The UPC, a major player in the development of Industry 4.0

Encouraging additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is another area of interest within Industry 4.0 in which the UPC is active through the CIM Foundation, which started proposing technology for companies more than 25 years ago and now provides comprehensive services and cutting-edge technology in the Ricoh Additive Manufacturing Centre. “The centre, explains the general director of the CIM Foundation, Felip Fenollosa, presents the tools that companies need to incorporate if they want to adapt their business model to the new dynamics of Industry 4.0 through 3D printing and digital manufacturing in general”. It is Ricoh’s first centre in southern Europe, with the capacity to implement integral advanced manufacturing and integral prototyping services, focusing in particular on the development of new materials.

Of students now attending primary school, 63% will end up working in a job that does not yet exist. This disturbing fact is closely related to what is known as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, which is transforming industry through a combination of production methods and advanced information technologies to make manufacturing adaptive and flexible. The main challenge is to make all the information available in real time by integrating the entities that make up the value chain.

Jan 09, 2019

Industry 4.0, recognised as an emerging sector in Catalonia and elsewhere, will interconnect people, machines and systems in a different way. Governments of countries and regions are striving to consolidate this transformation by promoting skills-building, training and new professional profiles in order to minimise the social disruption that it may cause.

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) is one of the main agents for the development of Industry 4.0 in Catalonia, and a large part of its academic activity is directly or partially linked to valorising and capitalising on existing knowledge and accelerating knowledge creation. In fact, the UPC is already working to identify the lines of research and knowledge transfer and course offerings that will provide knowledge and talent for the technological bases of Industry 4.0.

In total, one hundred of the UPC’s research groups are related to the principles of Industry 4.0, and around fifty of them are participating directly in relevant projects. Also, about 40 of the UPC’s master’s degrees cover all the technologies involved in this field. In this scenario, “the UPC must be a scientific and technological hub of this new paradigm of industrial production in the digital age”, explains Professor Luis Romeral, co-director of the Motion Control and Industrial Applications Research Centre (MCIA), which specialises in predictive maintenance for the industrial sector, technology based on the industrial internet of things, and big data analytics. The MCIA aims to predict failures and defects in the operation of industrial machinery, avoid emergency stoppages and dead times, and gain efficiency and productivity.

Industry 4.0 in Catalonia articulates a series of major technologies: advanced manufacturing, based on autonomous and collaborative robotics and additive manufacturing; cyberphysical systems with smart sensor connections, new digital models, artificial intelligence, advanced interfaces and augmented reality; and finally the digital transformation brought about by big data, analytics, cybersecurity and the internet of things.

For example, the Data-Driven Steel 4.0 project developed for the CELSA GROUP by the MCIA, with the collaboration of IThinkUPC, is based on the internet of things. The objective was to develop a system for collecting and analysing the production data of the CELSA Group’s steel plants through the deployment of an industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform. CELSA is currently one of the leading European producers of long steel products, and this project is implementing smart monitoring techniques for its industrial processes through the development of advanced industrial analytics supported by an IIOT platform. The project is being implemented at four production plants in Barcelona and Santander, and its ultimate goal is to improve the group’s productivity and competitiveness.

But not only large multinational companies need to undertake an industrial transformation. The challenge is also to find tailor-made solutions for small and medium-sized businesses that have to start moving towards Industry 4.0. The UPC is developing support actions based on agreements such as the one recently reached with the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Companies of Catalonia (PIMEC), which aims to articulate ways of collaborating with companies of this type.

On another scale, Technology Transfer via Multinational Application Experiments (TETRAMAX) is a European project led by RWTH Aachen University with the participation of the UPC’s Data Management Group. TETRAMAX is a consortium that promotes technology transfer involving the internet of things, with 22 partners from 28 EU countries based on the Smart Anything Everywhere initiative.

With a four-year budget of €7 million, TETRAMAX stimulates, organises and co-finances bilateral cross-border projects that promote technology transfer and involve the entire value chain. In addition to supporting the creation of new companies, it connects SMEs, funders and universities to implement technologies at a very low risk for companies.