The industry is in a state of radical change: digitalisation and new approaches to information, communication and media technology are changing production and the relationship between people and machines. Keywords are Industry 4.0 or Smart Factory.
In several projects involving a cooperative effort with companies, St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences is undertaking the development of technology for digitalised production, from the tracking of workpieces with Bluetooth to office planning with virtual reality.
Searching for workpieces with Bluetooth
During the production process in large companies and factory halls, there are sometimes thousands of containers with intermediate products and workpieces. Where the parts are is important information that is often difficult to trace. In cooperation with TeDaLoS GmbH and Georg Fischer Fittings GmbH, St. Pölten UAS is testing how Bluetooth can be used to track containers and parts.
The tests involve the distribution of transmitters on the containers and in factory receiving stations. "The many metals in the production halls produce disruptive signals. We are testing how Bluetooth can nevertheless function in this environment and how parts can be located and retrieved as precisely as possible", said Thomas Moser, Head of the Digital Technologies research group and Senior Researcher for Industry 4.0 in the study programme Smart Engineering at St. Pölten UAS.
Office plan in a virtual world
In another project for the office furniture manufacturer Bene, Moser and his colleagues are developing and testing how virtual-reality offices can be planned. The basis for this is the company’s cube-shaped component called "Pixel". Several of these elements can be assembled to form tables, benches, stools or stages. Among other things, this supports work in modern offices, which often must be reconfigured to suit different purposes.
In order to test the outcome in advance, the researchers at St. Pölten UAS are developing an application for virtual-reality glasses. In an artificial space, one can experiment with different configurations and move elements around. "Augmented and virtual reality have versatile applications and are currently hot topics in almost all companies. The technology is now so well developed and available that it can be well and quickly applied", explained Moser.
The new technical possibilities also require that company personnel have the appropriate skills. In another project, together with IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems and the Lower Austrian formwork-technology company Doka, Moser is examining what qualifications and training employees need for the production of the future.
Research and companies: a Lower Austrian cooperation project
Several of the projects in which St. Pölten UAS is involved are part of a cooperative project titled Enterprise 4.0, which has been running in Lower Austria since 2015. This Lower Austrian cooperative project deals with the impact of digitalisation on domestic industry and seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of regional companies in the digital age. Nine Lower Austrian companies and one company each from Vienna and Upper Austria are working together with research institutions on specific case studies. The business agency ecoplus is coordinating the project.
Project Enterprise 4.0 of St. Pölten UAS
The projects with Doka, Georg Fischer Fittings GmbH and Bene are carried out in the framework of the ecoplus project Enterprise 4.0 and funded by the Province of Lower Austria.
The project with TeDaLoS is financed by the FFG-funding programme Innovationsscheck.