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RoMulus research project: Intelligent sensor systems for Industry 4.0 Reducing development and manufacturing costs

  • “Robust multi-sensor technology for status monitoring in Industry 4.0 applications” (RoMulus) research project
  • Eleven partners researching new development methods for intelligent multi-sensor systems
  • Cost-effective manufacturing, even in small quantities
  • German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is sponsoring the project
Stuttgart, Germany – Multi-sensor systems form a crucial basis for the success of Industry 4.0 applications. They record, process, and transmit a number of measurement parameters, such as pressure, acceleration, and temperature, all in a highly compact space. Machines are not the only ones to receive such sensors; workpieces are also increasingly being fitted with the intelligent sensor systems so that each product can provide its blueprint and report its manufacturing status. Based on this information, production is largely able to organize and monitor itself.

Eleven research partners now aim to simplify and accelerate the development of intelligent multi-sensor systems. As part of the RoMulus project, they want to standardize and refine the steps leading up to the finished product in such a way that it is possible to produce even small quantities in a cost-effective manner. As a result, they are improving the market position of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the sensor technology sector.

In the future, SMEs will be able to offer their industrial customers customized sensor systems with considerably less effort and expense. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting the RoMulus project as part of the IKT 2020 incentive program to the tune of approximately 4.5 million euros, which covers some 70 percent of the total investment amount.

Challenging development
The development of multi-sensor systems for Industry 4.0 applications is challenging. The task is to combine two technologies in a highly compact space, namely microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS), which measure mechanical parameters, such as pressure and acceleration, and microelectronic sensor components, which determine temperature, light intensity, and chemical concentrations. The finished systems must process large amounts of data in the most energy-efficient manner possible. Furthermore, they need to be robust enough to function reliably in an industrial setting.

Collaboration with semiconductor manufacturers and service providers
The German sensor technology sector predominantly comprises small and medium-sized enterprises. As a general rule, they are unable to cover all of the services themselves that are necessary for the development and production of multi-sensor systems, which is why they rely on close collaboration with semiconductor manufacturers and service providers for research and development. “We want to disentangle and standardize this collaboration – and thereby the design and manufacturing processes,” says project coordinator Dr. Eckhard Hennig, professor at Reutlingen University. In the future, SMEs will be able to select and compile development services as well as electronic components as if from a large kit, depending on what solution the customer requires for their very specific industrial application.

“RoMulus makes it possible to systematically design and cost-effectively manufacture robust, energy-efficient multi-sensor systems, even in small quantities. As a result, German sensor technology manufacturers are leading the field in terms of creating an important technological basis for Industry 4.0 applications,” explains Dr. Reinhard Neul from Robert Bosch GmbH.

Eleven partners from research and industry
As part of the RoMulus project, eleven partners are pooling their expertise – from semiconductor manufacturers and development companies to SMEs. They are as follows: Zeiss, the Fraunhofer Institute IIS/EAS, Reutlingen University, Institut für Mikroelektronik- und Mechatronik-Systeme gemeinnützige GmbH, microsensys GmbH, Robert Bosch GmbH, the Technical University of Munich, TETRA Gesellschaft für Sensorik, Robotik und Automation mbH, the University of Bremen, the University of Freiburg, and X-FAB Semiconductor Foundries AG. The edacentrum in Hanover is responsible for project management. The abbreviation RoMulus stands for “robust multi-sensor technology for status monitoring in Industry 4.0 applications.” The project began in October 2015 and is scheduled to last three years.

Background information on the internet:
Project website

The research partners:
Zeiss (business sector: Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology) SMT GmbH
Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, Division Engineering of Adaptive Systems EAS
Reutlingen University
IMMS Institut für Mikroelektronik- und Mechatronik-Systeme gemeinnützige GmbH
microsensys GmbH
Robert Bosch GmbH
Technical University of Munich
TETRA Gesellschaft für Sensorik, Robotik und Automation mbH
University of Bremen
University of Freiburg
X-FAB Semiconductor Foundries AG

Project management:
edacentrum GmbH

Contact person for press inquiries:
Christian Hoenicke,
phone: +49 711 811- 6285
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Creative solutions from Lund: Bosch opens innovation incubator in Sweden Software expertise and start-up spirit

  • Bosch strengthens regional presence in Sweden: 50 engineers to start
  • Mutual inspiration and creativity at highly innovative location
  • Cross-domain collaboration enables synergies and lays foundation for new ideas
Lund, Sweden – Bosch is now also developing connected solutions in the Swedish city of Lund. The company's first engineering location in Scandinavia already has 50 Bosch experts on board. They are working on new software and hardware in areas such as vehicle connectivity, automotive security systems, and motorized two-wheelers. In addition, they are developing cross-domain solutions for connecting mobility with, for example, energy and building technology over the IoT. By bringing together development activities for a number of different areas at a single location, Bosch hopes to facilitate mutual inspiration. “We are systematically driving forward the development of connected, cross-domain solutions over the IoT with the aim of making life more secure and convenient,” said Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, a member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. “To this end, we're focusing on cross-divisional collaboration that enables synergies and creates the basis for new ideas and creative solutions.”

Located some 20 kilometers from Malmö, Lund was not chosen by chance: “Sweden is on the global vanguard when it comes to fields of research including information and communications technology. This is exactly the kind of environment we want for our new engineering center,” Hoheisel said. “We're pinning our hopes on Lund's talented software and IT experts.” Sweden's status as a highly innovative economic power mirrors Bosch's own traditionally strong position in research and development (2015: R&D investment totaling 6.4 billion euros, or 9 percent of sales). The country regularly appears near the top of international innovation rankings. On the World Intellectual Property Organization's Global Innovation Index 2015, for example, it occupies third place.

Concentration of innovative strength and entrepreneurial spirit
Bosch's new engineering center is located on one level of an office building in Lund's Ideon Science Park. There, around 120,000 square meters of floor space serve as a hotbed of innovative strength and entrepreneurship. The approximately 2,700 people employed in the science park include developers working for established companies and start-ups, as well as entrepreneurs. The University of Lund borders the park directly. Incubators and regular conferences foster and create synergies both among different areas of business and with the university. The focus is on the service sector, culture, and the creative industries, as well as start-ups and the internet of things.

In addition to being a university town (around a third of the more than 80,000 inhabitants are university students), Lund is also the birthplace of several major technological advancements for the connected world, including Bluetooth technology and biometric fingerprint scanners. “Thanks to our cross-domain expertise in connectivity, Bosch is extremely well-positioned to benefit from this. Our prospects are excellent for making history one day in Lund as well,” Hoheisel said. Along with expertise in the areas of sensors, software, and services, the company has outstanding hardware competence. In addition, Bosch can connect different domains with each other, such as smart homes, smart cities, connected mobility, and Industry 4.0. With its own recently-launched IoT cloud, Bosch now also possesses the necessary infrastructure. This offers the company new perspectives not only in its traditional areas of business, but also in completely new fields of activity.

Bosch in Sweden
Bosch has been present in Sweden since 1904. All four Bosch business sectors – Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology – are active in the country. The company employs just under 1,500 associates at five major locations in the country, including two plants. In Mellansel, the Bosch Rexroth subsidiary produces drive and control technology, while in Tranas the Thermotechnology division manufactures heat pumps. In 2015, the company generated domestic sales of some 950 million euros.

Press contacts for Bosch's activities in Sweden:
Trix Böhne
Phone: +49 711 811-6831

Inger Rosen,
Telefon: +46 8 750-1644

Press contact for Bosch's mobility solutions activities:
Stephan Kraus,
Phone +49 711 811-6286
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Industry 4.0, data mining, metal 3D printing Working on tomorrow’s world: researchers at Bosch Innovative products and new manufacturing processes

Stuttgart and Renningen, Germany – Bosch has invested more than 300 million euros in its new research campus in Renningen, near Stuttgart, and created workplaces in a modern and inspiring environment for 1,700 people. Bosch is not only working on innovative products, however, but also on continuously refining manufacturing processes. These are just some of the scientists working there:

Dr. Lothar Baum: Data mining
The computer scientist Dr. Lothar Baum is an expert in data evaluation. Baum, who joined Bosch in 2006, works in corporate research and advance engineering. Together with colleagues in Renningen, Palo Alto, and Bangalore, he writes software that detects patterns in billions of data points. This includes data generated on production lines at more than 250 Bosch plants worldwide. Super-fast computers are used to analyze this data. If this analysis is done properly, quality can be assured and the process of monitoring workpieces speeded up – saving time and money. “The ability to generate new knowledge from big data is a key competence of the future,” Baum says. In connected industry – also referred to as Industry 4.0 – this data also helps predict when machinery will need maintenance, which avoids downtimes.

Press photos: 1-CR-21636, 1-CR-21637, 1-CR-21638, 1-CR-21639, 1-CR-21640, 1-CR-21641, 1-CR-21642, 1-CR-21643

Torsten Reinhardt: Physical analytics, analysis of functional materials
Torsten Reinhardt has been with Bosch since 2000. One of his tasks in corporate research and advance engineering is to study the inner structure of materials. This means Reinhardt plays a part in ensuring the high quality of new Bosch developments right from the start. In the analytics department, one of his tasks is to make extremely thin cut marks in materials in order to study them under the electron microscope for possible weaknesses. He does this by directing a focused ion beam at the sample in order to ablate certain parts of it. In this way, structures in the sample can be exposed and analyzed at very high resolution. This kind of analysis is accurate to within nanometers (millionths of a millimeter).

Press photos: 1-CR-21695, 1-CR-21696, 1-CR-21697, 1-CR-21698

Dr. Witold Pieper: Metallic functional and composite materials
Dr. Witold Pieper’s work involves exploring new materials for use throughout the Bosch Group. This means that he collaborates closely with many scientists and suppliers. As a physicist who specializes in materials science, his work also includes the analysis of various magnetic materials. “These include metals and ceramics, such as magnets that are based on rare earths,” Pieper says. His team also tests whether it is possible to use new methods such as 3D printing to turn such materials into products with completely new characteristics. In addition, the department provides advice to Bosch colleagues around the world. The data gathered in Pieper’s labs serve as the foundation for computer simulations of materials. Pieper has been with Bosch since 2011.

Press photos: 1-CR-21699, 1-CR-21700, 1-CR-21701

Joachim Frangen: Manufacturing automation, Industry 4.0
In Renningen, Joachim Frangen heads up work on the connected and flexible factories of the future. Collectively, these factories are also referred to as “Industry 4.0.” By connecting people, machines, and materials, a virtual image of the manufacturing process can be generated on the computer – in real time. This combines several advantages. For instance, sensors are constantly gathering and transmitting data on the status of machinery. This data is analyzed by software to detect wear and tear, which means maintenance can be planned in good time. As a result, Bosch can prevent unexpected machine downtimes. Connectivity also facilitates the optimum use of resources such as energy and raw materials. One further advantage is that lines can be adjusted more quickly to new products. For Bosch, this means both improved customer focus and greater competitiveness. Frangen has been with Bosch since 1990.

Press photos: 1-CR-21702, 1-CR-21703, 1-CR-21704, 1-CR-21705

Dr. Martin Schöpf: Manufacturing technology for metals, metal 3D printing
One of the promising areas of Bosch research is metal 3D printing. This area is the responsibility of Dr. Martin Schöpf. Methods such as this open up many new possibilities: instead of keeping large, costly inventories of spare parts, metal parts can be printed as and where needed. In the future, 3D printing is also set to play a role in production processes. This will enable Bosch to bring new products to market more quickly – a major advantage. “What is more, it means we can produce new shapes in metal that are simply not possible with existing processes,” says Schöpf, who has been with Bosch since 2003. Moreover, 3D printing can result in a single piece where once separate components were necessary – saving on joining times and sidestepping the need for seals.

Press photos: 1-CR-21706, 1-CR-21707

Dr. Andreas Michalowski: Laser materials processing
The focused energy of laser beams can work even the hardest materials – precisely and fast. This is Dr. Andreas Michalowski’s area of expertise. It includes controlling physical effects well enough to make the laser suitable for use in industry. Only then will it be possible to process any material precisely on a mass scale, and this in an economical way. One application for this at Bosch is in gasoline direct injection: using lasers, tiny holes can be drilled precisely into the metal of the nozzle. The result is ideal distribution of the injected fuel within the cylinder. Michalowski joined Bosch in 2011 and collaborates with an international network of experts from science and industry. With the number of possible applications for laser technology growing fast, there will be plenty for this passionate researcher to do for a long time to come. In 2013, Bosch, Trumpf, and the University of Jena won the German Federal President’s Future Prize for technology and innovation for this technology.

Presse photos: 1-CR-21708, 1-CR-21709, 1-CR-21710, 1-CR-21711

Dr. Thorsten Ochs: Battery technology
Bosch is researching batteries that will increase electric cars’ range while at the same time weighing a lot less and costing less than current batteries. In this way, Dr. Thorsten Ochs in Renningen is playing a crucial role in the breakthrough of electromobility. “To achieve widespread acceptance of electromobility, mid-sized vehicles need to have 50 kilowatt hours of usable energy,” says Ochs, who joined Bosch in 2000. With conventional lead batteries, this would mean increasing the weight of the battery to 1.9 metric tons, even without wiring and the holder. That is the same weight as a modern-day mid-sized sedan, including occupants and luggage. Weighing 19 kilograms, a conventional lead battery – as found today in nearly every car – stores a comparatively low 0.5 kilowatt hours. In contrast, Ochs is looking to store the necessary 50 kilowatt hours in a battery weighing just 190 kilograms.

Press photos: 1-CR-21622, 1-CR-21623, 1-CR-21624, 1-CR-21625-en,
1-CR-21625-o-Logo-en

Dr. Franz Lärmer: Microsystems (MEMS) technology
Tiny Bosch sensors are changing the way people interact with technology. In fitness wristbands, they measure physical activity and help people achieve better health and well-being. In cars, these microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors identify dangerous situations and instantly alert the control electronic to keep the vehicle on the road. And because sensors measure the earth’s gravity, smartphones can change their screen orientation to suit the user. Dr. Franz Lärmer has been with Bosch since 1990. He is one of the inventors of the method that makes it possible to create the microscopically fine structures found in MEMS sensors. Speaking about his objectives, Lärmer says: “One of the challenges in the ongoing development of our MEMS sensors is their energy consumption. For example, more intelligence in sensors makes it possible for us to reduce energy consumption.” In 2008, Bosch won the German Federal President’s Future Prize for technology and innovation for these smart sensors.

Press photos: 1-BST-20778, 1-BST-20779, 1-AE-20855, 1-AE-20856-e, 1-BST-20755, 1-CR-21650, 1-CR-21651, 1-CR-21652, 1-CR-21653, 1-CR-21654-en, 1-CR-21654_o_Logo-en

Jayalakshmi Kedarisetti: Power electronics
Electromobility is a major topic for Bosch, and thus occupies a prominent place on the new research campus in Renningen. Jayalakshmi Kedarisetti has been working in this field since 2012, developing the necessary new power electronics. These are a central element of electric cars. Power electronics convert the direct current provided by the battery into alternating current to drive the electric car’s motor. They must also convert the alternating current that comes from a power socket into direct current to charge the battery. And all this needs to be done keeping power loss as low as possible. At the same time, these components have to cope with high operating voltages and strong currents while always satisfying high safety standards. Kedarisetti and his team are coming up with lots of new ideas for how to meet these requirements.

Press photos: 1-CR-21712, 1-CR-21713, 1-CR-21714, 1-CR-21715

Dr. Lutz Bürkle: Driver assistance systems
With their research in Renningen, Dr. Lutz Bürkle and his team help improve pedestrian safety. If braking alone is no longer enough to prevent a collision with a pedestrian who suddenly walks out in front of the car, the assistant developed by Bürkle’s team instantaneously computes an evasive maneuver. As soon as the driver starts to steer, the system kicks in to support the lifesaving action. The team’s work focuses on developing the algorithms this requires. “According to our studies, the assistance system can help avoid a collision in 60 percent of cases, provided the driver reacts at least half a second beforehand,” says Bürkle, who joined Bosch in 2002. Bosch plans to start production of the system in 2018.

Press photos: 1-CR-21644, 1-CR-21645, 1-CR-21646, 1-CR-21647, 1-CR-21648, 1-CR-21649-en, 1-CR-21649_o_Logo-en

Professor Dr. Amos Albert: Agricultural robotics
Professor Amos Albert teaches robots eco-friendly farming. “We use Bosch expertise in the fields of mechatronics and algorithms to help make sustainable use of natural resources,” says Albert, who is CEO of Deepfield Robotics, a Bosch start-up that emerged from the company’s research activities. “One thing our technologies do is enable the Bonirob agricultural robot to distinguish between crops and weeds,” Albert says. On the basis of this knowledge, the robot uses a rod to ram unwanted weeds several centimeters into the ground. This obviates the need for herbicides. Thanks to GPS positioning, Bonirob can find its way around to the nearest centimeter. Albert has been with Bosch since 2002. His team is also working on solutions that will allow farmers to use connected sensor systems to gather information on plant growth in order to improve yield and quality.

Press photos: 1-CR-21626, 1-CR-21627, 1-CR-21628, 1-CR-21629, 1-CR-21630, 1-CR-21631, 1-CR-21632, 1-CR-21633, 1-CR-21634, 1-CR-21635-en, 1-CR-21635_o_Logo-en

Dr. Jürgen Kirschner: Executive vice president, applied research and production technology
Dr. Jürgen Kirschner is an executive vice president in corporate research and advance engineering at Bosch. His responsibilities range from battery technology and sensors to production engineering. In its more than 250 plants worldwide, Bosch often needs to use tools and methods that are not yet commercially available. “In those cases we develop them ourselves, which gives us a competitive edge,” says Kirschner, who has held a number of positions at Bosch since 1989. One such novel tool is ultrashort pulse lasers, which can process even extremely hard metal with the greatest precision and at high speed. One of Kirschner’s responsibilities, therefore, is to ensure that research provides Bosch with the processes and methods it will need for the reliable, high-quality mass production of its future innovative products.

Press photos: 1-PE-21661, 1-PE-21662

Dr. Michael Bolle: President, research and advance engineering, technology coordination
Dr. Michael Bolle is the president of corporate research and advance engineering at Bosch. His responsibilities include developing new ideas for future Bosch products. He also focuses on areas in which the company is as yet barely active, if at all; for example, using robots and sensor systems in agriculture. “For this purpose, we also want our researchers to develop a more entrepreneurial mindset,” Bolle says. He joined Bosch in 1992 and has worked for the company ever since, apart from a four-year period spent getting a startup off the ground. “That experience is a really great advantage here in Renningen,” Bolle says. On the topic of the new research campus, he says: “We want to give our colleagues here the ideal working conditions they need to shape the future of Bosch and secure our innovation leadership.”

Press photos: 1-PE-21659, 1-PE-21660

Contact person for press inquiries:
Thilo Resenhoeft, phone: +49 711 811-7088

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