The global manufacturing industry is a challenging environment, since today’s customers have new requirements regarding the personalisation and the interoperability of new products and technologies. At the same time, legislations, regulations, and norms are becoming stricter; the environment calls for more protection and less pollution and the aging of the workforce jeopardises the collective know-how. Keeping pace with competitors often requires considerable investments in the latest digital technologies and advanced equipment, which is particularly challenging for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who often can’t afford such investments or can’t tell if they will turn out worthwhile.
DIGITbrain is an EU innovation program (coordinated by PNO Consultants) to give SMEs easy access to digital twins. A Digital Twin is the virtual representation of a product, system or process that simulates its physical attributes in the real-world in real time. By collecting data from its physical counterpart, manufacturers are enabled to streamline the manufacturing process and make predictions with regard to machine failures or maintenance needs. Compared to the digital twin concept, which is increasingly used by manufacturing companies today, the DIGITbrain concept will go one step further by developing the ‘Digital Product Brain’ which will store data throughout the entire life cycle of a production line or a machine. By collecting all this data, it will be possible to customise and set-up machines / production assets for very specific manufacturing tasks whenever needed (see figure below). This will enable a new manufacturing model, called Manufacturing-as-a-Service (MaaS), which will allow for on-demand production of much more specialised products, even in smaller quantities and still in an economically profitable way.
Twenty highly innovative industrial solutions will be demonstrated by over 20 application experiments illustrating how the Digital Brain and its lower level services can be utilised to empower SMEs with MaaS. The Digital Marketplace provides the necessary graphical user interfaces (GUIs) in view of configuring and monitoring the Digital Brain for an industrial-product instance and will handle the access rights to the Digital Brain’s instances.
The DIGITbrain Project has started on 1st July 2020 and is composed by a consortium of 36 partners. During its lifetime it will attract further 35-40 collaborators in two Open Calls for experiments, mainly technology and manufacturing SMEs. The EU project will be funded for three and a half years within the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (under grant agreement number 952071) by the European Commission with a budget of 8.34 million euros.