Smart factory: Audi shows intelligent production

Humans and robots working hand in hand, car-body parts emerging from a 3D printer and cars driving in piloted mode from the assembly line: Audi is pursuing this vision of the factory of the future: the smart factory. In the Encounter magazine under that heading, the automobile manufacturer is now providing a wide-ranging insight on how intelligent Audi’s production processes already are and which leaps of innovation will occur in the coming years. Audi presented the publication on Friday at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.

Audi offers its customers products that are increasingly diverse and individual. This results in enormous increases in the complexity of the production processes. “Automobile production as we know it today will no longer exist in the future. It will become more connected, more intelligent and more efficient. At the same time, our employees will continue to be the drivers of successful production,” stated Audi’s Board of Management Member for Production Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl. “New specialists such as network architects will increasingly move into our industry. With their IT expertise, they will configure machinery so that all processes will be extremely well coordinated and the factory equipment will optimally support the employees.”

In many areas of production at Audi, the smart factory is already a reality today, as this Encounter magazine shows: With the augmented‑reality tool “Window to the World” for example, employees in the pre‑series center combine the virtual and the physical worlds of automobile development extremely precisely. The system allows the projection of virtual 3D components onto the car. In Audi’s tooling division, a 3D printer produces complex metal parts, and intelligent tools are able to exactly distribute the high pressure forces to stamp sheet‑metal parts that are accurate to one hundredth of a millimeter. And in the assembly process at the Ingolstadt plant, a robot works with the employees on the production line without a protective fence, passing them components at exactly the right speed and in an ergonomically pleasant position.

In the Encounter magazine under the heading of “Smart Factory,” Audi also provides a glimpse of how automobile production could look in the distant future: manufacturing with competence islands instead of assembly lines, with drones to transport materials quickly and with cars that drive out of the assembly halls in piloted mode.