Production and future technologies

Smart, efficient and networked - this is how production should be designed with the help of future technologies.
© Fraunhofer IPA; Photo: Rainer Bez

Societal challenges, such as climate change or a globally growing population, are forcing organizations to rethink previous production chains and manufacturing processes. Novel technologies are helping to equip companies for the future through efficient, sustainable and customer-centered production.

In the S-TEC Centers a wide range of future technologies are being focused – from additive manufacturing processes and biointelligence to digital battery cell manufacturing and cognitive robotics applications. As these technologies and production processes evolve, new research fields and use cases are constantly being added. In the following, we present some future technologies on which we will work together with your company in the S-TEC centers.

3D printing

Additive manufacturing processes, commonly known as 3D printing, have become increasingly important for industrial production in recent years. According to a study by Ernst & Young, the proportion of German companies using 3D printing was 63% in 2019 – a significant increase compared to 2016, when the process wasused by only 37% of companies. Overall, EY estimates the global market volume of 3D printing at USD 11.2 billion in 2019.

Compared to conventional production methods, additive manufacturing brings numerous advantages: greater freedom in the design of products, easier implementation of lightweight engineering, shorter supply chains, and the possibility of cost-efficient production of individualized products and very small batches. This makes 3D printing an attractive manufacturing process for numerous industries. This extends from the automotive industry to the medical sector, where additive manufacturing is used to produce prostheses, for example. It is expected that 3D printing will continue to play a major role in production in the future. The reasons for this are the rapid growth in the variety of materials and the production volume that can be implemented with additive manufacturing, which means that new areas of application are constantly emerging. Learn more about the topic at the Center for Additive Manufacturing.

Frugal Innovation

»Frugal« means »simple« or »plain« in non-scientific usage. This already provides an indication of what frugal innovation is all about: designing products to be as simple as possible, focusing on their core functionalities while achieving the expected level of performance. In this way, the cost of a product can be greatly reduced for the manufacturer and consequently also for the customer.

For companies, frugal product development and manufacturing represents an opportunity to remain competitive or tap into price-sensitive markets in particular. The field of frugal innovation originally arose in the context of emerging markets. The idea is to develop products that are specifically tailored to the requirements of these markets and are cheap enough to be affordable to less affluent customers. Meanwhile, the concept of low-cost, robust, easy-to-use applications tailored to user needs is also being applied to developed markets. To learn more, contact the Center for Frugal Products and Manufacturing Systems.

Biointelligent Systems

Drawing inspiration from nature and using biological processes and materials in production to ultimately achieve a comprehensive interaction of technical, informational and biological systems – that is the idea of biological transformation. While nature and technology are currently mostly thought of as opposites, the goal of biointelligent value creation is to link the two within one system. The concept of biological transformation has the potential to profoundly change the design and manufacture of products and services. Learn more about the topic at the Center for Biointelligent Manufacturing.

Lightweight Engineering

Lightweight engineering means making maximum use of the properties of a material while minimizing the weight of a structure. This method of construction enables components to be highly stable and safe, while at the same time using materials efficiently and keeping weight to a minimum. The concept of lightweight engineering has existed in industry for a very long time and has become even more important in recent years in the context of addressing current societal challenges, such as climate change. Weight reduction is a central aspect of lightweight technologies. Beyond that, however, it is about the optimal design of a product or construction in technological, economic and ecological terms. Lightweight engineering is used in a wide range of industries, from the aerospace, automotive, mechanical engineering and construction industries to medical technology. You can find out more about the topic at the Center for Lightweight Engineering.


The concept of ultraefficiency aims to reduce the impact of industrial production on the environment as far as possible with the goal of loss-free production. Ultraefficiency represents a central concept for the manufacturing of the future, as a new perspective on production methods and processes emerges when their impact on the environment is also the focus of consideration. You can find out more about this topic at the Center for Ultraefficiency.

Digital Battery-Cell Manufacturing

E-mobility is currently on everyone’s lips, with success depending above all on battery cells as a key and future technology. One thing is therefore clear: Efficient, flexible and sustainable production and utilization of battery cells is essential for the mobility of the future. For battery cell manufacturers, the challenge is to produce economically, in an environmentally friendly manner and at the highest technical level. At the same time, they need to remain flexible in order to be able to adapt quickly to changing requirements. Digitization can make a key contribution to making battery cell production “fit for the future”: A digitized production chain enables higher product quality of battery cells and adaptability to changing requirements in terms of cell format and chemistry, as well as an increase in sustainability through automated disassembly of battery modules. Learn more about the topic at the Center for Digital Battery-Cell Manufacturing.

Cognitive Robotics

No company has been able to avoid the topic of artificial intelligence and its implications for production in recent years. AI has the potential to bring about profound changes in all areas of the production and value chain. In the industrial environment, artificial intelligence is particularly closely related to the areas of robotics and human-machine interaction. Artificial intelligence already allows industrial robots to take on a wide range of tasks in production, making manufacturing processes more efficient, safer and less prone to error. Learn more about the topic at the Center for Cognitive Robotics.

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