Networked Test Benches in Evolved Lab Environments.

Digitization, RETROFIT, Industry 4.0

The digitization and networking of labs and test benches are only successful if carried out in tandem. (© Fraunhofer LBF)

Since the comprehensive digital networking of evolved systems has not been achieved so far, opportunities for better test bench or process understanding often go to waste. Thanks to a new strategic measure, smart, digital solutions have been being devised at Fraunhofer LBF since January 2019. As a result, the topic of networking multiple systems is also gaining increased significance.  

Interdisciplinary teams are working with the specialist departments and the central engineering unit to create new, open solutions for the monitoring of complex test benches and sensitive lab facilities that can be transferred to any technical systems in the industry.

Evolved lab environments

Extensive experience over the course of decades in the design, layout and operation of lab and test bench environments has led to pronounced diversity in lab technology at the institute. This has various digital prerequisites and therefore demands open networking solutions in order to ensure networking with server or even cloud services.

Due to data protection-related concerns and security matters, the sequence in which data approvals and the networking are carried out must be inspected precisely in advance. The aim is to achieve the greatest possible added value with maximum data security.

Technical solution

The teams at Fraunhofer LBF wanted to operate different variants and ages of the many test benches in an optimal manner using a modular principle. To do this, they firstly developed two different retrofit solutions based on open building blocks. In the process, single-board computers enable the interface between test bench electronics and security-critical elements on one hand and networking as a separate system on the other hand. The networking is carried out via an internal network with special authorization zones for a database solution in the background. This data allows for the formation of visualization solutions like those shown in the Figure of the status display.

Due to the complexity and the multiplicity of disciplines and requirements, the formation of smart, digitized solutions that are focused on the customer's demands is only possible through trust-based interdisciplinary collaboration across various levels.

Added value

Thanks to these new solutions, highly diverse test benches that have never been networked before can be enabled to carry out safe data transfer. From now on, the new solutions presented are also available to our medium-sized customers for the retrofitting of their existing facilities. The security requirements, in particular, are also met in the process.

The possibilities these procedures open up are practically limitless. On the one hand, they enable internal efficiency gains, as staff can query test bench statuses from their desks or mobile terminals. At the same time, using image recognition procedures or artificial intelligence methods, larger volumes of data can be processed to generate new findings. For example, specific groups can be determined and unusual special events such as anomalies in the data detected. Building on this, new, usage-based and customer-centered business models can be achieved.

Fraunhofer is enabling smart, digital solutions that allow the digital world and the evolved analog world to merge.