Trumpf and Fraunhofer IPA partner to develop AI solutions for sheet metal processing

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AI-based solutions for smart factories will be developed within the alliance. (Image: Fraunhofer IPA, Rainer Bez)

Trumpf and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA), have formed a research alliance that over the next five years will see artificial intelligence (AI) solutions developed for sheet metal processing.

The two partners will be increasing their research activities in the field of explainable artificial intelligence, or XAI. Their goal is to make the operation of neural networks interpretable, with new findings in this area expected to improve quality, save time and cut costs in sheet-metal processing.

Trumpf and Fraunhofer IPA initially joined forces to work on smart factory topics in 2015, with the initial results of this collaboration now being close to market.

These include Trumpf’s Sorting Guide assistance system, which is designed to help workers remove and sort laser-cut sheet metal parts. The AI solution detects the part removal process and automatically supplies workers with all the information they need for intralogistics. The system highlights parts in different colours to show which ones belong together, either because they are part of the same order, are destined for the same customer or are heading to the same machine for the next step in the manufacturing process. This solution replaces the documentation that would otherwise accompany each part, saving time and helping to prevent errors. 

Trumpf's Sorting Guide assistance system, which is a result of the cooperation, helps workers remove and sort laser-cut sheet metal parts. (Image: Trumpf)

The two partners hope to build on these initial successes by continuing their strategic cooperation in the future. Set to run until 2025, the alliance will see 10 employees from Trumpf and Fraunhofer IPA working together in a joint project, which will receive approximately €2 million of funding spread over the next five years.

‘Trumpf has been working with us on connected manufacturing for years because they share our view that Industry 4.0 developments represent a major opportunity,’ said Professor Thomas Bauernhansl, director of Fraunhofer IPA. ‘Everything depends on what happens over the next few years – so these are exciting times! We expect the coronavirus pandemic to act as a kind of catalyst: those who are well prepared will be perfectly placed to exploit the huge opportunities that lie ahead. Soon we’ll see whether we have laid the right foundations for the future in our joint projects.’

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