2. Full control of equipment, 3. Inventory management, 4. Full transparency on order status, 5. No searching times, 6. Automated transport with AGV, and 7. Remote support through experts. He used these components to illustrate how the current production practices can be improved upon. He also mentioned how smart factories create a smart material flow, which eliminates the possibility of any parts going missing.
Dr. Wadehn closed the presentation by showing an example factory of the future and described what a customer’s smart manufacturing project would look like. He explained that smart factories use innovative technologies, such as AGV systems, predictive maintenance, and advanced software to increase the efficiency of manufacturing. In addition, the integrative concepts found in these factories provide jobs for more than just mechanical engineers; this type of work requires an integrative team of engineers and non-engineers from many disciplines to help the manufacturing process run smoothly.
The CTIN4SPIRE program will be hosting two more talks this semester on Thursday April 25th and Thursday May 2nd. To view the CTIN4SPIRE speaker series calendar and to find out more about the series click here.