A new ECMI SIG: Math for the Digital Factory


Around one in ten of all enterprises in the EU-27’s non-financial business economy were classified to manufacturing in 2009, a total of 2.0 million enterprises. The manufacturing sector employed 31 million persons in 2009, generated 5.812 billion Euro of turnover and 1.400 billion Euro of value added. (source: Eurostat).

Accordingly, manufacturing plays an important role in European research. The Manufuture Technology Platform together with the initiative EFFRA, European Factories of the Future Research Association are responsible for the roadmap 2020 with a research agenda 2014 – 2020. Among others, the following challenges in manufacturing are listed for an economically and environmentally sustainable manufacturing:

  • Realising reconfigurable, adaptive and evolving factories capable of small scale production
  • High performance production, combining flexibility, productivity, precision and zero-defect
  • Resource efficiency in manufacturing, including addressing the end-of-life of products
  • Reducing the consumption of energy, water, and other process resources
  • Optimising the exploitation of materials in manufacturing processes
  • Co-evolution of product-process-production systems

A successful treatment of all these topics necessitates the employment of mathematical modelling on multiple scales, efficient simulation of pde and ode models including stochastic effects, optimal control and shape design and last but not least nonlinear and discrete optimization.

However, when it comes to research, the document speaks of the development of “ICT-tools”, “embedded cognitive functions”, “multidisciplinary modelling and virtual validation of manufacturing equipment at design stage integrating several disciplines such as Mechanics, Control and Thermodynamic”. My favorite term is “integrated scalable and semantic factory models with multi-level access features, aggregation of data with different granularity, zoom in and out functionalities, and real-time data acquisition”.

In other words, the computer science and control communities did a good job in providing research topics for this agenda, but in none of the 89 pages of the document the word mathematics can be found. One shouldn’t blame the contributors to that document that they did not estimate the importance of mathematics for this subject. Moreover, up to now applied mathematicians mostly tried to avoid holistic views on manufacturing.

A new ECMI Special interest Group on Digital Manufacturing

To improve this situation we have founded the new Special Interest group MaDiFa (Math for the Digital Factory). ECMI SIGs serve as a platform of scientific exchange between researchers from academia and industry and form the central part of ECMI’s research activities in industrial mathematics.

MaDiFa brings together university mathematicians working in modelling, simulation and optimization related to manufacturing with practitioners from manufacturing industry. The general scientific goal is to develop a holistic mathematical view on digital manufacturing.

Topics to be discussed include

  • coupling of multibody systems with pde models to describe interactions between machine tool (typically a MBS) and its manufacturing task (typically described by PDEs and ODEs)
  • multiscale models of complex manufacturing chains including workflow
  • new concepts to model the energy consumption of machine tools and more complex production systems
  • optimization strategies for energy and material efficient production