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At the highest altitudes and in the most far-flung places, high-tech in supersize format.
Robots are already routine – the fourth industrial revolution is now on the stocks. For the next step we are developing production plant interfaces that will in future capture far more than conventional production and logistic data: detailed data concerning materials, operating facilities and utilities are also collected in a data warehouse – Big Data. Data mining techniques, such as exploratory data analysis, are used to recognise patterns, golden nuggets resulting in optimisation: Industry 4.0 for gold miners.
The pressure in a large pipeline is 100 times atmospheric pressure. Oil and gas pipelines operate just as reliably in desert terrain with maximum temperatures topping 50° C as they do in the Arctic Circle at -40° C, 365 days a year. What gets the raw materials moving are pumping stations the size of a small house. We are developing units connected in series that don’t just operate in pipelines and chemical plants but also ensure, for example, that you can take a shower in the uppermost storeys of the latest skyscrapers just as you can 100 metres lower down.
The smallest components we develop sometimes have the biggest effect. Magnetic valves, for example, open and shut seamlessly, require almost no maintenance and are designed so flexibly that they are configurable as if in a module – in any size. For example, in sewage treatment plants they help to maintain optimal drinking water quality, they enable safe and cheap drug production and they make refineries cleaner and more economical.
The next automotive revolution has already begun – on the land. Nowadays, tractors are easily steered by joystick and are optimised for long periods of operation: these giants, over three metres high, are steered by autopilot to a tolerance of as little as 2.5 cm. User interfaces are touchscreen-operated and also control coupled implements; we are developing the software. Agricultural machines these days are part of an entire infrastructure: the latest generation works using satellite and weather data and uses images from agricultural drones.
What goes on when a power station or entire refinery requires maintenance? A good deal, if one considers that thousands of workers are busily occupied for two weeks pulling off this feat. Special software helps to plan and control personnel planning, safety aspects and organisation in a fail-safe manner. This is where we come in: the application we have developed is so flexible that each major plant generation, even featuring the very latest technologies, can be integrated into the planning process.
What keeps the home warm? What ensures that miners hundreds of metres underground stay dry? What power unit can be used to irrigate the driest coastal areas? Heating systems, groundwater removal systems and seawater desalination plants all need one thing: pumping systems. We are developing modular hardware, automating the test environment and handling the inspection for one of Germany’s biggest manufacturers – so things run smoothly, worldwide.
How do you detect hairline cracks and the smallest scratches measuring fractions of a millimetre? How can the most minute bubbles being formed inside water pipes be identified – while in operation? How can five lasers be synchronised to fire with pinpoint accuracy on beads of metal for vapour deposition on surfaces in chip manufacturing? Modern sensors are pushing the limits of the previously perceptible. We are developing control and evaluation software for this, which works in the µ metre range – for quality on a completely new scale.