Digital infrastructure and data technology in battery cell production

IT architectures for the smart factory

Digitalization presents crucial technologies and tools that are not only important for the creation of widespread and competitive production processes, but also for the assessment and improvement of productivity optimized to the life cycle of the product. By integrating digital processes into battery production, there is an opportunity to improve the quality of battery cells. The ninth blog article in our SkillandScaleUp campaign explains how this can be achieved with the help of digital IT architectures and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how digital infrastructures help to store valuable data within the battery cell production process. 

Learning factories and smart production require the networking of people, things and services. In contrast to previous revolutions, Industry 4.0 offers numerous use cases and solutions for different types of challenges - it is no longer about the introduction of a single new technology, but about the end-to-end digitalization of manufacturing processes, such as the use of digital twins. As a result, more and more valuable data is being generated. The successful implementation of digital concepts requires a sophisticated IT infrastructure. However, this development process requires a complete rethink of the architecture and infrastructure of systems and entire manufacturing processes. 

What is an IT architecture? 

A digital twin alone is not enough to equip existing production processes with the benefits of Industry 4.0. A comprehensive IT architecture is therefore essential. It can be defined as:

»A pragmatic, coherent structuring of a collection of components that elegantly supports the overall user's vision through these factors.« 

In principle, an IT architecture can be understood as an overarching collective term for the interaction between the components of information technology systems. It is used to map which tasks certain components fulfil and thus help to establish systematic and efficient battery cell production. Depending on which system is being considered, a different IT architecture is used: an information architecture, a business system architecture, a technical architecture or a software or application architecture. They each offer appropriate solutions for the challenges in the IT system world. In production environments, for example, the incompatibility of new technologies or IT security is a problem. With the help of a comprehensive IT architecture, these challenges can be addressed through standardized interfaces and a cross-application security concept. 

© Fraunhofer FFB
An »automation pyramid« describes the structure of automated production and can be used to control and manage the various IT levels of industrial production. It defines how systems interact with each other across layers and how a software architecture can be designed.
© Fraunhofer FFB
MySQL is just one of the best-known technologies for working with big data. It is a relational database management system. Influx is an open-source database management system that specializes in time series. Collected data can be retrieved at any time.

The automation pyramid

In companies themselves, IT architectures develop over a long period of time and have also grown historically in some cases. Accordingly, the full potential of the architectures is rarely utilized, resulting in complex development processes during ongoing operations and inefficient production. An "automation pyramid" can be used to control and manage the various IT levels of industrial production. It defines how systems interact with each other across layers and how a software architecture can be designed. In short, it describes the structure of automated production.

The top level is the »corporate level«. This is where cross-divisional orders and purchases for the company come together - IT systems can, for example, send the data of incoming customer orders and issue instructions to the purchasing department for the purchase of copper foil. This ensures that new foil is available on time for further production. This level is traditionally located in administration systems such as SAP. The "operations management level" below this is used to refine production, including quality management, data acquisition and the specific schedule to produce the battery cell. In the next step, the initiated processes are checked and monitored again at the "process control level" before, for example, the coating system is controlled in seconds at the »control level«. The final stage is the process level. The signals from actuators and sensors, such as the measured values of the coating thickness, are processed here within milliseconds.

In practice, the IT systems execute the requirements at the respective level within a very short time. One disadvantage of the automation pyramid is that each level can only access the information provided by the surrounding levels. A central IIoT platform can help to overcome these limitations of the automation pyramid and network systems across modern factories.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things?

The term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) stands for the extensive use of intelligent, internet-based technology in industrial applications. In contrast to Industry 4.0, the IIoT is an essential technical basis for the implementation of digitalization and networking in practice. It can be defined as a centralized software framework that enables the collection, processing, and analysis of data from networked industrial devices and systems.

The basic framework in the field of IIoT is made up of a wealth of sensors, actuators, algorithms, and applications. While the sensors collect various data from the industrial environment in real time, algorithms draw fresh information from it and make decisions. The data supplied by the sensors helps to measure numerous parameters. In battery cell production, for example, this could be the thickness or surface quality of the coating. Algorithms can be able to automatically identify rejects at the earliest possible stage or adaptively adjust production parameters. The IIoT also brings further advantages to the production environment:

  • Optimizing processes and facilitating data-driven decision-making in industrial environments.
  • Connecting different systems with each other and managing the interfaces.
  • Data acquisition as a central component of digital production to provide data for analyses or AI models.
© Fraunhofer FFB
The basic framework of the IIoT consists of sensors, actuators, algorithms and applications. While the sensors collect various data from the industrial environment in real time, algorithms draw fresh information from it and make decisions.

Potential of an IT architecture

By combining the real and digital worlds, many process steps can be made more efficient and sustainable. The application examples in the models already show the many potentials that a digital infrastructure opens for companies. A strong IT infrastructure can be decisive for the successful implementation of Industry 4.0 and contribute to increasing efficiency, lowering costs, improving quality, and reducing production downtime. It thus strengthens the backbone of a learning factory and smart production.