AWK‘23: Aachen Research Institutes Invite to Conference on Green Production and Circular Economy




Lea Kaven


+49 241 80 25457



Today, the manufacturing industry is still highly dependent on global logistics chains, fossil energy and rare raw materials. Global crises such as climate change, the corona pandemic, and current developments in Ukraine also show that the future may challenge companies far more than simply meeting politically defined sustainability targets or coping with supply bottlenecks in individual industries. What the next steps towards a circular economy that can make companies less dependent on fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal might look like will be discussed by the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT during the 31st AWK on May 11 and 12, 2023, at the Eurogress Aachen and digitally.

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Helping companies achieve greater resilience and safety while contributing to meeting global emissions and climate targets is the goal of the renowned Aachen Conference on Production Engineering. The guiding theme of AWK'23 - Empower Green Production - represents the efforts of the Aachen researchers led by the team of professors Robert Schmitt, Thomas Bergs, Christan Brecher and Günther Schuh to support industry in the urgently needed transformation towards green production.

In past editions of the conference series, WZL and Fraunhofer IPT already used examples of successful research and industrial projects in the 2010s to show the opportunities that the "Internet of Production" (IoP) can offer through comprehensive networking of machines and plants. AWK'21 subsequently dealt in detail with how the IoP database obtained can serve as the basis for an "Internet of Sustainability". The next logical step, as the Aachen scientists see it, is now to use these resources not only to increase productivity, as in the past, but above all for the transformation toward circular production. AWK'23 is intended to show which technologies and strategies will promote this transformation, how companies can select their individual tools for the change from the wealth of methods available, and which challenges applied production research can specifically support.

Act quickly: The reassessment of industrial production has begun

"We don't have an awful lot of time to talk about what could be done, because a lot of things are just falling into place," explains Professor Robert Schmitt, chair at the WZL and division director at the Fraunhofer IPT, who is heading the AWK's organizing committee this year. It's not just about purely economic issues, he says, but actually also about social cohesion in society. It is not enough just to reduce CO2, Schmitt believes, research and industry also have a responsibility for a stable society and is convinced that industrial production in particular can certainly act as a stabilizing factor.

The organizers from WZL and Fraunhofer IPT have therefore set themselves the goal this year of focusing even more closely on the possibilities of how companies can use production data along the entire value chain to operate more sustainably and at the same time more resiliently. Creating transparency across the entire product lifecycle and the individual stages of the value chain can support this: Leading companies, for example, have already started to re-evaluate the performance of manufacturing processes and process chains on the basis of meaningful key performance indicators, giving much greater weight to sustainability criteria.

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Fountain of youth for complex products: Data analytics and re-assemby extend life through regular updates.

A linchpin for industrial production is the achievement of a holistic circular economy. Here, WZL and Fraunhofer IPT see not only life-extending measures of the purely technically determined product service life, but also the opportunities that - especially for complex products - regular product updates can offer. In this way, not only repairs, but also design changes and entirely new technical functionalities that follow customer wishes and further technological developments can be implemented within the framework of a so-called "Re-Assembly Factory". Old product generations are reassembled and prepared for a next product life cycle through value-enhancing measures.
The Aachen researchers go further than recycling with refurbishment. This approach starts from the side of development and creation, and not - as before - from the end of useful life and the recycling of products that have become unusable. The researchers emphasize that this approach not only requires a suitable product structure that takes into account the new modularity, but also new processes for reassembly in the factory and must already start with the manufacture of operating resources. The digital product file, just like the digital tool file, which includes information about the condition of the product or the tool and ideally even incorporates customer wishes, thus becomes an enabler for sustainable production.

However, it is not only the reuse and further use of products that pays into the sustainability account: Energy consumption during manufacture and service life must also be included in the considerations. Simulations based on digital twins provide good forecasts for this, even beyond the actual lifetime of the individual products. For example, it may turn out that a product has a relatively high energy consumption during operation, but the early replacement is not worthwhile in the overall balance despite complete recycling. On the other hand, recycling versus continued operation may make perfect sense if new, more energy-efficient products can be made from the individual components, which in turn contribute to greater savings during use. "Such end-to-end consideration and lifecycle optimization across the entire system can save 40 percent or more of energy or CO2 with appropriate technologies and using digital twins," said Dr. Michael Kaever, Head of Technology Management Motion Control at AWK co-host Siemens AG, explaining his perspective on the future of sustainable production.

Together with the other conference partner Hexagon AB and speakers from influential companies such as Ericsson, Robert Bosch GmbH or Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG as well as the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the research institutions would like to show these and other ways to re-evaluate and transform industrial processes and products. "I would like to see some of the discussion results of the AWK translated into an actual action plan that clearly shows how to proceed," Schmitt hopes, speaking also for his colleagues at the Aachen institutes.

  WZL machine hall Copyright: © Strauch At AWK'23, participants will also have the opportunity to visit the host research facilities.

AWK'23: Hybrid information hub for trends in production technology

The Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium is both a network meeting and an information hub. Participants from different disciplines traditionally exchange ideas on the production of tomorrow every three years in Aachen. Accompanied by an international top-class lecture program and with thematic tours of the host research facilities, the conference will again offer a comprehensive insight into the trends in applied research and development for specialists and managers from industry and science in May 2023.

In two times two parallel lecture sessions, participants can learn first-hand about the results of applied research and practical implementation in production. For this purpose, interdisciplinary speakers from science, development and management of leading companies from different industries have been invited to work together in expert working groups to develop the lecture topics.

The four thematic blocks each comprise several presentations on powerful, always available and resilient data infrastructures, on technologies and processes for a functioning circular economy, on modeling and analyses with the aim of more resource-efficient manufacturing, and on scenarios and business models for sustainable value creation.

In addition to the usual face-to-face event, the 31st AWK at the Eurogress in Aachen will again feature a digital broadcast of large parts of the event program, supplemented for the first time by additional exclusive program items and networking formats specifically for online participants. The use of a globally available online platform ensures that not only the participants on site in Aachen, but also an international audience of experts can attend the event in a sustainable way.