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The next big step in digital transformation is taking shape

by Thomas Gutt

Aiming at a more sustainable, efficient, and user-friendly production, AIMS5.0 is about to show how artificial intelligence (AI) can take a decisive step towards Industry 5.0 and European digital sovereignty. The ambitious research project started a year ago and is part of the EU programme Horizon 2020. Its characteristics represent the self-image of EU-funded projects as an intelligent collaboration between partners and other projects, for mutual benefit and growth.

AIMS5.0, the project title sets the direction. The acronym stands for “Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing leading to Sustainability and Industry5.0” and aims at the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in the development and manufacture of hardware and software components. In addition to comprehensive sustainability and user-friendliness, the desired goals include significantly increased efficiency in production.

Semiconductor production predestined for use of AI 

The semiconductor industry in particular is perfectly suited for exploiting the potential of AI. There are many barely visible datagenerating manufacturing processes here. At least 250 systems contribute to the manufacture of a product. Each has 20 parameters and 100,000 wafers with up to 10,000 different design variants run in the factory. Considering these figures could be even higher, it is clear that human beings alone are not able to fully comprehend these highly complex processes, let alone monitor them. This is where it takes the assistance of AI. Automatic error detection, for instance, can ensure fewer rejects and an overall higher quality.

Apart from a better efficiency, an increased resilience, optimised supply chains as well as time-to-market parameters are intended to strengthen the international competitiveness of the European location. They can reduce dependencies and, for example, prevent another chip crisis. The project thus fits into the EU’s drive for more digital sovereignty.

As part of the EU funding programme Horizon 2020 and sponsored by KDT JU (Key Digital Technologies Joint Undertaking), AIMS5.0 started in 2023 as the youngest of the central, large European research projects with 53 partners from 12 countries and a budget of approximately 70 million euros in the area of digitalisation. Coordinated by semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies, the consortium represents the chain of producers, suppliers, specialists, research institutes, and universities.

Designed for intelligent collaboration 

During the first year, major steps were taken for a successful intensive research work to elaborate crucial foundations for the next big step in the digital transformation of European industry. As part of its formula for success and in its self-image for an overall benefit for Europe, AIMS5.0 is designed for intelligent collaboration between partners and other projects. Despite the size of the project with its numerous partners, it is obviously worth taking on the organisational challenge involved. As expected, it pays off for a joint success, for mutual benefit, and growth.

As an example of collaboration and synergy effects within and across the project, a major event is worth being noted which, in fact, was a two-in-one event. In September 2023, the University of Applied Sciences in St. Pölten, Austria, hosted the Deep Tech Workshop as part of the two large-scale European initiatives AIMS5.0 and Arrowhead fPVN, while at the same time, the new Research Studio Smart Digital Industries and Services (SDIS) was opened on the premises of the university.

Both Arrowhead fPVN coordinator Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in Sweden and SDIS founder Research Studios Austria Forschungsgesellschaft (RSA FG) are members of the AIMS5.0 consortium. LTU is responsible for the common cyber architecture, and RSA is dealing with human acceptance, trust and ethics for Digital Workspaces.

Deep Tech Workshop to drive innovation in Europe 

The Deep Tech Workshop’s primary focus was on common technologies and initial use of use cases both in AIMS5.0 and Arrowhead fPVN. The latter stands for the Arrowhead framework and implementation platform focusing on flexible Production Value Network (fPVN) in the research project. The workshop provided a valuable forum for sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas on topics such as cyber architecture, data models or AI code generation. Bringing together experts from industry and academia to discuss the latest advances and future perspectives, it highlighted the importance of collaboration when it comes to drive innovation in Europe.

The next example is a three-day meeting at the end of January this year in Luleå, Sweden. The workshop was initiated by the University of Technology (LTU), updating and monitoring the progress and common potentials of the two projects AIMS5.0 and Arrowhead fPVN. As for AIMS5.0, certain milestones had already been reached, well ahead of time. Numerous demonstrators showed that more results than expected had been achieved. The ambition of the workshop was to integrate, highlight and demonstrate the core AI and cyber architecture technologies as well as the utilisation in use cases of both projects.

Autonomous drones for scans and digital twins

Speaking of which, the AIMS5.0 project profile includes 20 use cases from nine industrial domains, the results will be exchanged across disciplines. First fundamental research activities in AIMS5.0 prepare the way to get the use cases off the ground bringing the future of a highly efficient fabrication to life. One of the striking examples is an autonomous indoor drone. It will demonstrate an AI-based improved connection between production and logistics. Developed by IPH, “Institut für integrierte Produktion Hannover” from Germany under the assistance of Spanish UPM “Universidad Politécnica de Madrid”, it will work as a scanning device covering a complete production site of car maker BMW to create a digital twin of it.

Transparency, shared knowledge, and a common language

A strong focus in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies on ontology creating a language, which is understood by humans and computers alike aiming at a smooth interaction throughout the entire supply chain. On that behalf, there is an intensive exchange with two highly specialised projects. One is the former project SC³, and the subject in question is a Digital Reference (DR), a holistic ontology for supply chains in the field of semiconductor. With its results, it lives on in AIMS5.0, just to be reborn in the followup project SC4EU that aims at taking the supply chain management of semiconductor production in Europe to a new level.

SC4EU creates a true demand platform and its ontology as a formal description of all information within the chain. Thus, it will push a close interaction to a smooth and transparent collaboration making even highly complex supply chains resilient, flexible and agile. Since the true demand approach relies on high-quality data shared by the partners involved, SC4EU guarantees confidentiality through anonymity and security in order to generate a reliable demand forecast.

Passing on the fire for new horizons 

The technique is a perfect foundation for exchanging, analysing and finding new ways to optimise systems and procedures with regard to the use cases and the overall goals of AIMS5.0. With respect to a superordinate level, the whole approach with transparent information in a common mindset stands for major EU-funded projects like AIMS5.0 - as a driving force in a collaborative network, much like a beacon passing on the fire for new horizons.

Overall, AIMS5.0 is the first project to pursue a common approach to the application of AI and AI-based hardware across a wide range of industries. With this overarching claim, the project is in the tradition of its predecessor project Productive4.0, which, as the largest European lighthouse project and winner of the ECSEL JU Technology Pioneer Award 2021, paved the way for the digital transformation of Europe’s industry.

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